BC vs AD: What do these abbreviations mean, and how do you use them correctly?. The short answer is that BC, AD, BCE, and CE are all acronyms used to mark years in the English language.
BC and BCE both refer to years before the birth of Jesus Christ, and AD and CE both refer to years after the birth of Jesus Christ. BC and AD reference Christ’s birth directly, while BCE and CE are more secular ways to tell time.
In this guide, we’ll show you what BC, AD, BCE, and CE all mean, and give you a helpful strategy to remember which one you should use in written English.
What Does BC Stand For?
BC, which stands for “Before Christ,” is often used to indicate a year before the birth of Jesus Christ by placing it before or after a number.
What does BCE stand for?
BCE stands for “Before Common Era.”
Similar to the usage of CE as a more secular substitute for AD, BCE is also utilized as a more inclusive alternative to BC. The year 500 BCE is equivalent to the year 500 BC.
What does AD stand for?
The abbreviation AD stands for the Latin phrase Anno Domini, which translates to “in the year of our Lord.” AD is commonly used before or after a number to indicate a year following the birth of Jesus Christ.
What does CE stand for?
CE is an abbreviation for “Common Era,” which is used in a secular context to represent the same years as AD. Therefore, the year 2022 CE is equivalent to 2022 AD.
The Gregorian calendar, the dating system widely used today, was created by a pope of the Catholic Church and measures time based on the birth of Jesus Christ.
It is important to consider the diversity of English speakers around the world who may practice different religions, hence why CE is seen as a more inclusive and secular alternative to AD for marking calendars.
BC vs AD meaning
BC and AD (as well as BCE and CE) are systems that help us keep track of our current year and historical events.
The usage of two sets of years, AD and BC, may seem counterintuitive because they involve counting forwards and backwards respectively. The purpose for these terms is due to the absence of a definitive answer for determining “Year 0.”
The Earth is approximately 4.5 billion years old, which means that instead of referring to the current year as the 2020s, we would be living in the 4,500,000,000s.
The estimated age of humanity is approximately 100,000 years, so if we were counting from the beginning of our existence, we would currently be in the 100,000s.
A year is chosen to start counting because there is no natural “Year 0,” and the birth of Jesus is used as Year 0 in the Gregorian calendar.
To denote a year a century before the birth of Jesus Christ, it is commonly written as “100 BC.”
To indicate a year that is one hundred years after the birth of Jesus Christ, it is written as “100 AD.”
There are several calendars, distinct from the Gregorian calendar, that designate a different year as Year 0.
In different calendars, the year 2020 corresponded to different numerical designations. In the Chinese calendar, it was 4718. In the Islamic lunar calendar, it was 1441. And in the Jewish calendar, it was 5780.
Examples of BC, AD, BCE, and CE in sentences
Now let’s examine some examples of how these terms are used in sentences.
Examples of BC in a sentence
- The ancient Egyptian civilization dates back to around 3000 BC, making it one of the earliest known human civilizations.
- The Greek philosopher Socrates lived in the 5th century BC and greatly influenced the development of Western philosophy.
- Many historians believe that the construction of Stonehenge in England began around 3100 BC, but its exact purpose remains a subject of debate.
- The Code of Hammurabi, one of the oldest known legal codes, was established in Mesopotamia around 1754 BC.
- Cleopatra VII, the last Pharaoh of Egypt, reigned from 51 BC until her death in 30 BC, and her life is a subject of fascination for historians and scholars.
Examples of AD in a sentence
- The Roman Empire reached its peak in AD 117 under the rule of Emperor Trajan.
- The Great Wall of China was constructed over many centuries, with some sections dating back to around AD 221.
- The Gutenberg printing press was invented in the 15th century AD, revolutionizing the spread of information.
- Christopher Columbus set sail on his first voyage to the Americas in AD 1492, marking a significant moment in world history.
- The fall of the Western Roman Empire in AD 476 is often considered a key event in the transition from antiquity to the Middle Ages.
Examples of BCE in a sentence
- The BCE dating system is often used by historians to discuss events in ancient civilizations, such as the construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza, which took place around 2560 BCE.
- In BCE notation, the classical philosopher Aristotle was born in 384 BCE, and his works continue to influence modern thought.
- The Maurya Empire, founded by Chandragupta Maurya in the 4th century BCE, played a significant role in the history of ancient India.
- The BCE era encompasses many important religious developments, including the birth of Siddhartha Gautama, who later became known as Buddha, around 563 BCE.
- Ancient Greece experienced a flourishing of arts and culture during the 5th century BCE, with the creation of iconic works like the Parthenon in Athens.
Examples of CE in a sentence
- The construction of the ancient Roman Colosseum began in 70 CE and was completed in 80 CE, showcasing impressive engineering and architectural prowess.
- The famous Chinese philosopher Confucius lived during the sixth and fifth centuries BCE, making his teachings relevant well into the Common Era.
- The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE buried the city of Pompeii, preserving it for modern archaeologists to study and explore.
- In 1492 CE, Christopher Columbus embarked on his historic voyage to the Americas, forever changing the course of world history.
- The Renaissance, a period of great cultural and artistic flourishing, occurred between the 14th and 17th centuries CE, giving rise to masterpieces in art, literature, and science.
How to remember the difference between BC vs AD
A simple mnemonic for remembering the difference between AD and BC is to associate BC with before (B = Before) and AD with after (A = After).
Consequently, BC is utilized to discuss events prior to Year 0, while AD is used to reference events following Year 0.
There is a helpful trick to remember the difference between BCE and CE. BCE comes before Year 0 because it starts with a B.