Tag Archives: name

Explainer: the gods behind the days of the week



File 20171207 31546 w0673k.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
The Roman weekday ‘dies Veneris’ was named after the planet Venus, which in turn took its name from Venus, goddess of love. Detail from Venus and Mars, Botticelli, tempera on panel (c1483).
Wikimedia Commons

Margaret Clunies Ross, University of Sydney

The origins of our days of the week lie with the Romans. The Romans named their days of the week after the planets, which in turn were named after the Roman gods:

  • dies Solis “the day of the sun (then considered a planet)”
  • dies Lunae “the day of the moon”
  • dies Martis, “the day of Mars”
  • dies Mercurii, “the day of Mercury”
  • dies Iovis, “the day of Jupiter”
  • dies Veneris, “the day of Venus”
  • dies Saturni, “the day of Saturn”

When the Germanic-speaking peoples of western Europe adopted the seven-day week, which was probably in the early centuries of the Christian era, they named their days after those of their own gods who were closest in attributes and character to the Roman deities.

It was one of those peoples, the Anglo-Saxons, that brought their gods and language (what would become English) to the British Isles during the fifth and sixth centuries AD.

Hendrik Goltzius, Mercury, oil on canvas (1611).
Wikimedia Commons

In English, Saturday, Sunday and Monday are named for Saturn, the sun and moon respectively, following the Latin.

The remaining four days (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday) are named for gods that the Anglo-Saxons probably worshipped before they migrated to England and during the short time before they converted to Christianity after that.

Tuesday is named for the god Tiw, about whom relatively little is known. Tiw was probably associated with warfare, just like the Roman god Mars.

Wednesday is named for the god Woden, who is paralleled with the Roman god Mercury, probably because both gods shared attributes of eloquence, the ability to travel, and the guardianship of the dead.

Thursday is Thunor’s day, or, to give the word its Old English form, Thunresdæg “the day of Thunder”. This sits beside the Latin dies Iovis, the day of Jove or Jupiter. Both of these gods are associated with thunder in their respective mythologies.

You may recognise a similarity here with the name of the famous Norse god Thor. This may be more than coincidence. Vikings arrived in England in the ninth century, bringing their own very similar gods with them. Anglo-Saxons were already Christian by this time, but may have recognised the similarity between the name of their ancestors’ deity Thunor and the Norse god. We don’t know, but the word Thor does appear in written texts from the period.

Chris Hemsworth as famous Norse god Thor in the 2011 film of the same name.
IMDB

Friday is the only weekday named for a female deity, Frig, who is hardly mentioned anywhere else in early English. The name does appear, however, as a common noun meaning “love, affection” in poetry. That is why Frig was chosen to pair with the Roman deity Venus, who was likewise associated with love and sex, and was commemorated in the Latin name for Friday.

Of gods and weekdays

The concept of the week, that is, a cycle of seven numbered or named days with one of them (usually Sunday or Monday) fixed as the first, was originally probably associated with the Jewish calendar. This was complicated by the fact that early medieval Europe inherited its idea of the week from imperial Rome, via the Christian church.

In early Christianity the reckoning of time was crucial to the proper celebration of the church’s feast days and holidays, especially the variable feast of Easter.

We find day names similar to English in related European languages, like Dutch, German, and all the Scandinavian or Norse languages. Gods with comparable names, like Tyr, Othinn, Thor and Frigg, were certainly known to the Scandinavians and gave their names to weekdays in Scandinavian languages (compare Modern Danish tisdag, onsdag, torsdag, fredag).

The ConversationThe Latin names for the days of the week, and the Roman gods for which they were named, still live on in all the European Romance languages, like French, Spanish and Italian. Think of French lundi, mardi, mercredi, jeudi and vendredi, for example, and you will find the Latin Luna, Mars, Mercurius, Iovis and Venus hidden behind them.

Margaret Clunies Ross, Eneritus Professor of English Language and Early English Literature, University of Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Where Did the Name America Come From?



USA: How Each State Got Its Name


The link below is to an article that considers each state in the USA and how they got their names.

For more visit:
http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2014/06/50-u-s-states-got-names/


How The Days Of The Week Got Their Name


The link below is to an article that looks at how the days of the week got their name.

For more visit:
http://www.theboredninja.com/featured/how-the-days-of-the-week-got-their-name/


Article: How Chicago Got Its Name


The link below is to an article that takes a look at how Chicago got its name.

For more visit:
http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2013/07/how-chicago-got-its-name/


Video: Name Origins of 26 Alcoholic Drinks



Article: Old Illness – New Name


The link below is to an article that looks at 7 old illnesses now known by different names.

For more visit:
http://mentalfloss.com/article/49252/7-antiquated-illness-names-and-their-meanings


Article: Why Do So Many Countries End in “-stan”?


The link below is to an article that looks at why so many countries end in ‘stan.’

For more visit:
http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/140674


Today in History: 27 May 1967


USA: The USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) Launched

On this day in 1967, the US Navy aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) (John F. Kennedy-class aircraft carrier) was launched and was commissioned on the 7th September 1968. It was the last conventionally powered aircraft carrier built for the US Navy. ‘Big John,’ as it is known, was named after former US president John F. Kennedy. The carrier was decommissioned on the 1st August 2007. The carrier’s name will be carried by the future Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy (CVN-79).

For more visit:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_John_F._Kennedy_(CV-67)
http://www.navysite.de/cvn/cv67.htm
http://www.uscarriers.net/cv67history.htm


Today in History – 20 April 1770


Captain James Cook: Off the East Coast of New Holland

Captain James Cook had already made a name for himself in Canada with the Royal Navy during the Seven Years’ War prior to his first voyage of discovery. In 1766, the Royal Society hired Captain Cook to travel to the Pacific Ocean in order to observe and record the passing of Venus across the sun in Tahiti. It was on his return journey to England, having completed his primary mission and having mapped New Zealand by circumnavigation, that he and his crew decided to return via the east coast of New Holland.

The Endeavour reached the south-east coast of Australia on the 19th April 1770. On the 20th April Cook was off the east coast of what is now known as New South Wales. By doing so, he became the first European to discover and observe the east coast of New Holland (Australia). On the 23rd April 1770 he made his first observations of Australian Aborigines. On the 29th April Captain Cook made his famous landing at Botany Bay, which he named after the unique plant specimens found there by botanists Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander.

 


%d bloggers like this: