What Does “BC” Mean, and How Do You Use It? – How-To Geek

“BC” is an abbreviation that stands for “Before Christ.” It is used in the Gregorian calendar system to refer to historical dates before the birth of Jesus Christ. The Gregorian calendar is the most widely used calendar system in the world today and is based on the estimated birth of Jesus as the starting point, designated as the year 1 BC (or sometimes written as 1 BCE, which stands for “Before the Common Era” and is considered a more secular alternative to BC).

The usage of “BC” is prevalent in historical contexts when discussing events, dates, or timelines that occurred before the birth of Jesus Christ. For example:

  1. Timeline: The Roman Empire fell in the year 476 AD (Anno Domini, which means “In the Year of Our Lord”), while the Roman Republic existed many centuries earlier, with the Roman Kingdom starting around 753 BC.
  2. Date: The construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza is estimated to have begun around 2580 BC.
  3. Historical Events: The Battle of Thermopylae, made famous in the movie “300,” took place in 480 BC.

When using “BC” in writing, it is usually placed after the numeric year, with a space between the year and the “BC” abbreviation. For example:

  • 753 BC (Roman Kingdom started)
  • 480 BC (Battle of Thermopylae)

It’s essential to be careful with date notation to avoid confusion. For example, the year 1 BC is followed immediately by the year AD 1 (Anno Domini, “In the Year of Our Lord”). There is no “year 0” in the Gregorian calendar system.

In more secular and diverse settings, some people may choose to use the term “BCE” (Before the Common Era) instead of “BC” to avoid religious connotations, while “CE” (Common Era) is used instead of AD. Both “BCE” and “CE” retain the same numeric dating system as “BC” and “AD” but are considered more inclusive and neutral in their terminology.

Always be mindful of the context and the audience when using historical dating conventions to ensure clear communication.

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