As so many abbreviations in the English language, AD – Anno Domini = “The year of the Lord”, also comes from Latin, this being a shortened version of the Anno Domini nostri Jesu Christi, i.e. “In the year of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Curiously enough, unlike AD, BC (Before Christ) is purely English abbreviation, although back in the past, this also used to be marked in Latin as “a.C.n” or Ante Christum Natum = “Before the birth of Christ.
Some people would read these as Before Christ (BC) and After Death (AD), which the latter is incorrect, since it denotes the point in time of about 33 years after Christ was born. So After Death is merely a convenient way of expressing the concept of AD, as above, and mustn’t be taken literally.
In proper English, AD goes before, and BC after the year mentioned, so as to keep also visual chronology of dating, thus you write 375 BC, but AD 2020. This, however, is not always the case in English written texts, where both AD and BC are often put after the year mentioned.
The Gregorian calendar system spread around the world together with Christianity and was adopted also by non-christian societies, so as to simplify commercial and political processes, and so, while, e.g. in China, they keep to their own calendar system, for the global purposes, the calendar we use in our western part of the world is accepted and taken into account by them as well.
Broken Connection to the Past
However, it need be mentioned that regardless of whether we talk about Christian, Muslim or Asian calendar systems, the division of time causes our perception of our past to change in a peculiar way.
We tend to think of the time after Christ as the period of modern man and evolution of our societies leading to our age of technology. Anything that goes as BC is considered ancient and extremely old. We are taught to think of it as the time of lesser quality and development in all respects of that word.
But imagine the time as a line divided into twelve sections, each standing for one thousand years. Going from the right side, you move two parts left and arrive at our AD/BC milestone. So anything further is supposed to be outdated and inferior to what we have now.
Half into the third section, you find the peak of Greek civilization with Socrates, Plato, Aristoteles and Alexander the Great. There of course were many more great men (like Euclid) whose work has been surpassed only recently, if at all, and most of whose ideas are still fresh and valid for our lives.
Go three or four sections further to the left to find yourself in the time of ancient Egypt, whose highly organized and sophisticated civilization lasted for millennia, actually longer than whole our AD part of the line!
And then go to the end, ten thousand years BC, when the pyramids are thought to have been built. They built them with the level of sophistication we would find difficult to achieve at our day and age. They built them twelve thousand years ago, and we are not sure how or for what.
All that was taken away from us, from our perception, by a simple thing, putting a zero in the middle and making us look as what was before as a negative time frame, -500years, -3,500 years, -50,000 years – that’s what BC is.
Imagine there is no such an artificial barrier on our line of time. Imagine you are living in the year 12,020. How would you look at your birthday, your lifespan, your success or your troubles. What would you consider old? Would you think of the times of the Roman Empire as a long time ago? Would you think thirty years from now as a distant future?
Welcome to Anno Domini 12,020.