Contrary to what you may have heard, AD does not stand for “After Death.” And, did you know that BC and BCE mean the same thing? And that AD and CE mean the same thing as well? It gets so confusing that the mind boggles. You become unsure of what each term means and how and when to use the right term. Here’re the differences and similarities between these terms:
BC is an acronym for “Before Christ.” It refers to events that happened before Jesus Christ was incarnated. The term was coined by a Christian monk, Dionysius Exiguus in the year 525. Many scholars are of the opinion that Dionysius’s calculations were slightly off the mark, but that’s another story.
Though BC has been used from centuries, many non-Christians felt that the term was not secular in nature as it equated Jesus Christ to Lord. This is why the term BCE was coined.
BCE refers to Before Common Era. To understand BCE, you must first understand what the Common Era is. The usage of the term “Common Era” can be traced back to 1615. Many texts and books of those times were researched and it was discovered that the term used to describe the era after Jesus’s Christ’s incarnation was referred to as the “Vulgar Era.” At that time Vulgar did not mean obscene, it meant “not regal.” “Vulgar Era” was used interchangeably with “Christian Era” during those times. Jewish academicians coined and started using the term, “Common Era,” in 1708, as has been discovered from texts of those times. “Common Era” means the same era as denoted by “Vulgar Era” or “Christian Era.” The use of BCE picked up from the year 1856 when Jewish academicians started suffixing BCE to years. It was not until the year 2008 when BCE’s usage caught on around the whole world.
So, the term BC refers to Before Christ and the term BCE refers to Before Common Era, which is the same as BC. But non-Christians prefer using BCE because it is a secular term. When Christian use BCE, they refer to it as “Before Christian Era.”
AD is an acronym for Anno Domini, a Latin word, which can be translated as “in the year of our Lord.” It has been used to date events that happened after the incarnation of Jesus Christ. When the term CE is suffixed to a date, it means the same as AD. CE, as you have read above, refers to Common Era. So, when you say 2011 CE, it means the year 2011 of the Common Era and means the same as 2011 AD.
Most people around the world used AD and BC till 2008. The usage of BCE and CE, which mean the same as BC and AD respectively, has caught on since then.