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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


the twelfth and last month of the year, between November and January

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary

Origin and usage

The noun December comes from Latin and French words meaning ‘tenth month’ as it was the tenth month of the year in the Roman calendar. It has been used in English since the time of Old English.


December is the last month of the year in the western calendar and is the month of both the winter solstice and Christmas. The final day of the month is New Year’s Eve, which ushers in the New Year. December 1st is the start of meteorological winter, although the astronomical winter does not start until the solstice which this year falls on 21 December. The solstice marks the point when the days start to lengthen again in the northern hemisphere and shorten in the southern, though the change is not immediately apparent. These processes have dedicated phrasal verbs: when the days lengthen they are said to draw out, while when they grow shorter they draw in. The same phrasal verbs can be used with ‘night’ or ‘evening’ as the subject. You can explore thesaurus entries related to the months and the seasons here and here.


Chill December brings the sleet, Blazing fire and Christmas treat.
(Sara Coleridge, The Months)

“What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!
What old December’s bareness every where!

(William Shakespeare, Sonnet 97)

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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