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The story behind the names of the days of the week

Lexika Ciferník17.04.2018 Meet the World with Lexika Reading time: 3 min.
Names of the Days of the week on the small buttons

Have you ever wondered how the days of the week got their names? We use these words every day. They help us use our time. They shine on us from the calendar. They mark holidays and birthdays and help us to plan our work or school activities. The names of the days of the week have their own meaning in every language. Let’s talk about few of them.

The word week refers to a period of seven consecutive days. In European countries, the week starts on Monday and ends on Sunday. In some other parts of the world, it runs from Sunday to Saturday. We know from the Bible that the origin of the week goes back to God’s creation of the world because 'on the seventh day God finished the work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day...' The Jews are considered to be the first people to have a week with Saturday being the most important day. It is also well-known that they adopted the concept of the week from the Sumerians and Babylonians. At that time, the names of the days had an astronomical character and were named after the Sun, the Moon, and the five planets that were known back then. The concept of the week was later adopted by the Romans whose week started on Sunday and ended on Saturday. The Romans considered Sunday to be a pagan holiday. The Christians consider it the Lord’s Day and the Day of Rest because Sunday is the day when they celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Names of the days of the week and their meanings across languages

The days of the week repeat constantly. According to a decision made by the United Nations Organisation (UNO) in 1978, Monday is internationally considered to be the first day of the week. This decision also specifies Saturday and Sunday as days of rest. The working days include all days from Monday to Friday.

In English, the names of the days of the week are as follows:

Monday – Moon’s day

Tuesday – God Tyr’s day

Wednesday – God Odin’s (Woden’s) day

Thursday – God Thor’s day

Friday – God Freya’s day

Saturday – God Saturn’s day

Sunday – Sun’s day

Statue of Odin

In other Germanic languages, the names of the days of the week follow a similar pattern half of them go back to the Roman names and half of them to the names of the Germanic gods. In German, for instance, there are the following days of the week:

Montag (Monday)  Moon’s day

Dienstag (Tuesday) – from deus (Latin for god) and Mars – Tuesday

Mittwoch (Wednesday) – the middle of the week – Wednesday

Donnerstag (Thursday) – Thunder God’s Thor day (Donner – thunder) – Thursday

Freitag (Friday)  God Frigg’s (or Freya’s) day Friday

Samstag (Saturday)  God Saturn’s day – Saturday

Sonntag (Sunday) – Sun God’s day – Sunday

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In Italian, there are the following days of the week:

Lunedi (Monday)  Luna’s day (Moon’s day)

Martedi (Tuesday)  God Mars’ day

Mercoledi (Wednesday)  God Mercury’s day

Giovedi (Thursday) God Jupiter’s day

Venerdi (Friday) Goddess Venus’ day

Sabato (Saturday) Sabbath

Domenica (Sunday) Lord’s day

To do list

In Greek, the names of the days of the week are similar to those in Hebrew:

Kyriakí  (Sunday)  Lord’s day

Deftéra (Monday)  the second day

Tríti (Tuesday) the third day

Tetárti (Wednesday) – the fourth day

Pémpti (Thursday) the fifth day

Paraskeví (Friday) the day of preparation

Sávvato (Saturday) Sabbath

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Names of the days of the week in other European languages:

SlovakPondelok, Utorok, Streda, Štvrtok, Piatok, Sobota, Nedeľa

French: Lundi, Mardi, Mercredi, Jeudi, Vendredi, Samedi, Dimanche

Spanish: Lunes, Martes, Miércoles, Jueves, Viernes, Sábado, Domingo

Finnish: Sunnuntai, Maanantai, Tiistai, Keskiviikko, Torstai, Perjantai, Lauantai

Portuguese: Domingo, Segunda-feira, Terça-feira, Quarta-feira, Quinta-feira, Sexta-feira, Sábado

Hungarian: Hétfő, Kedd, Szerda, Csütörtök, Péntek, Szombat, Vasárnap

Latvian: Pirmdiena, Otrdiena, Trešdiena, Ceturtdiena, Piektdiena, Sestdiena, Svētdiena

Estonian: Esmaspäev, Teisipäev, Kolmapäev, Neljapäev, Reede, Laupäev, Pühapäev

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