Feb·ru·ar·y (fĕbr-ĕr′ē, fĕby-)
n. pl. Feb·ru·ar·ies
The second month of the year in the Gregorian calendar. See Table at calendar.
[Middle English Februarie, from Latin Februārius (mēnsis), (month) of purification, from februa, expiatory offerings, possibly of Sabine origin.]
Usage Note: The preferred pronunciation among usage writers is (fĕbr-ĕr′ē), but in actual usage the pronunciation (fĕby-ĕr′ē) is far more common and so cannot be considered incorrect. The loss of the first r in this pronunciation can be accounted for by the phonological process known as dissimilation, whereby one of two similar or identical sounds in a word is changed or dropped so that a repetition of that sound is avoided. In the case of February, the loss of the first r was also helped along by the influence of January, which has only one r.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.