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6.2. What do the names of the days of the week mean?




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This article is from the Calendars FAQ, by Claus Tondering claus@tondering.dk with numerous contributions by others.

6.2. What do the names of the days of the week mean?

An answer to this question is necessarily closely linked to the
language in question. Whereas most languages use the same names for
the months (with a few Slavonic languages as notable exceptions),
there is great variety in names that various languages use for the
days of the week. A few examples will be given here.

Except for the Sabbath, Jews simply number their week days.

A related method is partially used in Portuguese and Russian:

   English    Portuguese      Russian        Meaning of Russian name
   -------    ----------      -------        -----------------------
   Monday     segunda-feira   ponedelnik     After "do-nothing"
   Tuesday    terca-feira     vtornik        Second
   Wednesday  quarta-feira    sreda          Middle
   Thursday   quinta-feira    chetverg       Fourth
   Friday     sexta-feira     pyatnitsa      Fifth
   Saturday   sabado          subbota        Sabbath
   Sunday     domingo         voskresenye    Resurrection

Most Latin-based languages connect each day of the week with one of
the seven "planets" of the ancient times: Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus,
Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. French, for example, uses:

   English     French         "Planet"
   -------     ------         --------
   Monday      lundi          Moon
   Tuesday     mardi          Mars
   Wednesday   mercredi       Mercury
   Thursday    jeudi          Jupiter
   Friday      vendredi       Venus
   Saturday    samedi         Saturn
   Sunday      dimanche       (Sun)

The link with the sun has been broken in French, but Sunday was
called "dies solis" (day of the sun) in Latin.

It is interesting to note that also some Asiatic languages (for
example, Hindi, Japanese, and Korean) have a similar relationship
between the week days and the planets.

English has retained the original planets in the names for Saturday,
Sunday, and Monday. For the four other days, however, the names of
Anglo-Saxon or Nordic gods have replaced the Roman gods that gave
name to the planets. Thus, Tuesday is named after Tiw, Wednesday is
named after Woden, Thursday is named after Thor, and Friday is named
after Freya.

 

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