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An anniversary is a day that commemorates or celebrates a past event that occurred on the same date of the year as the initial event. For example, the first event is the initial occurrence or, if planned, the inaugural of the event. One year later would be the first anniversary of that event. The word was first used for Catholic feasts to commemorate saints.

Anniversary names[edit]

The Latin phrase dies natalis (literally "birth day") has become a common term, adopted in many languages, especially in intellectual and institutional circles, for the anniversary of the founding ("legal or statutory birth") of an institution, such as an alma mater (college or other school). Even in ancient Rome, we know of the [dies] Aquilae natalis ("birthday of the eagle", anniversary of the official founding of a legion).

Most countries around the world celebrate national anniversaries, for example the USA Bicentennial. These could be the date of independence of the nation or the adoption of a new constitution or form of government. The important dates in a sitting monarch's reign may also be commemorated, an event often referred to as a "Jubilee".

Anniversaries of nations are usually marked by the number of years elapsed described with Latin words or Roman numerals.

Latin-derived numerical names[edit]

Latin terms for anniversaries are mostly straightforward, particularly those relating to the first twenty years (1–20), those relating to multiples of ten years (30, 40, 60, 70 etc.), and those relating to multiples of centuries or millennia (100, 200, 300, 1000, 2000, 3000 etc.) In these instances, the anniversary generally comes from a derivative of the Latin word for the respective number of years. However, when anniversaries relate to fractions of centuries (125, 150, 175, 250 years—i.e., 1.25, 1.5, 1.75, and 2.5 centuries), the situation is not as simple.

Roman fractions were based on a duodecimal system. From 112 to 812 they were described as multiples of twelfths (uncia "twelfth"; the source of the English words inch and ounce) and from 912 to 1112 they were described as multiple-twelfths less than the next whole unit—i.e., a whole unit less 312, 212 or 112 respectively. There were also special terms for quarter (quadrans), half (semis), and three-quarters (dodrans). Dodrans is a Latin contraction of de-quadrans which means "a whole unit less a quarter" (de means "from"; quadrans means "quarter". Thus for the example of 175 years, the term is a quarter century less than the next whole (bi)century or 175 = (-25 + 200).[1]

In Latin it seems that this rule did not apply literally for 1½. Whereas "secundus" is Latin for "second", or "bis" for "twice" these terms are not used such as in sesqui-secundus. Instead just sesqui (or ses) is used by itself. This may be because it relates to a ratio of one—thus it means "and a half" compared to "one". (It may also be because 18 in Latin is sescuncia, sescunciae (from sesqui- + uncia, i.e., 1½ uncias) defined as one-and-a-half twelfths (32 × 112 = 18).)

