Where do the names of the days of the week come from?
Today we’re going to be looking at the days of the week and the origin of the names of the days, which are obviously different in different languages, but in the English language, the days, a lot of them, apart from the sun and the moon, a lot of the days are named after gods. Not… Not god, not the Christian god, but before Christianity came to the UK or to Britain, we had these… It’s called pagan gods.
“Pagan” just means before Christianity. So, there were these not just one god, but a group of gods, and a goddess as well, a female god. And the days were named after them. Okay. So let’s have a look through the days of the week and I’ll tell you all about how the day got its name. Okay. So, this goes back hundreds of years, so that’s why it’s a little strange. So, “Sunday”, the main religious day in the Christian world, but before Christianity in the pagan times, Sunday-obviously, “sun”-was named after the sun. Sun’s Day. Check out the names that mean sun
Because, obviously, you look up into the sky and the sun is the brightest thing there, and it keeps you warm and all of that, so everyone knew the sun was very important for human life to survive, so they named the first day of the week after the sun. Sun’s Day. And just to make a link, here, with the German language because we share a lot of similar words with the German language: “Sonntag”, so in German as well, the sun…The word for “sun” in German is in the name of the German word for Sunday. Okay. Right, so that’s Sunday, Sun’s Day, the day dedicated to the sun. Next day: “Monday”.
It’s not totally obvious, but it’s named after the moon. Moon. “Mon”, “moon”, so there’s a little moon. And again, because the sun, most important and then after that, you look up in the sky at night and you see the moon, so it’s like the second most important thing that you see. So, Moon’s Day, Monday. And in German: “Montag”, so that’s the moon in German. But also, the example from French because in French the word for “moon” is “lune”, “la lune”, so in French, again, the day is named after the moon and it’s called “Lundi”.
So even in French, which has a different word, it’s still connected with the moon. Okay. Right, so that’s the sun and the moon for the first two days of the week. Now, this is where it gets interesting. “Tuesday” is named after one of the pagan gods called Tiu, T-i-u. Tiu’s Day. Okay? And he came to fromthe sort of North European group of gods. Okay? And Tiu was the god of war. He represented war or… And the god of the sky, generally. And the link, here, with the Southern European gods which come mostly from the Roman gods. So, the French name for Tuesday and the French words come from the southern group of gods, the Roman god of war is Mars. Okay? Like the planet…
There’s also a link with the planets, and that’s the red planet, Mars. So, in French, Tuesday is called “Mardi” because it’s linked to Mars. So, in the northern group of gods we have Tiu’s Day and he’s the god of war, and in the southern group of gods we have Mardi, Mars, and Mars is also the god of war in the Southern European gods. Okay. Whoops, sorry. Right. Moving on: “Wednesday”, which is always a tricky one to spell, difficult to spell. It’s Wed-nes-day, but we pronounce it: “Wednesday”.That’s named after Woden. Woden’s Day. Okay? And Woden was the sort of chief god in charge of all the other gods. He was the top god. Also, read- Navajo names
Woden’s Day. Okay. In the southern group of gods, in French, Wednesday is “Mercredi”, which is named after Mercury. But in this case, Mercury is not the equivalent of Woden. So, sorry, that’s a bit not very… Anyway, that’s the way it goes. We can’t change it. “Mercredi” in French is named after Mercury, who was the messenger god. Okay. And again, there’s a planet named after Mercury as well. So, anyway, Northern European, Woden’s Day. Wednesday. Right. Moving on to “Thursday” which is named afterThor. Thor’s Day. Thursday. And I’ve put these little… That’s not thunder. It’s the god of thunder.
When there’s a storm, the sound of the thunder. This is the flash of light from the lightning, but you get thunder and lightning when there are a storm, the noise, and the light flashing. So, Thor is the northern god of thunder. Okay? And in German, “Donnerstag”, “donner” means thunder in German. So, in German, that day is also named after the god of thunder. Okay. Thor’s Day.
In the Southern European names, it’s named after Jove. Jove, who is the equivalent of Thor, because Jove is also… Also has thunder and lightning. He causes thunder and lightning. So, Jove. In French, the day is called “Jeudi”, “Jeudi”, which comes from Jove. Okay. So, Thursday, Thor’s Day. Now, you’d be wondering: Where are all the…? All the female gods, the goddesses? So, at last, we have one, just one in the whole group of seven, so fairly typical of women’s equality. A token woman. Okay. “Friday”, Freya’s Day.
So, Freya, I think she’s like the wife of the chief god, but she represents love, being the wife of the chief god. And in German, again, “Freitag”, so in German as well, Friday is named after Freya, the northern goddess of love. And similarly, in the Southern European group, Venus. So, Venus, the goddess of love, the Roman goddess of love is the equivalent of Freya, Venus. We also have a planet, again, named after Venus. And in French: “Vendredi” is sort of vaguely like the name Venus, so there is a link again there between the northern and the southern version. Okay, so Freya’s Day, Friday. And finally: “Saturday”.
Saturn’s Day. Okay? Now, this time it’s not a Northern European god. It’s a Roman god because the Romans actually came to Britain. This probably influenced the naming of the day. The Romans were in Britain for a certain length of time and influenced some of the things. So, it’s Saturn was the Roman god of agriculture and maybe various other things. Roman god of agriculture, and also, again, there’s a planet, Saturn, the one with the rings around it. Okay? So, Saturn’s Day. Saturday.
Okay, so I hope that’s helped you to understand why the days of the week are named like that, and also to understand a little bit of the cultural-historical background to how they came to be named like that.