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What’s in a day and where did the names of the days of the week come from?

What’s in a day and where did the names of the days of the week come from?
on January, 15 2013

Typically a day is 24 hours, or 1,440 minutes or 86,400 seconds. One day is divided into day time and night time, about 12 hours for each division. A week comprises seven days. Have you ever thought of where the term “day” came from? What about the names of the days of the week?

A constant day depends on the sun passing a local meridian at noon or at midnight, based on the geographical longitude and the time of the year, to some extent, measured at about 24 hours and +/- 30 seconds. Six hundred twenty million years ago, a day was estimated to have 21.9 hours. Today it has been calculated that a day on earth had increased in length due to the tides that are raised by the moon. The phenomenon slows down the rotation of the earth. Currently a day has 86,400.002 seconds, with an increase of 1.7 milliseconds every century. After the scientific data, let us take a look at the origin of the word “day” and the days of the week.

Names of the Days of the Week: Origins

The term “day” came from the Old English term dæg, which means day or lifetime. The days of the week though were derived from Roman deities, with Saturday as the first day of the week. When the pagan Romans started worshiping the Sun more, the first day of the week became Sunday.

Sunday means the “sun’s day,” which came from the Latin term “dies solis.” The Latin translation of the day is Domenica, whose root word was retained by the other Romance languages, thus, it is called Dimanche in French, Domingo is Spanish and Domenica in Italian, In Dutch, Sunday is translated as Zondag while it is Sonntag in German.

Monday is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word, “monandæg,” which translates to the moon’s day, a day that is sacred to the moon goddess. In Spanish, Monday is called Lunes from the Spanish word for moon, Luna. The Spanish root word is retained in the Italian Lunedi and French Lundi. In German, Monday is called Montag while Maandag is the Dutch translation for this day.

Tuesday belongs to Tyr, a Norse god. However, for the Romans Tuesday was the day of their god of war, Mars and called the day “dies Martis.” In Spanish, the day is called Martes, Martedi in Italian and Mardi in French. In Sweden, Tuesday is translated as Tisdag, Tirsdag in Danish, Dienstag in German and Dinsdag in Dutch.

Wednesday honors Odin or Wodan. For the Romans, it is the day for their god, Mercury and called Wednesday “dies Mercurii.” In French, Wednesday translates to Mercredi and it is Mercoledi in Italian. Miércoles is the Spanish translation for Wednesday and it is called Woensdag in Dutch and Mittwoch in German.

Thursday is Thor’s day, and is called Torsdag in the Norse languages. The Romans called this day for Jupiter or Jove’s Day (dies Jovis). Jeudi is the French translation for Thursday. In Spanish, it is Jueves, Giovedi in Italian, Donderdag in Dutch and Donnerstag in German.

Friday salutes Frigg, the Norse goddess. Frigedag is the translation of this day in Old High German. It is the day of Venus according to the Romans and called the day as “dies veneris.” In Italian it is called Venerdi, Viernes in Spanish, Freitag in German, Vrijdag in Dutch and Vendredi in French.

Saturday honors Saturn and is called “dies Saturni by the ancient Romans. In Norse and Danish languages it is called Lørdag, and Lördag in Swedish. In Dutch it is Zaterdag, Sabato in Italian, Samedi in French, Samstag in German, and Sábádo in Spanish.

Bernadine Racoma

Bernadine is a writer, researcher, professional and multi-awarded blogger and new media consultant. She brings with her a rich set of experience in the corporate world, as well as in the field of research and writing. Having taken early retirement after working as an international civil servant and traveling the world for 22 years, she has aggressively pursued her main interest in writing and research. You can also find Bernadine Racoma at .

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