AnniversaryPreferred TermOther TermsComments
½ yearlyBiannualSemiannual
1 yearAnnualPaper
2 yearsBiennialCotton
3 yearsTriennialLeather
4 yearsQuadrennialLinen
5 yearsQuinquennialWood
6 yearsSexennialIron
7 yearsSeptennialWool
8 yearsOctennialBronze
9 yearsNovennialCopper
10 yearsDecennialTin/Aluminium
11 yearsUndecennialSteel
12 yearsDuodecennialSilk
13 yearsTredecennialLace
14 yearsQuattuordecennialIvory
15 yearsQuindecennialCrystal
20 yearsVigintennial / VicennialChina/Porcelain
25 yearsQuadranscentennialSilver JubileeProbably a modern coined term.
50 yearsSemicentennial / QuinquagenaryGolden Jubilee
60 yearsSexagennial / SexagenaryDiamond Jubilee of monarchs
70 yearsSeptuagennialPlatinum Jubilee of monarchs
75 yearsDodranscentennialDiamond JubileeDodrans is a Latin contraction of de-quadrans which means "a whole unit less a quarter" (de means "from"; quadrans means "quarter". 75 years is a quarter century less than a whole century or 75 = (-25 + 100).[1]
DodracentennialAlternative Latin form of Dodranscentennial
DequascentennialAlternative Latin form of Dodranscentennial
SemisesquicentennialProbably[attribution needed] a modern coined term. Demisesquicentennial or Hemisesquicentennialis are other similar variants.
100 yearsCentennialCentenary / platinum jubilee
125 yearsQuasquicentennialTerm is broken down as quasqui- (and a quarter) centennial (100 years). Quasqui is a contraction from quadrans "a quarter" plus the clitic conjunction -que "and". The term was coined by Funk and Wagnalls editor Robert L. Chapman in 1961.[2]
150 yearsSesquicentennialTerm broken down as sesqui- (one and a half) centennial (100 years)
175 yearsDodransbicentennial-Dodrans is a Latin contraction of de-quadrans which means "a whole unit less a quarter" (de means "from"; quadrans means "quarter". 175 years is a quarter century less than the next whole (bi)century or 175 = (-25 + 200).[1]
DodrabicentennialAlternative Latin form of Dodransbicentennial
DequasbicentennialAlternative Latin form of Dodransbicentennial
DosquicentennialDosquicentennial has been used in modern times[3] and this is perhaps a modern contraction of "de-quadrans". However, it seems inappropriate to combine the terms que and de when dealing with such Roman fractions. In any event, if such a conjunction was appropriate then it would perhaps more likely have been "Dosquibicentennial" (but the result is little shorter anyway).[1]
DemisemiseptcentennialProbably[attribution needed] a modern coined term: demisemiseptcentennial; literally one-half (demi-) x one-half (semi-) x seven (sept-) x 100 years (centennial)—also demisemiseptcentenary.[4][5]
QuartoseptcentennialProbably[attribution needed] a modern coined term: quartoseptcentennial; literally one-quarter (quarto-) x seven (sept-) x 100 years (centennial)—also quartoseptcentenary.[6]
TerquasquicentennialFirst used by Bell Laboratories in celebrating its 175th anniversary as a corporation.[citation needed] Is a coined word for an anniversary of 175 years, but the elements of the word literally refer to an anniversary of 375 years, as follows: ter- (3) × quasqui- (1¼) × centennial (100 years)
Suggested by lexicographer Robert L. Chapman to William Safire; first appeared in Safire's column, "On Language" (The New York Times Magazine, February 12, 1995). It is a coined word for an anniversary of 175 years, but the elements of the word literally refer to an anniversary of 35,000 years, as follows: septaquinta- (70) × quinque- (5) × centennial (100 years)
200 yearsBicentennialBicentenary
250 yearsSestercentennial-To express 2½ in Latin it would be expressed as "half-three". The term relates to being halfway [from the second] to the third integer. In Latin this is "Sestertius" which is a contraction of semis (halfway) tertius (third)—hence Sestercentennial.[1]
SemiquincentennialProbably[attribution needed] a modern coined term: semi- (half) × quin (5) × centennial (100 years) = 250 years
BicenquinquagenaryUsed by Princeton University in 1996, Reading, Pennsylvania in 1998, and Washington and Lee University in 1999.[7] It is a coined word for an anniversary of 250 years, but the elements of the word literally refer to an anniversary of 10,000 years, as follows: bi- (2) × cen(t)- (100) × quinquagenary (50 years)
Quarter-millennialMeaning one quarter of one thousand years.[8]
300 yearsTercentenary / TricentenaryTercentennial / Tricentennial
350 yearsSesquarcentennial-A modern coined term; sesquarcentennial for 350 years is deduced here from the "Sestertius" definition for 250 years above. For 350 years it relates to being halfway from the third to the fourth integer; thus a contraction of semis (halfway) and quartus (fourth); hence Sesquarcentennial.
SemiseptcentennialProbably[attribution needed] a modern coined term: semi- (half) × sept(7) × cen(t)- (100) × centennial (350 years)
400 yearsQuadricentennialQuadricentenary / Quatercentenary
500 yearsQuincentenaryQuincentennial
600 yearsSexcentenarySex(a)centennial (?)
700 yearsSeptcentennialSeptuacentennialProbably[attribution needed] a coined term; earliest known use in March 1988.[9] Chiang Mai Septcentennial Stadium (Chiang Mai, Thailand) was completed in 1991.[10]
800 yearsOctocentenaryOctocentennial
900 yearsNonacentennial
1000 yearsMillennial
2000 yearsBimillennial

Anniversary symbols[edit]

Many anniversaries have special names. Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home by Emily Post, published in 1922, contained suggestions for wedding anniversary gifts for 1, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 50 and 75 years.[11] Wedding anniversary gift suggestions for other years were added in later editions and publications; they now comprise what is referred to as the "traditional" list. Generally speaking, the longer the period, the more precious or durable the material associated with it. See wedding anniversary for a general list of the wedding anniversary symbols; however, there are variations in some national traditions.

