Weekday Names and History

The influence historically of the Roman cosmology can be demonstrated in the seven names of the weekdays in Italian, Spanish, and French. These Romance language weekdays names mostly derive directly from the Latin names for the seven ruling celestial bodies.

EnglishSundayMondayTuesdayWednesday ThursdayFridaySaturday
ItalianDomenciaLunediMartedi MercolediGiovediVenerdiSabato
SpanishDomingoLunesMartesMircoles JuevesViernesSabado
FrenchDimancheLundiMartiMercredi JueudiVendrediSamedi
GermanSonntagMontagDienstag MittwochDonnerstagFreitagSonnabend
Anglo-SaxonSunnandaegMonandaegTiwesdaeg WodensdaegThuresdaegFreyesdaegSaeternesdaeg
Rulling celestial bodySunMoonMarsMercury JupiterVenusSaturn

One exception is the Romance languages names for Sunday, Domencia (Italian), Domingo (Spanish), and Dimanche (French). They derive from the Latin dominus, meaning "lord." Interestingly, "Dominus" was the official title of the Emperor Diocletain (284-305 ce). However, Christians in the Holy Roman Empire dedicated Sunday to Jesus, who was their divine lord, or dominus, the Son of God, not Sun God.

In spite of the fact that English has many Latin root words, English derived from the Germanic language family group.

Our modern English names for the weekdays were clearly derived from the Anglo-Saxon names. Yet a Roman influence was present even here.

The Pagan Romans were masters of adoption, assimilation, and synchronization of religious ideas and deities. It fit very well with Roman culture to not only adopt foreign gods into their pantheon and assimilate certain myths, but to also synchronize certain other deities to their own. Of course, people who spoke other languages would have other names for the Gods. Hence the Goddess of beauty and love, Freya, was synchronized to the Goddess of beauty and love, Venus. The God of thunder and storm, Thor, was synchronized to Jove or Jupiter, lord of the thunderbolt. The God of rune wisdom, Woden, was synchronized to the wiley God, Mercury.1 The God Twi, who was brave and valiant enough to sacrifice a hand in order to bind the wolf Fenrir, was synchronized to the valiant and noble Roman God of war, Mars.

Apparently no Anglo-Saxon deity was synchronized with Saturn, lord of the harvest and "golden age." Hence, we derive "Saturday" from the venerable Saturn via the Anglo-Saxon name for the day, Saeternesdaeg

The names Monday and Sunday also have no direct linguistic link to Latin. Monday is derived from Monandaeg, the "Moon's Day," named after the Anglo-Saxon moon God, "Mani" or "Mona." Sunday is derived from Sunnandaeg, the "Sun's Day," named after the Anglo-Saxon sun Goddess, "Sunna."

The continued influence of ancient Roman culture upon American culture is remarkable.

Copyright 2006 Myth Woodling

1 For those who find this Woden-Mercury synchronization an odd match, remember the Romans had already synchronized Mercury to the "Gallic Mercury," who apparently was "Lug." Lug is linked to the Irish Lugh, the many-skilled Craftsman God. A God must be both wise and wiley to be a master jack-of-all-trades craftsman. Sometimes the linking factor between two deities seems somewhat arbitrary to our modern perceptions. Yet, it may have seemed very reasonable to folks long ago. The link between Woden and Mercury seems to be a worldly wisdom.

Astronomy: Planets and Myths
Planets, Magic, and History
Stargazing and Modern Sky Lore

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