The Names of the Days of the Week

Updated December 21, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

The mythic roots of some common words

There are two basic origins for weekday names. In many languages, like French and Spanish, the days are named for the planets. In Japan, for instance, the days of the week are named for the five classical elements (which are associated with the planets). A common exception is that many languages name Sunday after the Latin dominus, or Lord, since it's the day people go to church.

The other common basis is to number the days, so they would be Day 1, Day 2, etc. Depending on the country's history, Day 1 can be Monday or Sunday. 

In Germanic countries, they used the Roman tradition of the planetary names. But, they were replaced with the Germanic counterparts to the Roman gods from which the planets got their names, e.g. Mars became Tyr/Tiw.

See also Greek and Roman Mythology and Norse Mythology

Latin Old English English German French Italian Spanish
Dies Solis Sunnandaeg Sunday Sonntag dimanche domenica domingo
Dies Lunae Monandaeg Monday Montag lundi lunedì lunes
Dies Martis Tiwesdaeg Tuesday Dienstag mardi martedì martes
Dies Mercurii Wodnesdaeg Wednesday Mittwoch mercredi mercoledì miércoles
Dies Jovis Thunresdaeg Thursday Donnerstag jeudi giovedì jueves
Dies Veneris Frigedaeg Friday Freitag vendredi venerdì viernes
Dies Saturni Saeternesdaeg Saturday Samstag samedi sabato sábado
NOTE: The seven-day week originated in ancient Mesopotamia and became part of the Roman calendar in A.D. 321. The names of the days are based on the seven celestial bodies (the Sun, the Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn), believed at that time to revolve around Earth and influence its events. Most of Western Europe adopted the Roman nomenclature. The Germanic languages substituted Germanic equivalents for the names of four of the Roman gods: Tiw, the god of war, replaced Mars; Woden, the god of wisdom, replaced Mercury; Thor, the god of thunder, replaced Jupiter; and Frigg, the goddess of love, replaced Venus.


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