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A millennium (plural millennia or millenniums) is a period of one thousand years, [1] sometimes called a kiloyear. [ citation needed ] Sometimes, the word is used specifically for periods of a thousand years that begin at the starting point (initial reference point) of the calendar in consideration (typically the year "1") and at later years that are whole number multiples of a thousand years after the start point. The term can also refer to an interval of time beginning on any date. Millennia sometimes have religious or theological implications (see millenarianism).


The word millennium derives from the Latin mille, thousand, and annus, year.

Debate over millennium celebrations

There was a public debate leading up to the celebrations of the year 2000 as to whether the beginning of that year should be understood as the beginning of "the" new millennium. Historically, there has been debate around the turn of previous decades, centuries, and millennia. The issue arises from the difference between the convention of using ordinal numbers to count years and millennia, as in "the third millennium", or using a vernacular description, as in "the two thousands". The first convention is common in English-speaking countries, but the latter is favoured in, for example, Sweden (tvåtusentalet, which translates literally as the two thousands period).

Those holding that the arrival of the new millennium should be celebrated in the transition from 2000 to 2001 (i.e., December 31, 2000, to January 1, 2001) argued that the Gregorian calendar started counting years beginning with the year 1 (There was no year zero) and therefore the first millennium was from the year 1 to the end of the year 1000, the second millennium from 1001 to the end of 2000, and the third millennium beginning with 2001 and ending at the end of 3000.

Those holding that the arrival of the new millennium should be celebrated in the transition from 1999 to 2000 (i.e., December 31, 1999, to January 1, 2000) argued that popular culture strongly supported it. The "year 2000" had been a popular phrase referring to an often utopian future, or a year when stories in such a future were set, adding to its cultural significance. There was also media and public interest in the Y2K computer bug. The change from 1999 to 2000 was compared to the "rolling over" of zeroes on an odometer. Some people [2] argued that the change of the hundreds digit in the year number, and the zeroes rolling over, created a sense that a new century had begun. This is analogous to the common demarcation of decades by their 'tens' digit, e.g. naming the period 1980 to 1989 as "the 1980s" or "the eighties".

The start of the 21st century and 3rd millennium were celebrated worldwide at the start of the year 2000. One year later, at the start of the year 2001, the celebrations had largely returned to the usual ringing in of just another new year, although some welcomed "the real millennium", including America’s official timekeeper, the U.S. Naval Observatory, [3] and the countries of Cuba [4] and Japan. [5]

Stephen Jay Gould, in his essay Dousing Diminutive Dennis' Debate (or DDDD = 2000) ( Dinosaur in a Haystack ), discussed the "high" versus "pop" culture interpretation of the transition. Gould noted that the high culture, strict construction had been the dominant viewpoint at the 20th century's beginning, but that the pop culture viewpoint dominated at its end. [6]

The popular [7] approach was to treat the end of 1999 as the end of "a millennium" and to hold millennium celebrations at midnight between December 31, 1999, and January 1, 2000, with the cultural and psychological significance of the events listed above combining to cause celebrations to be observed one year earlier than the formal Gregorian date. [7] However, this does not establish that insistence on the formal Gregorian date is "incorrect". Some event organisers hedged their bets by calling their 1999 celebrations things like "Click"[ citation needed ] referring to the odometer-like rolling over of the nines to zeroes; another, pragmatic approach was to celebrate "a new millennium" twice.[ citation needed ]

See also

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  1. "Millennium", Oxford Dictionaries (Oxford University Press, 2016).
  2. "When Does the New Millennium Begin?" January 1, 1999.
  3. "For the Chronologically Correct, Now It's Time for the Millennium". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 13, 2020.
  4. "Castro hosts party for the 'true Millennium'". The Telegraph. Retrieved November 13, 2020.
  5. "Japanese purists prepare to welcome new millennium". DeseretNews. Retrieved November 13, 2020.
  6. Gould, Stephen (1995). Dinosaur in a Haystack. Harmony Books.
  7. 1 2 Associated Press, "Y2K It Wasn't, but It Was a Party", Los Angeles Times, January 1, 2001.