Millennium: 2000 or 2001?

Josef Essberger

A lot of people around the world are preparing to celebrate the end of this year (1999) and the beginning of next year (2000). This is considered a special occasion because it is:

  • the start of a new YEAR
  • the start of a new DECADE (10 years)
  • the start of a new CENTURY (100 years)
  • the start of a new MILLENNIUM (1000 years)

But not everyone agrees that 1 January 2000 is the first day of the new century/millennium. Some people say that the real first day will be on 1 January 2001. Why do they say this? Their logic is very simple: we start counting from 1, not from 0, so:

  • the first century ran from the year 1 to the year 100
  • the present century runs from 1901 to 2000
  • the next century will run from 2001 to 2100

This debate is a little academic because for much of the world the present year is not 1999 but something completely different. 1999 is a year in the "Christian calendar". The Christian calendar is the official calendar used by many countries. But there are other calendars, with different years. And their years do not always start on 1 January. In 1999 we see, for example:

  • the start of Chinese year 4697
  • the start of Islamic year 1420
  • the start of Jewish year 5760

Year 2000 Problem

Whether 1 January 2000 is the start of the new millennium or not, one thing is sure: it is the cause of a major computer problem worldwide. This is because many computers and programs have to be modified to be sure that they will not think that the year 2000 is the year 1900, or worse. This problem is sometimes called the "Year 2000 Problem" or the "Millennium Bug".

How do we say "2000"?

Many people say "two thousand" for next year. But we can also say "twenty hundred" (just as we say "nineteen hundred" for 1900). And for the following years:

  • 2001 "twenty-o-one"
  • 2002 "twenty-o-two"
  • 2010 "twenty-ten"
  • 2025 "twenty-twenty-five"
  • etc

© 1999 Josef Essberger