Leap year

type of year that has 366 days, instead of 365 for a common year

A leap year is a calendar year in which an extra day is added to the Gregorian calendar, which is used by most of the world. A common year has 365 days, but a leap year has 366 days. The extra day, February 29, is added to the month of February. In a common year, February has 28 days, but in a leap year it has 29 days. The extra day, called a leap day, occurs on the same day of the week as the first day of the month, February 1.

Because of an extra day, a leap year of 366 days has 52 weeks and two days. Therefore, a leap year does not begin and end on the same day of the week, as a common year does (for example, in 2024, January 1 fell on a Monday, but December 31 will fall on a Tuesday).

Leap years are evenly divisible by 4. The current year, 2024, is a leap year. The last leap year was 2020, and the next will be 2028. However, any year that is evenly divided by 100 would not be a leap year unless it is evenly divided by 400. This is why 1600, 2000, and 2400 are leap years, while 1700, 1800, 1900, 2100, 2200, and 2300 are common years, even though they are all divisible by 4.

We have leap years because instead of 365 days, the Earth really takes a few minutes less than 365-1/4 days (365.24219) to go completely around the Sun. Without leap years, the seasons would start one day earlier on the calendar every four years. After 360 years, spring in the Northern Hemisphere and autumn in the Southern Hemisphere would begin on December 21 (which is when winter in the Northern Hemisphere and summer in the Southern Hemisphere presently begins).

A number of countries use a lunar calendar (based on the Moon, instead of the Sun, like our solar calendar is). They have leap years when they add an extra lunar month. Different calendars add the extra month in different ways. So a year which has 366 days instead of 365 days where the month of February has 29 days is called a leap year.

In a leap year, the corresponding months are January, April, and July, February and August, March and November, and September and December. No month corresponds to May, June, or October.

In the Gregorian calendar, 97 out of every 400 years are leap years. In the outdated Julian calendar, 100 years out of every 400 are leap years. All other years are common years.