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Where Did The Names Of The Days of The Week Come From?

By Edited Dec 11, 2015 1 0
Credit: Wikimedia Image

Language is a constantly changing, evolving thing that is as much organic as it is academic. For an example you don't have to look any further than the days of the week. You see in the English language they've been influenced by the ancient peoples of Northern Europe. In countries where romance languages were adopted though, the gods of Rome had their names assigned to the days on our calendars.

Sunday and Monday are maybe the two easiest days to figure out. The two biggest influences in the heavens, the sun and the moon, have been revered and respected by cultures and religions all over the world. The names reflect the simple nature of the sun and moon, and their proximity to the beginning of the week might be a sign that they were both considered to be extremely important.

Tuesday is dedicated to gods of war. In English it's the one-handed god Tyr, who sacrificed his hand to the great wolf Fenrir. In countries where romance languages are spoken it's the god Mars, son of Zeus and and decider of bloody battles who governs Tuesday.

Wednesday is a day that is given to gods of cleverness and wisdom. In English Wednesday is given to the All-Father Odin, the father of the Norse gods. In the more romantic countries the day was given to Mercury, the messenger of the gods who was considered the cleverest and among the wisest despite his penchant for practical jokes.

Thursday is named for gods of thunder and storm. In English the day is named for Thor, the Norse god of thunder and lightning who wielded the mighty warhammer Mjolnir (he also has a successful series of films and comic books, for those who don't know). In the countries that succeeded the Roman Empire though Thursday was given to Jove (or Zeus if you prefer) who wielded his thunderbolts against the titans.

Friday is dedicated to goddesses of beauty, and it's the only purely feminine day excluding the moon and its connections to women. In English, the day comes either from Freya (the queen of the valkyries who rode on the Wild Hunt with Odin, and who was the sister of Frey) or from Frigga (the first among Odin's wives). Both were considered beautiful and stately, as well as goddesses of fertility. In the traditions of Rome Venus (or Aphrodite if you'd rather) was the patron of Fridays.

Saturday is unique in that only the romance languages have a name for the god the day was dedicated to. Saturn, the titan who was the father of Zeus, is the god of time who is honored with Saturday. There isn't a similar such god in the Northern European pagan tradition, yet the term Saturday has been adopted onto the calendar anyway.



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  1. "Days of the Week." GWYDIR. 4/12/2014 <Web >
  2. "How Did The Days of The Week Come to Be?." Super Beefy. 4/12/2014 <Web >

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