Beware the Lides of March

March is the loudest month. The late survival of a dialect name – Lide – for the month poses a medieval puzzle. 

Stormy weather: illustration for the month of March by Mackenzie in The Sketch, 1 March 1916. Illustrated London News/Mary Evans.

March is the month which proverbially ‘comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb’. That proverb, which dates back to the 17th century, is just one of many traditional sayings about the tempestuous nature of this month’s weather. This stormy month, part winter and part spring, has been called ‘March many-weathers’ – and, just as it contains many weathers, it has also had a surprising multiplicity of names in English.

In linguistic terms, March has an interesting and unusual history. It is the only month in the calendar to have had an alternative name in different dialects of English until relatively modern times. It owes its most well-known name to the Roman god Mars, because festivals in his honour used to be celebrated during the month. Like the other month-names now standard in British English, this name was established in England during the Anglo-Saxon period, as part of the adoption of the Julian calendar.

To continue reading this article you will need to purchase access to the online archive.

Buy Online Access  Buy Print & Archive Subscription

If you have already purchased access, or are a print & archive subscriber, please ensure you are logged in.

Please email if you have any problems.