Where are the English names for the days of the week from?

Learners of English learn the days of the week very early on in their studies.

But how many people know where the names of all the days actually come from? Very few, I suspect.

Depending on which country you are from, some of the English names for days may be similar to those in your own language—lundi, if you are French, lunes if you speak Spanish—and you might therefore know the etymology (the origin) of the English name. However, the origins of some of the other day names are more difficult to guess.

Of the seven days, three have their origin in the names of Roman gods, whose names in turn came from those of the planets and stars. The words for the other four days have Germanic origins:

Monday – This day takes its name from the Moon. It is an Old English word, translated from Latin.

Tuesday – Germanic in origin, this day is named after Týr (Tiw in Old English), who was a Norse god.

Wednesday – Named after the Anglo-Saxon god, Woden (or Odin in Norse mythology).

Thursday – Thor was the Norse god of thunder. In Latin the day had previously been named after Jupiter.

Friday – Many people incorrectly assume that Friday means ‘free’ day.  However, it takes its name from a goddess called Frigg, who is thought to have been Odin’s (Woden’s) wife. So perhaps we could say that Friday is Wednesday’s wife.

Saturday – If you assumed that this is from the planet Saturn, then you are right. It is of Roman origin.

Sunday – This is the third day to keep its Latin origin. It simply refers to the Sun.

That is the basic English etymology of day names. If you want to check your pronunciation, you can hear the days of the week spoken here.

Do you know anything about the names of the seven days in your language? Feel free to leave a message below.

 

Stuart is an English teacher and runs the Speakspeak website. He currently lives in Prague and has been teaching for over 20 years. See all posts by Stuart

1 Comment

  1. dey well - May 21, 2012, 11:50 am Reply

    how did odin lost one of his eye?

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