The names of the days of the week - origin and meaning
The names of the weekdays sound - in most cases - very Nordic in both Danish and English.
Read on here and get to know more about everyday history.
While the origin of the weekday names is relatively straightforward in Danish, it is a real cultural mix when it comes to the English language.
Sunday and Monday are named after the celestrial bodies, Sun and Moon, but the other days are named after Norse gods; Tyrs's day, (W)odin's day, Thor's day and Frigg's day.
Saturday does not follow the same pattern, and the name actually means 'hot water day', which can be translated as 'washing day' or 'bathing day'.
The English 'Saturday' originates from the Roman god Saturn, and can be recognized from Latin, where the day is called 'Dies Saturni'.
But in fact, the Nordic names for the weekdays are actually inspired from the Latin tradition - and thus imported from the south.
Read more about the origin of the names of the weekdays under the form:
From the day of the Sun to the day of the Moon
Today the week starts with the day of the moon, Monday and ends with the day of the sun, Sunday. Previously, Sunday, was the first day of the week and the 'washing day' - Saturday - ended the week.
Roman gods become Nordic weekday names
The Romans named the days of the week after the Sun and the Moon and five planets, which were also the names of their gods.
The gods and planets were Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn.
In the Nordic countries, the Sun (Sunday) and the Moon (Monday) also became the first two days of the week, and the Roman gods became four of the Nordic gods with similarities:
Mars became Tyr (Tuesday), Mercury became Odin (Wednesday), Jupiter became Thor (Thursday) and Venus became Frigg (Friday). Saturday came outside the system: The Norse form 'Saturday' means 'hot water day' - which can be translated as 'washing day' or 'washing water day'.
Sunnudagr – Sunday, the day of the Sun
Sól is a goddess in Norse mythology. 'Sol' means Sun. Over time, the day of the sun became Sunday.
In the runic alphabet, the rune-S name is Sun.
Mánadagr – Monday
The name Monday is related to the moon. The Latin name for moon is 'Luna', and in French Monday is still called 'Lundí'.
In the Nordic areas, the moon was called "Mani", and in time Mánadagr became Monday.
In Norse mythology, a distinction is made between two different meanings of the name 'Maní', meaning moon.
One is the cosmic phenomenon 'the moon', and in the other sense it referes to a mythical person. Monday was the day of the moon, and is named after the mythical person 'Maní'.
Tysdagr - Tuesday
Mars is a god of war, and so is the Nordic god 'Tyr' or 'Tír'.
It is Týr who has given his name to Tuesday.
In Norse mythology, Týr is one of the Aesir. He is primarily known as the god of justice and war, but is also described as wise and brave.
The T-rune was associated with Tyr.
Óðinsdagr – Wednesday
Odin can be compared to the Roman god Mercury, so in the Nordic tradition Odin (also known as 'Woden') gave his name to Wednesday.
Odin is the most prominent god in traditional Norse mythology.
He is particularly associated with war luck, royal power, rune power and wisdom.
Odin is the most powerful and eldest of the Æsir. He rules all things, and is mightier than the other gods, they all serve him as children obey a father. Frigg is his wife, and she knows all the fates of men, though she speaks no prophecy.
Odin is called All father because he is father of all the gods. He is also called father of the Slain, because all those that fall in battle are the sons of his adopt on, for them he appoints Valhal.
Þórsdagr - Thursday
Thor is reminiscent of Jupiter, as they both deal with lightning and thunder. So this day of the week became Thursday.
Thor is in Nordic mythology Sif's husband and was the god of thunder.
The name Þórr (Thor) is related to the word 'thunder'.
Thor controlled the weather, and fought the enemies of civilization, who at that time were giants and trolls.
He is associated with strength, aggression and reliability.
Thor is strongest of all the gods and men. He has his realm in the place called Thrúdvangar, and his hall is called Bilskirnir, in that hall are five hundred rooms and forty.
Thor has two he-goats, that are called Tooth-Gnasher and Tooth-Gritter, and a chariot draen by the he-goats.
Frjádagr - Friday
Venus is the goddess of love, and so is Frigg (and maybe also Freya, as they may have originally been the same goddess).
Frígg gave the name to Friday.
Frigg is Odin's wife in Norse mythology. She was perceived as the goddess of marriage.
She was also a protector and helper in traditional women's work, such as weaving, sewing and cooking.
Frigg has a farmstead called Fensalir, and it is most glorious.
Laugardagr (sunnunótt) – Saturday
Most inexplicable among the Old Norse day-names is laugardagr.
'Laug' mean bath or hot water and 'dagr' means day. So you can translate the Nordic word for Saturday into 'the day of the hot water' or 'bathing dag'
Saturday was also known as Sunnunótt - the night before Sunday and can be recognized - in some parts of Germany - often used words for Saturday: 'Sonnabend'
In Latin the day was named after Saturn (Saturni), and we can recognize it in the English language; Saturday.