03 Apr The Days of the Week
How did the days of the week get their names? Etymology can tell us something about the early History of the English language and the peoples who came to Britain. Modern English is influenced by Celtic languages, Anglo-Saxon, Nordic, French, Greek, Latin, plus more recent migrations of peoples. What follows is a simplistic version and I’m sure there are those who would debate these origins. I’m not a linguistic expert and rely on secondary sources, but think it’s interesting enough to write about.
The Days of the Week
Sunday is from the Old English sunnandæg. This is a translation of the Latin dies solis, itself from the Ancient Greek hemera heliou, day of the sun.
Monday derives from Old English monandæg, moon’s day. It originates from Late Latin, lunæ dies.
Tuesday can be traced to the Old English Tiwesdæg, day of Tiw/Tiu, the Anglo-Saxon god of war & the sky. Again it’s from the Latin dies Martis, day of Mars.
Wednesday is from Old English Wodnes dæg, Woden’s day. Woden was the most important Anglo-Saxon god, the supreme creator. It’s a translation of the Latin mercurii dies, Mercury’s day.
Thursday originates from Old English Thursdæg, Thor’s day. Thor was the Viking god of thunder.
Friday derives from Old English Frigedæg, Freya’s day. Freya was the Viking goddess of love.
Saturday is from Old English Sæternes dæg. It’s a translation of the Latin Saturni dies, day of Saturn, the Roman god of agriculture and vegetation.
The days of the week show the influence of the natural elements, planets and pagan gods on English. It’s surprising that conversion to Christianity didn’t lead to name changes. Well, an attempt was made, in order to extinguish pagan worship. The Roman Emperor Constantine, a Christian convert, changed the name of Sunday to Dies Dominica, the Lord’s Day. This policy succeeded in the East, but not in the West, except for Portugal.
A Short World History of Christianity, Robert Bruce Mullin.
The Collins English Dictionary (1986 edition that includes encyclopaedic entries, before computer language and trendy phrases).