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What is a “year” in Westeros?

Starting from A Game of Thrones characters are described being a specific (like earth humans) number of years old. They also describe the number of years winter is.

What is a year in the setting? How do they track it if not by the passage of the seasons?

  • 1
    Seasonal changes aren't the only way to track a year, and probably not even the best way. Note that many parts of the earth barely eve have seasons -- the nearer to the equator you are, the less difference you get between winter and summer -- and they still managed to tell time.
    – KutuluMike
    Aug 29, 2012 at 14:06
  • @KutuluMike every tropical country I've been to has had clear seasons. Winter and Summer seldom exist but there's usually one or more rainy season(s), dry season(s), sometimes a 'hot' season, and sometimes other unique seasons like the dusty Harmattan season in West Africa when prevailing winds come from across the Sahara. They're important for planning when to plant and harvest crops, but aren't necessarily used for timekeeping: many cultures track time with a lunar calendar which is out of sync with the seasons (but in sync with the tides). Mar 23, 2017 at 18:02

2 Answers 2


They still have nights. They can see the stars. Working out when a revolution around the sun has completed is a problem boy scouts could solve. Once the true year length is known, even that's not necessary... counting off days on a calendar will work. Something people are prone to do anyway, owing to the habit of celebrating holidays and what not.

  • 1
    Who says that years have regular length?
    – Thecafremo
    Aug 29, 2012 at 7:31
  • 9
    From the way people talk about winters lasting different numbers of years, I think its pretty clear a year is a constant period of time.
    – Nick
    Aug 29, 2012 at 9:25
  • Are you saying that some time long ago a year measurement of time was meaningful? Also are you saying that they live on a planet that orbits the sun at the same speed as the earth, but the orbit is not what accounts for the seasons?
    – Andrey
    Aug 29, 2012 at 13:18
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    Why wouldn't it still be meaningful?
    – John O
    Aug 29, 2012 at 13:20
  • 2
    @Andrey - yes to both of those (maybe not the exact same speed as Earth but "close enough" that their idea of a year roughly matches ours). Martin has explicitly said that the unusual seasons on their planet is due to magic and will be explained by the time the series ends.
    – KutuluMike
    Aug 29, 2012 at 14:02

I have done a lot of thinking about the answer and i cannot agree with what is said above. There are no little seasons in the world. No one ever talks about days being longer or shorter. This means one thing, the planet does not have an angular tilt. Without an angular tilt boy scouts could not tell the seasons. it would take high powered observatories to notice the difference in orbital position.
I am not claiming that maistors could not figure this out, I am saying that there is no way all society built their calendar around such a triviality.

Looking at human societies that did not use the motion of the sun to measure a year, the fall back is the moon. As far as i can tell a moon exists. There seems to be a region called "Mountains of the Moon" as at least 1 proof.

So the phases of the moon must be measured and however they are comes to a convenient year matching ours.

  • 1
    Normally you'd be right, but "magic". Without accurate clocks (water clocks in the 1600s in our world) they might not even notice longer and shorter days.
    – John O
    Aug 30, 2012 at 14:20
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    Angular tilt isn't required. It's merely enough to observe the position of the sun at say sunset, and see where that lines up on the celestial sphere. It will take 1 year for it to do a complete revolution. Tilt is irrelevant. Each day the earth orbits the sun by a franction and the position of the sun against background starts will rotate around a sphere taking a year.
    – Myforwik
    Mar 7, 2013 at 9:30

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