Have you ever noticed the letters BC, AD, BCE, or CE appearing in sentences that refer to a calendar year? Well, if you’ve been wondering what they mean, we’ve got the scoop for you.
First, the definitions of each…
- BC denotes “Before Christ” or “Before the Messiah (savior)”.
- BCE stands for “Before the common era”. The word “common” refers to the first year of the Gregorian Calendar. Some interpret the “C” to denote “Christian” or “Christ’s” or even “Current”.
- AD is an abbreviation for “Anno Domini”, in Latin, or “the year of the Lord”, in English. (AD is often mistaken to denote “After Death”.)
- CE stands for “Common Era”.
‘BC’ and ‘BCE’ measure the number of years before the approximate birthday of Jesus Christ, which is a little over two thousand years ago. A year in ‘BC’ is the same as the year in ‘BCE’.
‘CE’ and ‘AD’ measure the number of years since the approximate birthday of Jesus. Both these notations have the same value, that is, 1 CE = AD 1, and 2011 CE = AD 2011.
The practice of labeling years with ‘CE’ and ‘BCE’ has been around since the 19th century and is gaining popularity despite passionate debates. These labels are considered culturally sensitive ways of denoting the years. As ‘BC’ and ‘AD’ refer to Jesus as God and Savior (given the definitions above), there is religious significance (inclined to Christianity) attached to these labels. That’s what makes ‘CE’ and ‘BCE’ more appealing to people who practice other religions.
As you write down the years, depending on what labeling format you use, remember these rules:
- ‘BC’ ‘BCE’ and ‘CE’ come after the year number. For example, 427 BC; 427 BCE; 2011 CE
- ‘AD’ comes before the year number. For example, AD 2011
So now, when you come across these terms in our next title on Jainism, you would know what they signify.