Have you ever wondered why we have seven weekdays or why they’re called what they are?
Firstly, did you know we used to have eight days a week? A whole extra day in which to get things done, imagine! The ancient Romans had a system called Nundinae, but by the 9th century BC, a new seven day week was created and variously adopted over the coming centuries by the Persian, Hellenistic, Gupta Indian, European and Tang Chinese Empires.
The days of the week in a large proportion of languages, are named after planets which in turn have named deities. The other percentage of names come from numbers, with either Monday or Sunday being considered the first day of the week. There are a few stray exceptions, such as Basque, where Thursday is Neskenegun which means girls day or Meitei where Friday is Eerai and means blood flood (!) but generally the rules on naming are all very similar.
Do you know where our names come from? Have a look below and see if you’re correct.
Monday - This one is nicely obvious and named for the moon. Instead of European languages, where the derivation is from Luna (Lundi, Lunedi, Lunes etc), English days mostly derive from Old Germanic and their goddess of the moon was called Máni, hence Máni’s Day.
Tuesday - Usually attributed with Mars and the god of war, Tuesday is named for Tíw, who in Norse mythology, was associated with single combat and duels.
Wednesday - Have you ever heard of Odin? Well, Wednesday is his day, or as he’s sometimes also known, Woden. His name roughly relates to Mercury in Latin but also Miðviku in Icelandic, which means midweek.
Thursday - Who does this sound like? You’ve guessed it, Thor! Given the recent Marvel films, he may be the most well known of the Norse Gods with his long blond hair and rather large… hammer. Ahem. Thunder also derives from Thor so Thursday could be thought of as Thunderday.
Friday - This is Freya’s day or Frige in Norse. She was the goddess of love, so matches nicely with Venus in the Roman tradition. The Norse name for the planet was ‘Friggjarstjarna’ - Frigg’s star but Venus has turned out to be less of a mouthful!
Saturday - The weekend begins with a return to Latin and Saturn. It also marks where our language converges again with the other British languages of Irish (Diu Saturn), Welsh (dydd Sadwrn) and Scottish (Di-Sàthairne).
Sunday - And back to the obvious, Sunday is the day of the Sun! A lot of languages have kept the association with our solar star, but many European languages changed to a version of Domine, or the Lord’s day.