AD vs. BC: Global Calendar

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Difference between AD and BC

Anno Domini, which is regularly abbreviated AD, or found in the form of Anno Domine, is a designation that is used to label the years in an era on the Gregorian and Julian calendars. It is a label used to signify the years that proceed the birth of Jesus. Before Christ, which in turn is labeled BC, is the period on the same calendar that is allocated to the recorded time on the calendar preceding his conception and birth. Therefore, there is no zero located on the Gregorian or Julian calendar, the year AD 1, immediately allocates the first year labeled AD. 

AD
BC

The Standard for Dating History

Although this system was created in AD 525, it was not standardized or recognized until after AD 800. This dating system was born in 525 by Dionysius Exiguus, who was attempting to date the Christian Easter Festival, not to describe any one historical event. Eventually his dating system replaced the Diocletian Era. So, although it is a roughly accurate calendar, it is not perfect nor historically certain.

Linguistic Origins

AD and BC are two terms that are used to describe allocate history on a calendar, deriving from both English and Medieval Latin. Anno Domini is a term which has its origins in Medieval Latin and is literally translated into the year of our Lord, although strict linguistics might specify it more fully as Anno Domini Nostri Lesu, the Year of Our Lord Jesus Christ. English over the centuries, has adopted and copied the Latin terminology and continues to use the abbreviation to represent a time in history with the specific dating of AD. For specification, AD then is placed to set the numeric numbering system. BC, which clearly has its origins in the English vocabulary and not in Latin, is placed after the year. Over the centuries, however, the rule has somewhat been blurred and it is not uncommon for the AD to appear proceeding the numeric dating symbol like BC.

Symbol Placement

Taking away the numeric symbol is also acceptable in both cases such as in using it in accordance with a century or millennium. The Second millennium AD, or the First century AD are both appropriate uses for dating the calendar and for descriptive purposes. Because of the nature of the definitions of these two dating systems, it would seem logical to those who are not familiar with the abbreviations to mistakenly assume that BC, standing for before Christ, would translate into AD, for after death. This is not an uncommon mistake, but if that were correct than the thirty-third year of his life would not have any era.

Summary

Although many different regions and countries have their own system of dating and in turn their own calendar for which they subscribe to, the Gregorian calendar and its method of dating time as we know it, continues to be the most highly recognized dating system in the world to present day. The Gregorian calendar continues to be the global official standard which is recognized all over the world, and is the mechanism that is used by major world institutions such as the United Nations and any scholarly dating attempts.

  • AD represents a period of time after which Jesus Christ was born
  • BC is a symbol that represents dating prior to the birth of Jesus Christ
  • The AD symbol is placed after the numeric year
  • The BC symbol is placed before the numeric year

AD and BC Video

Which terms is more confusing?
  • AD
  • BC
 
 

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