Where do the names of the days of the week come from? Here is the origin in Italian and English

Have you ever thought about the origin of names of the days of the week in Italian and English? In Italian they are almost all associated with deities of the Greco-Roman world and ai celestial bodies corresponding: behind the Italian names of the “weekday” days of the week, for example, lie the Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, and Venus; in Englishhowever, they also hide Norse deities: Thursdayfor example, is the “Thor's Day”. More generally, the terms with which the days of the week are called recall millennia of history, mythology and culture.

The origin of the days of the week: where they come from and why they are seven

It all probably originates with i Babylonians, an ancient Mesopotamian civilization, often considered the first to develop a seven-day week. They based this subdivision on the lunar cycle, which lasts about 29.5 days, dividing it into four parts, each about seven days. They then joined every day to one of the seven celestial bodies visible to the naked eye: the Sun, the Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn.

The first to actually study the association between the days of the week and the stars was Vettius Valensa Greek astrologer, author ofAnthologiarum (c. 170 AD). The Hellenics were convinced that, in turn, the celestial bodies “governed” the first hour of each day. From Greece this scheme also spread to Rome (with some initial differences which we will see shortly).

Him too Jews they adopted and consolidated the concept of the seven-day week, integrating it deeply into their culture and religion. The biblical story of Creation in the book of Genesis describes God creating the world in six days and resting on the seventh, establishing the Sabbath (Shabbat) as a day of rest and worship.

The ancients Romans initially they used a week of eight days, but in the 1st century BC they adopted the seven-day week. The Romans associated each day with a deity (in turn linked to a celestial body), influencing the names of the days of the week in many modern languages, including Italian.

The Christianity, which emerged from Judaism, adopted and further spread the seven-day week. With the Roman Empire, which embraced Christianity in the 4th century AD, the seven-day week became established as the standard across much of Europe and surrounding regions.

Finally, the Germanic tribescoming into contact with the Roman world, adapted the names of the days of the week to their divinities, further contributing to the spread of the seven-day week in the Germanic and Anglo-Saxon lands.

Why the days of the week are called that: etymology

Let's now look in detail at the origins of the name of each day of the week in Italian and English:

  • Monday comes from Latin Lunae diesi.e. “day of moon“. The Moon was revered as a goddess in Roman and Greek mythology. For the same reason, Monday in English it derives from Moon's day (Moon day).
  • Tuesday comes from Latin Martis dies and was dedicated to Mars, the Roman god of war associated with aggression and strength, and the fourth planet of the solar system. In English, Tuesday derived from Tiw's dayWhere Tiw (or Tyr) was considered the Norse god of war.
  • Wednesday comes from Mercurii diesdedicated to Mercury, the messenger of the gods, patron of trade and travelers, and the first planet of the solar system. In English Wednesday derived from Woden's dayWhere Woden (or Odin) is the main god of Norse mythology.
  • Thursday derived from Iovis diesday of Jupiter, the lord of the Roman gods, god of the sky and thunder and associated with the fifth planet of the solar system. In English Thursday derived from Thor's dayWhere Thor he was believed to be the god of thunder in Norse mythology.
  • Friday From Venus diesdedicated to Venus, goddess of love and beauty linked to the second planet of the solar system. In English, Friday derived from Frigg's dayWhere Frigg she was considered the goddess of love and beauty in Norse mythology.
  • Saturday comes from Hebrew Shabbat (from the verb shabbat, meaning “to quit”), the day of rest in the Bible. In English Saturday it comes instead from Latin Saturn diesdedicated to the god and planet Saturn.
  • Sunday was originally called Dies Solis (the day of the Sun). With the advent of Christianity it was renamed Dies Dominicus (day of the Lord). In English Sunday derived from Sun's dayreflecting Roman influence and subsequent Christian adoption.