Furthermore, there exist numerous partially overlapping, partially contradictory lists of anniversary gifts (such as wedding stones), separate from the 'traditional' names.

The concepts of a person's birthday stone and zodiac stone, by contrast, are fixed for life according to the day of the week, month or astrological sign corresponding to the recipient's birthday.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e 175th Jubilee "SA 175th Jubilee". Clipper Ship 'City of Adelaide'. Retrieved March 8, 2011. "So the name for a 175th anniversary? For now it is really up to the preference of the reader. One day one of these terms may make its way into popular usage, become accepted, and find a place in a dictionary." 
  2. ^ Chapman, Robert L. (02 1965). "The History of "Quasquicentennial"". American Speech 40 (01): 53–57. ISSN 0003-1283. JSTOR 454178. "It is our policy to reply as courteously and helpfully as we can to such requests, and I answered Mr. Hatten on August 7, suggesting quasquicentennial. Since this is a history, I shall quote the letter in full: Dr. Wilfred Funk has passed your letter of July I on to us. We are happy to help, if you feel that you really want a new Latinate word meaning "one hundred and twenty-fifth anniversary". The best model upon which to form the word is "sesquicentennial", meaning "one hundred and fiftieth anniversary". We need a first element meaning "plus a fourth", analogous with "sesqui" which means "plus a half". "Sesqui" is apparently formed from "semis que", meaning "and a half". Now, both "quarta" and "quadrans" mean "a fourth", so we may begin with either "quarta que" or "quadrans que". The trick is to combine and shorten one of these as "sesqui" was combined and shortened from "semis que". If we follow the model of "sesqui" very closely, retaining the stressed vowel and final "s" of "quadrans", we get the word "quasquicentennial". Combining and shortening in other ways we can also get "quadqui-", "quansqui-", "quarsqui-", and perhaps several others. On the grounds that it is closest to the model and also probably the least ugly of the set, I would choose "quasquicentennial" (pronounced kwahskwee-) as the new word. Of course, you may decide that you do not really want or need a new word. There is no point in proliferating them needlessly. I should add, perhaps, that this word would not appear in any of our dictionaries until it had established itself in wide currency, even if you should decide to use it. I hope we have been able to help you." 
  3. ^ Missouri Secretary of State Local Records Inventory Database
  4. ^ "Under the Cupola". Neighbors of Batavia, July / August 2008, p. 29. The etymology of "demisemiseptcentennial" is compared to "hemidemisemiquaver", a 64th note.
  5. ^ "Pickle Barrel: 175th-birthday bash planned for Dillsburg." The Patriot-News (Mechanicsburg, Penn.), Wednesday, 18 June 2008.
  6. ^ "Under the Cupola". Neighbors of Batavia, July / August 2008, p. 29.
  7. ^ Princeton Alumni Weekly November 19, 1997 "The Meaning of the 250th". Princeton University. Retrieved March 23, 2011. "Faster, it seems, than you can say "bicenquinquagenary", Princeton's 250th anniversary has come and gone." 
  8. ^ The Meadow City's Quarter-Millennial Book "A Memorial of the Celebration of the Two Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the Settlement of the Town of Northampton, Massachusetts". City of Northampton. Retrieved March 23, 2011. 
  9. ^ Kersten, Glenn. "Naming the Anniversaries". Quidnunc [Suburban Library System, Burr Ridge, Ill.], March 1988.
  10. ^ Architects 49: Selected and Current Work. (The Master Architect Series; 5.) Image Publishing Group, 2006. ISBN 978-1-876907-09-9
  11. ^ Wedding Anniversary Gifts

Sources and external links[edit]