How Days of the Week Got Their Names
Paul V. Hartman
You may not have learned it elsewhere:
Throughout history, the number of days in a "week" has varied from 5 to 30.
The Sumerians are credited with writing the first "history" and they used 7 days,
as did the cultures which followed in the Middle East: Babylonians, Akkadians,
and Hebrews. An 8 day week was used by the Romans and the Incas. (The Roman
Emperor Constantine changed it to 7.) The Greeks did not have a word for "week"
but divided the year into 12 months of 30 days. When the Soviet Union appeared
in 1917, they adopted a 5 day week.
Eventually, everyone settled on 7 days.
We have 7 days in the week mainly because the ancients were aware of seven
"heavenly bodies": Sun, Moon, and the five (of the 9) planets which they
could see: Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn.
The Romans were the first to name the days after mythological Gods which
had planetary connections, such as Jupiter (chief God), Mars (God of War), and
Venus (Goddess of Love).
Along the way, and much later, the Teutonic peoples (aka Germans/Angles/
Saxons/Nordics/etc) replaced some of them with a few heavyweights from their own
pantheon and so the days became a mix of planetary objects and Norse Gods. For
English, that would be 3 heavenly objects (Sun, Moon, Saturn) and 4 Teutonic gods.
In other Romance (derived from Latin) languages and not Teutonic the
original (Roman) planetary names are often retained. Thus we have:
Sunday From Sun's Day.
Monday From Moon's Day. (Fr:"Lundi" Ital:"Lundei" Sp:"Lunes";
(all derived from luna/lunar)
Tuesday From Tewe's Day, a Norse/Germanic female deity.
Was: Mar's Day (Fr: "Mardi" ; Sp: "Martes")
(You knew that "Mardi Gras" is Fat Tuesday!)
Wednesday From Woden's Day, (aka: Odin's Day), the chief god in
Was: Mercury's Day. (Fr:"Mercredi" Ital:"Mercoledi")
Thursday From Thor's Day. (He's the one that sends bolts into
your surge protector and computer.)
Was: Jupiter's Day: "Jove" (Fr: "Jeudi" Sp: "Jeuves")
Friday From Frigg's Day, a rotund Germanic female deity.
Was: Venus' Day. (Fr: "Vendredi" Ital: "Venerdi")
Saturday From Saturn's Day.
You will never forget this, now.
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