Why are the days called as they are
The Days of the Week: Why are they called so?



Why do they have these names ?



1.       MONDAY:


      The name comes from Nordic “ Monandæg ( Monan, gen. of Mona, which

       means Moon ). So the name means Moon Day.  In Latin the day’s name

       is “Dies Lunae” – also meaning Moon’s Day.  All this explains why the

       name in all Germanic languages are more or less alike – Monday, Montag

       ( German ), Maandag ( Dutch / Flemish ), Mandag ( Danish and

       Norwegian and Swedish ).


       The Latin name in the same way “steers” the name of this day in all Latin

       languages today ( such as Lundi ( French ), Lunedí  ( Italian ), Lunes

       ( Spanish ), and Luni ( Romanian ).


2.       TUESDAY:


Its name comes from the Nordic god Tiwes or Tyr.  Originally it was Tiwes

Dæg. “Tiwes Day”. In Latin it is called Martis Dies  -  the Day of Mars. Tiwes / Tyr as well as Mars were the gods of war.  The Romans took Mars from the rather bloodthirsty Greek god Ares.


But the Germanic god Tiwaz ( which comes from Tiwes ) was also god for justice and for negotiations. Germanic soldiers in the Roman armies, therefore, built altars for “Mars Thingsus” to symbolise Mars as the protector of the “courts”. The Romans themselves were also quite happy about Mars.


The present day names for this day all depend of the old names. In the Germanic languages we say Tuesday, Dienstag ( German ), Dinsdag

( Dutch and Flemish ); Tirsdag ( Danish and Norwegian ); Tisdag

( Swedish )


In the Latin inspired languages the day is called Mardi ( French ), Martedi

( Italian ), Martes ( Spanish ); Marti ( Romanian ).


3.       WEDNESDAY:


This word comes originally from Nordic Wodnes Dæg, Woden’s or Odin’s

Day. Odin was the most senior god in the days of the Vikings – and before.

In Latin the day is called Mercurii Dies – Mercury’s Day.


The Nordic people believed that Odin, the Roman Mercury and the Greek Hermes were very much alike. They were all roaming gods, who followed the soals to the land of the dead ( Hades / Hel ). Hermes was originally the god of the shepheards.


The Germanic names for this day are today:  Wednesday; Woensdag ( Dutch and Flemish ); Onsdag ( Danish, Norwegian and Swedish ).


The Germans have in this case opted out of the common name. They call this day Mittwoch – meaning “the middle of the week”.


Today’s names in the Latin inspired languages are:  Mercredi ( French ); Mercoledi ( Italian ); Miércoles ( Spanish ), Miercuri ( Romanian ).


4.       THURSDAY:


The origin of this name is Thures Dæg or Thunres Dæg.  This means the Day of Thor.  Thor was one of the main Nordic gods and god for the weather.  In Latin the name is Jovis Dies – Jupiter’s Day.  This is a reference to the top Roman god, Jupiter. Not to the planet of the same name. Of course, it is named after this god, because it is the biggest of the planets in our solar system.  The god Jupiter was for the Romans very much what Zeus was to the Greeks and Tinis to the Etruscans.


In the Germanic languages this day is today called:  Thursday; Donnerstag ( German ); Donderdag ( Dutch and Flemish ); Torsdag ( Danish, Norwegian and Swedish ).


And in the Latin languages the names are:  Jeudi ( French ); Giovedi ( Italian ); Jueves ( Spanish ), Joi ( Romanian ).


5.       FRIDAY:


The original name was Frige Dæg.  The Day of Frigg. She was Odin’s wife. The goddess of Fertility.  Many people think that the name comes from the Nordic god Freya. But that is wrong.  The Latin name of this day is VenesisDay – the Day of Venus. Venus was also goddess of Fertility.


All this explains the names today. Germanic: Friday; Freitag ( German ); Vrijdag ( Dutch and Flemish ); Fredag ( Danish, Norwegian and Swedish ).


And in the Latin languages: Vendredi ( French ); Venerdì ( Italian ); Viernes ( Spanish ), Vineri ( Romanian ).


6.       SATURDAY:


      The Nordic Sæter Dæg ( Sæternes Dæg ) refers to Saturn. “Saturn’s Day”.

      He was an old Italian god for sowing and agriculture – also identified with the Greek

      god Kronos, father of Zeus.  The Latin name is Dies Saturii – also meaning

      Saturn’s Day.


      This has given the following names in today’s world:  Saturday; Samstag

      ( German ); Zaterdag ( Dutch and Flemish ).

      The Scandinavian languages have in this case opted out of the common

      Nordic trend. Originally they called this day “ Laugs Dæg” and later

      Løverdag.  Laug means in old Nordic languages to Wash – to Clean.

      So this da is “Washing Day” J   The names today are: Lørdag ( Danish

                                and Norwegian ) and Lördag ( Swedish ).


                                In the Latin languages Saturn’s traces are somewhat back:  Samedi (

                                French ); Sabato ( Italian ); Sábado ( Spanish ), Sâmbata ( Romanian ). It  

                                is evident, though, that the Jewish word Sabath from the Old Testament

                                is also part of the explanation of the name of this day.



7.       SUNDAY:


In the old Nordic language this day was called Sunnar Dæg or  Sunnudagr. This means the Day of the Sun. The Latin name from around year 300 was Dies Domeni – the Day of the Lord.  On a Church Convent in 380 it was decided that this day should be the holiday of all Christians.


Again we see the origins of the name of this day in the Germanic languages today:  Sunday; Sonntag ( German ); Zondag ( Dutch and Flemish ); Søndag ( Danish and Norwegian ); Söndag ( Swedish ).


And in the Latin languages:  Dimanche ( French ); Domenica ( Italian ); Domingo ( Spanish ), Duminica  ( Romanian ).




PS: You may ask, why all the English names of the days come from old Nordic and Germanic origins. The explanation is, of course, that most of the English population and its language have their roots in the Anglo-Saxon and the Viking invasions.



Niels Jørgen Thøgersen


May 2008


e-mail:  kimbrer@gmail.com