Translation:Half a year
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That's what it means etymologically: "six months," but then its meaning changed or became more specific like so many other words have. In Spanish we still pretty much keep the original Latin meanigs:
Bimestre = (a) two months (period)
Trimestre = three months.
Cuatrimestre = four months
Semestre = six months.
And depending on the country and university, university terms usually have a duration of either four months (cuatrimestres) or six (semestres), so their names still manage to reflect their etymology. It's funny how it came to mean "vacation" in Swedish, though.
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Where I'm from just south of London, we'd definitely go for "six months" over "half of a year". "Half of a year" is a strange construction, and we'd probably use "half a year" instead, but we'd definitely err towards "six months" even over that, eg: "It'll take six months" vs "It'll take half a year". I think it's partly out of laziness—"six months" is a whole syllable shorter than "half a year" and two whole syllables shorter than "half of a year", which as I mentioned above just sounds odd—and partly because of a general tendency to switch to larger units only when you pass the minimum threshold for the next unit up, eg:
- 6 days
- a week
- four weeks
- one month
- six months
- 11 months
- a year
- a year and a day
- a year and three weeks
- a year-and-a-quarter (I really should find out exactly why it is that I hyphenate this…)
- a year-and-a-half (and this)
That said, we do say "six weeks" and "12 weeks" instead of "a month and a half" and "three months", I suspect because "six weeks" is three whole syllables shorter than "a month and a half", and "12 weeks" because we're English and we like counting things in twelves.
Yeah, laziness is definitely a common reason for why we do things the way we do in English. o.o
"Half a year" is a lot easier to say than "six months" though!
I'm gonna disagree and say they're pretty much interchangeable, except when you're being precise it makes sense to use the smaller unit - half a year could easily mean a month either way, six months sounds like you're being more specific. Twenty-six weeks feels like an even more solid, businesslike definition, and so on. Otherwise people seem to just go with whichever they feel like, I haven't noticed any trend either way personally