MythologyRoman Mythology

Mythological Origins of Day Names in English

The names of the days of the week in English are mostly derived from Old English and most reference figures in Norse mythology, though one is directly from Roman myth, and at least two may have been directly inspired by Roman names for days. 

Table of Contents

Monday: The Moon’s Day

Máni and Sól by Lorenz Frølich

“Monday” is derived from the Old English “Monandæg,” meaning “Moon’s day.” This name itself is rooted in Norse mythology, referring to the moon god Máni, but the association of this day with the moon goes at least as far back as Roman days. The Latin name for the day is diēs Lūnae, and the Old English may be a direct translation of that, even though the Roman personification for the moon was a completely different figure from the Norse. 

Tuesday: Tyr’s Day

Týr by Frølich

Tuesday, known as “Tiw’s day” in Old English, again finds its roots in Norse mythology. Tiw, or Tyr, was a Norse god associated with law and justice, and heroic glory. He was often linked with Mars, which makes sense since the Latin name for the day was Martis dies. 

Wednesday: Odin’s Day

The Children of Odin The Book of Northern Myths 37

Wednesday, derived from the Old English “Wodnesdæg,” meaning “Odin’s day,” is a direct reference to Norse mythology’s principal god. This one is completely distinct from the Latin, which references Mercury as opposed to an analogous deity like Jupiter. 

Thursday: Thor’s Day

Processed SAM thorr

Thursday, known as “þunresdæg” in Old English, is dedicated to the god of thunder, Thor. In Norse mythology, Thor was renowned for his physical strength, protective nature, and his ability to summon storms. Like Wednesday, this one is also distinct from the Latin, which references Jove, the Roman equivalent of Zeus. (Though Jove was also strongly associated with lightning, and Thor did act as a judge from Yggdrasil, Thor was almost more of a savior figure)

Friday: Freya’s Day

Freya by Johannes Gehrts

Friday, originating from the Old English “Frīgedæg,” references Freya, the Norse goddess of love, prophecy, and ruler of Fólkvangr. She rode a chariot pulled by two large cats and received half of those that died in battle, the other half going to Valhalla.  

Saturday: Saturn’s Day

Saturn god card

This one is just straight-up Roman. Saturday derives from the Latin dies Saturni, meaning “day of Saturn.” In ancient Roman mythology, Saturn was known as the god of agriculture, wealth, and time. Saturn was often depicted with a scythe, symbolizing the harvest, and was associated with abundance and prosperity. 

Sunday: The Sun’s Day

Máni and Sól by Lorenz Frølich

Derived from the Old English “Sunnandæg,” meaning “Sun’s day.” This one is very similar to Monday in that the name references a Norse figure, but Old English is likely a translation of the Latin. The Romans had Sol, the sun god. But so did the Norse. Except Sól was a goddess there.  

Conclusion

The names of the days of the week in English carry echoes of mythology, at least two different mythologies, really. That’s not really surprising. What’s surprising is that most of the references are to figures from the world of Norse myth, considering how much English likes to borrow from Greek and Latin.

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