Thor and the Moon and the Day of the Lord

Nov 22, 2017 | First Edition Translations, Language, Miscellaneous, Musings, Translation

Thor and the MoonWhat does Thor and the Moon have in common?

In Germanic languages such as English, German or Norwegian, both have days of the week named after them. As for the Moon, I suspect you’ve already guessed which day got its name after it. (Yes, it’s Monday.) In the case of Thor, it is Thursday.

Thor is not the only deity having a day named after them. Ancient gods are certainly popular as namesakes for days in Germanic languages, for example Tiw, the one-handed Norse god for Tuesday, Odin (also known as Woden) for Wednesday and the Anglo-Saxon goddess, Frige for Friday. The Roman god, Saturn lent his name to Saturday.

And as we have the Moon for Monday, we also have the Sun for, well, Sunday.

Gods and planets are trendy in other languages, as well. Most Romance languages, such as Italian, Spanish or Romanian got their days named after planets that incidentally bear the name of Roman gods: Tuesday is named after Mars (martedì in Italian), Wednesday is for Mercure (miercuri in Romanian), Thursday is for Jupiter (for example jeudi in French), Friday is the day of Venus (vénniri in Sicilian).

Saturday was originally named after Saturn in these languages, as well, however, later this got replaced by a name derived from Sabbath (sabato in Italian) and Sunday became the “Day of the Lord” (for example domingo in Spanish).

The planets feature in the days of the week in East Asian languages, too. And that’s not all! They are surprisingly close to the Roman system: the Sun and the Moon are reserved for Sunday and Monday. In Japanese and Chinese, the characters which represent these two planets日 and 月, respectively, also appear in the words for Sunday and Monday. Mars (火) is for Tuesday, Mercure (水) is for Wednesday, Jupiter (水) appears in the word for Thursday, and last but not least, Venus (金) is for Friday.

Other languages were a bit more down-to-earth when it came to naming their days and turned away from the sky when looking for inspiration: take Slavic languages for that matter. For example, in Russian, Monday is literally the day after the weekend (понедельник), Tuesday is… wait for it! the second day (вторник), Wednesday is the middle of the week (среда), Thursday and Friday are called the fourth and fifth days (четверг and пятница, respectively), Saturday got its name from Sabbath, like in Romance languages (суббота) and last but not least, Sunday was named воскресенье in the Christian tradition and it means “resurrection”.

So, there you go. Some languages were practical and named the days after numbers. Some got a bit more creative with their naming and drew inspiration for the days of the week from their deities or celestial bodies.

Which naming convention do you prefer?