Posted by: Jack Henry | December 23, 2014

Editor’s Corner: The Seventh Day of English

On the seventh day of English

My true love gave to me

Seven definitions for the days of the week

And a ticket to sail the Black Sea.

Normally I would edit this down quite a bit, but as a student of English, a former student of French and Spanish, and a relative of Greeks and Italians, this information really floats my boat. (Note: I have not changed the punctuation to align it with our American standards.) This is from

While different societies start the week on different days—usually Sunday or Monday—I’ll start with Monday, which was named for the moon. It could be translated as “Moon’s day”. This homage to the moon can be seen in several other languages as well. In Latin, it’s “dies lunae”, or “day of the moon”. In ancient Greek, “hemera selenes”, which means the same thing. In more modern languages, Monday is “lunes” in Spanish and “lundi” in French, both of which come from the root word for moon—”luna” and “lune” in each respective language.

Tuesday is the first to be named after a god. It was named for Tiu, or Twia, a lesser-known god of war and the sky from the English/Germanic pantheon. He is also associated with the Norse god Tyr, who was a defender god in Viking mythology. However, Tuesday does not translate the same in other languages. In Latin, it’s “dies Martis” or “Day of Mars” and in ancient Greek it’s “hemera Areos” or “day of Ares”. Both Mars and Ares were gods of war like Tyr and they lent their names to day of the week translations for other modern languages. Tuesday is “martes” in Spanish and “mardi” in French, both named for the Roman god Mars.

Wednesday can be translated as “Woden’s day”. Woden, associated with the Norse god Odin, was the chief god and leader of the wild hunt in Anglo-Saxon mythology. Directly translated, “woden” means “violently insane headship”, and does not put one in mind of the best of gods. Unlike the other days of the week, the gods named in the Latin and Greek days of the week – Mercury and Hermes — are not associated with violent leadership, but with travel, commerce, and theft. Both are messenger gods. It is for Mercury that Spanish and French decided to name Wednesday—”miercoles” and “mercredi” respectively.

Thursday is one of the easiest days to translate, meaning “Thor’s day”. Named for the Norse god of thunder and lightning. Thursday is also associated with Jupiter in Latin (“dies Jovis”) and Zeus in Greek (“hemera Dios”). All three gods are known for their storm-creating abilities, but while the English language took Thor as its god for Thursday, Spanish and French adopted Jupiter instead, naming Thursday “jueves” and “jeudi” which have roots in Jupiter.

Friday is associated with Freya, the Norse goddess of love, marriage, and fertility. The Latin, “dies Veneris”, and the Greek, “hemeres Aphrodite”, call upon the goddesses Venus and Aphrodite instead. The latter two goddesses are also patrons of love and beauty, and all three goddesses are called upon in womanly matters like fertility and childbirth. Following the trend of the other days, Spanish and French adopted Venus for Friday rather than Freya, naming their days “viernes” and “vendredi”.

Saturday in English derives from “Saturn’s day” which was taken from the Latin, “dies Saturni”. Saturn was a Roman god and, over different periods of time, associated with wealth, plenty, and time. The day in Spanish and French (“sabado” and “samedi” respectively) was named simply as it is the Jewish Sabbath- “sabado” deriving from the Latin “sabbatum”, meaning “Sabbath”, and “samedi” deriving from the Old French “samedi”, which in turn comes from the Latin “dies Sabbati”, meaning “Day of the Sabbath”.

Sunday is “Sun’s day”, translated in both Latin (“dies solis”) and Greek (“hemera helio”) as “day of the sun”. Interestingly, in Spanish and French (“domingo” and “dimanche”) it is more closely translated as “Lord’s day” or “Sabbath day”, pointing to more the Christian/Jewish God.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

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