Posted by: episystechpubs | March 26, 2020

Editor’s Corner: Happy Thor’s Day

Have you ever wondered how the days of the week got their names? Well it’s a long, old story that started with the ancient Babylonians in the Persian Gulf around 4000 BC.

The Babylonians are responsible for the seven-day week. They named the days after the sun, the moon, and the five planets they could see in the sky.

Around the 12th century BC, the Greeks adopted the seven-day week from the Babylonians. They also named a day after the sun and moon, but they changed the names of the other five days to honor their gods.

Then, around the first century BC, came the Romans. They stuck with the same seven-day week, and they changed the names of the days that honored Greek gods to honor their Roman gods. At first, they also named a day for both the sun and the moon—until Emperor Constantine, a convert to Christianity, decided to change the name of the day of the sun to Dominicus, which means “Lord’s day.”

At the end of the 4th century AD, with the fall of the Roman Empire, Anglo-Saxons had their turn to name the days of the week. They liked the seven-day plan and the idea of naming days named after the sun and moon, but (surprise!) they changed the names of the other five days to honor their gods. And as their language evolved into Old English, the names of the days of the week started to sound a lot like our present-day English words:

Sunday = Sonnandæg

Monday = Monandæg

Tuesday = Tiwesdæg

Wednesday = Wodensdæg

Thursday = Thouresdæg

Friday = Frigadæg

Saturday = Saeternsdæg

So, what we have now, in English, is one day named for the sun, one day named for the moon, and five days named for Norse gods. English is such a glorious hodgepodge!

If you’re interested in seeing how the names changed with each language shift, read Grammar Girl’s article called How Did the Days of the Week Get Their Names? The super cool image below comes from her article and breaks the information down by civilization and language. You’ll notice that French and Spanish days of the week align more closely with the Roman civilization.

Happy Thor’s day!

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Ext: 765432

About Editor’s Corner

Editor’s Corner keeps your communication skills sharp by providing information on grammar, punctuation, JHA style, and all things English. As editors, we spend our days reading, researching, and revising other people’s writing. We love to spend a few extra minutes to share what we learn with you and keep it fun while we’re doing it.

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