What Do BBY & ABY Mean in Star Wars? Timeline Explained

What Do BBY & ABY Mean in Star Wars? Timeline Explained

We all know that the Star Wars timeline doesn’t follow the same one that we follow in the real world because the storyline takes place a long long time ago in a galaxy far away. As such, when we look at the different events of Star Wars, we often notice that the years are based on either BBY or ABY. Now, this may be confusing to some people because of the fact that this doesn’t follow the same kind of timeline that we have in the real world. So, what do BBY and ABY mean in Star Wars?

In Star Wars, BBY and ABY mean “Before the Battle of Yavin” and “After the Battle of Yavin.” The Battle of Yavin is one of the most important moments in the history of the Star Wars universe because that was when the Rebels were able to strike back and destroy the Death Star on Yavin.

It is worth mentioning that the BBY and ABY date systems were never used by the people of the Star Wars universe before the Battle of Yavin, as there was a different system in use. It was only during the time of the New Republic that a new “zero” date system was implemented to make the timeline more uniform. So, with that said, let’s look at the meaning of BBY and ABY in Star Wars.

What Do BBY And ABY Mean In Star Wars?

It is a matter of fact that the timeline in Star Wars is a lot different from our own timeline. That’s why every major Star Wars movie begins with “A long long time ago, in a galaxy far away,” which basically means that this storyline takes place in a different galaxy with different sets of standards. And, of course, the Star Wars storyline takes place in a timeline that happened a very long time ago.

As such, it is easy to conclude that the Star Wars universe doesn’t follow the Julian calendar system that we follow, considering that this is only a standard measuring of years that is followed on Earth because it is based on how long it takes for it to complete an entire revolution around the Sun. 

So, for those who have been keeping up with the Star Wars timeline, one of the things you might notice is that the different events are described using the BBY and ABY dating systems. For example, a certain event happened on 10 BBY, whereas an entirely different event happened on 10 ABY. In that regard, what do BBY and ABY really mean in Star Wars?

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It is worth mentioning that the Star Wars universe takes place in a huge galaxy that has been colonized by the Republic/Empire. That means that different planets have different year lengths, depending on how long it takes for their planets to revolve around their own star. But because the different star systems in Star Wars all fall under the jurisdiction of the Republic/Empire, there needed to be a uniform way of date measurement that’s based on large events that changed the course of history.

When the first three Star Wars movies were introduced during the 70s and 80s, we all knew that the Empire was already ruling the galaxy under the leadership of Emperor Palpatine and his enforcer and apprentice, Darth Vader. In the first movie, we saw what was arguably the biggest event in the history of the galaxy at that time when the Rebel forces were able to finally strike back on the Empire after spending a very long time struggling to find a way to topple the Emperor’s tyrannical rule.

This happened on the planet called Yavin, where the Rebel Alliance was hiding from the Empire while they were set to make their move on the Death Star, which was a huge space station that was capable of annihilating an entire planet in one single shot. Thanks to the Death Star plans that they were able to acquire from Rogue One, the Rebels struck a decisive blow to the Empire, capped off by Luke Skywalker launching the missiles that blew up the massive space station.

What Do BBY & ABY Mean in Star Wars? Timeline Explained

Of course, we all know that the Rebels eventually won in their fight against the Empire when the Emperor was defeated during the events of Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. Since then, the New Republic has taken over as the governing force behind the entire Star Wars galaxy. And after that, the BBY and ABY date systems were now used to describe the different events in Star Wars.

That’s because BBY and ABY literally mean “Before the Battle of Yavin” and “After the Battle of Yavin.” The Battle of Yavin, which was the battle shown during the events of Episode IV: A New Hope, became the new “zero” year for the Star Wars universe because it was a seminal moment in the history of the galaxy as this marked the start of the true battle against the Empire. 

In that regard, the reckoning point that the New Republic used to describe the different events in the timeline and where they fall in the history of the galaxy is the Battle of Yavin. So, when it is BBY, that means that it took place before the said battle. Of course, ABY describes the timeline after the zero year, which is the Battle of Yavin.

How BBY And ABY Are Used

This can get a bit confusing for a lot of other people because of the fact that BBY and ABY can get a bit tricky when it comes to how they are used. But the fact is that it is always important to count from the zero year, which is the Battle of Yavin.

So, when an event said that it happened in 5 BBY, as is the case for the newly released Andor series on Disney+, that means that the event happened five years before the Battle of Yavin. And when an event happened on 4 ABY, as is the case for the fall of the Empire, that means that it happened four years after the Battle of Yavin.

In short, when we talk about BBY, we count backward. That means an event that happened on 20 BBY happened before an event that happened on 5 BBY. Meanwhile, when we talk about ABY, we are heading forward, and that means that an event that happened on 5 ABY happened before an event that took place on 20 ABY.

What Do BBY & ABY Mean in Star Wars? Timeline Explained

The way that BBY and ABY are used is similar to the way we used AD and BC in our real-world Julian calendar system. Dates with the AD tag happened before the zero year, which is the year of the birth of Christ. Meanwhile, BC happened after the birth of Christ.

Does The Star Wars Universe Follow Its Own Calendar?

Of course, it is worth mentioning that the BBY and ABY dating systems were only used during the time of the New Republic, and that means that it wasn’t even used by the Old Republic and the Empire. So, did the Star Wars universe follow its own calendar?

Before the implementation of the BBY and ABY system, the Galactic Standard Calendar was used to make the days, months, and years uniform throughout the entire galaxy. Of course, this was based on how long a year is on Coruscant, which is the capital of the galaxy.

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This calendar follows a year that lasts 368 days. There are 35 days in a single month, and there are ten standard months in a single standard year. The missing 18 days are made up of three festivals of fete weeks. 

All of the planets that fall under the jurisdiction of the Republic/Empire used this standard system. It was only during the New Republic’s era that the different dates were now marked with BBY and ABY to determine when exactly in history they happened.

  • Ysmael is a self-professed geek that loves anything related to fantasy, sci-fi, video gaming, and anime. Spends his free time watching movies, TV shows and gaming, a lot.