AD stands for Anno Domini. Although seldom used in present terms, most people may be familiar with the abbreviation of AD or A.D. when used to place a year after the birth of Christ such as AD 1066 which is the year William the Conqueror defeated Harold and began his rule over England. But what does AD mean and what is the history of the term?
The term comes from the Medieval Latin which translates to in the year of the Lord. However, it is often translated into the phrase in the year of our Lord. The full name is Anno Domini nostril Iesu which translates into in the year of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Anno Domini is often abbreviated to A.D. which reflects the years after the birth of Christ. This is in opposition to B.C. or before Christ which is used to label the years before the birth of Christ.
The History of Anno Domini (AD)
Basically, the Gregorian calendar is based on the year believed to be the birth of Jesus of Nazareth with Anno Domini being used in the years after Jesus was born and BC before he was born. Since there is no concept of zero in Roman numerals, the first year is considered AD 1 that immediately followed 1 BC. You’ll notice that AD goes before the year while BC follows the year. However, there are exceptions to the rule as centuries are listed as fifth century AD for example.
This particular system of dating was not created until around AD 525 and was not widely used until after AD 800. It should be noted that AD has been misinterpreted as After Death which would mean that the 33 years that Jesus lived would not be part of the calendar record. The Anno Domini dating system is credited to Dionysius Exiguus who first revealed the calendar in 525 with the intention of replacing the older Diocletian version which was created by a tyrant who persecuted Christians.
Interestingly enough, the new calendar by Dionysius only implied the year that Jesus was born without stating it directly. In fact, there is no other dating system that he used to justify the actual date. Later examinations have shown that the calendar is off by two to four years depending on which other versions and accounts are used.
What does AD mean Today?
Today the Gregorian calendar is the most widely used in the world and for many decades has been the unofficial global standard. Because of its popularity, the calendar has been integrated into international communication, commercial integration, and transportation as the one unifying standard for all to follow. International institutions such as the United Nations follow the Gregorian calendar and its use of AD -Anno Domini.
Even many non-Christian countries use the Gregorian calendar although instead of Anno Domini (AD) they use a more neutral term Common Era (CE). The preceding years are called Before the Common or Current Era (BCE). However, while the terminology is different, the years are still recognized as the same as the traditional Gregorian calendar.
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