What a week…
September 18, 2010 Leave a comment
Here is something very cool you might not know about how each of the days of the week got its name.
The number of days in the week is not coincidental, each is named after one of the seven celestial objects that were seen to move among the stars (the five visible planets, the Sun, and the Moon). Okay, so how come there isn’t a Marsday? A valid question. Let’s look at the order of the spheres from Earth (as the Romans and Greeks knew them) and the names of the objects in different languages. Remember, up until Copernicus in the latter half of the 16th century, the common model of the solar system had Earth at the center of the solar system.
Celestial Object (Associated Norse/Celtic God) – English – French – Spanish – German
1 – Moon (N/A) – Monday – lundi – lunes – Montag
2 – Mercury (Woden) – Wednesday – mercredi – miercoles – Mittwoch
3 – Venus (Freya & Frigg) – Friday – vendredi – viernes – Freitag
4 – Sun (N/A) – Sunday – dimanche – domingo – Sonntag
5 – Mars (Tiu) – Tuesday – mardi – martes – Dienstag
6 – Jupiter (Thor) – Thursday – jeudi – jueves – Donnerstag
7 – Saturn (N/A) – Saturday – samedi – sabado – Samstag
You can see many of the English names for the days were actually derived from the Norse/Celtic gods (Tuesday, Thursday, Friday) and not the Roman which the names in the romance languages reflect. If you think about it, this makes sense, since the Anglo-Saxons who first spoke English had much more exposure to the Norse and Celts than the mainland Europeans.
You’ll also notice that the order of the days is way out of whack. What gives? Well, the Babylonians had the day divided into their calendar into 24 hours with each hour sequentially governed by the next celestial object (going up our list). Once it came time to create days, the Babylonians didn’t want to abandon their system, so they assigned 24 hours to each day in the order above and the days were named after the first hour of each day. For instance, if you start with Saturn at 1 and count up the list in order you should get 24 at Mars and 25 (where we restart at 1) on Sun. Saturday->Sunday. If you keep going you’ll get all 7 days in order. Pretty nifty no?