How to learn the names of the days of the week in any language? MONDAY 0
How to learn the names of the days of the week in any language? MONDAY

How to learn the names of the days of the week in any language? MONDAY

I have always been fascinated with etymology, and wrote my MA thesis on borrowings. I find understanding of the language structure of utmost importance to learning it much faster and in a more effective way.

In different cultures the week starts with a different day. Since I am Polish, I'll discuss it from my point of view (and from point of view of ISO 8601, apparently).

It was supposed to be short and concise and comprise of Monday words only... unfortunately, like with everything concerning languages and me, I've got tuned in ;)

I wanted to include languages from various languages families, but still very or at least moderately popular or in Europe to see if there are some serious discrepancies. Incredible, but there aren't.

Even with most distant languages, there seems to be a two-way approach to naming the days of the week, namely either they are coming from numbers or from planets/gods. To make it easier from the learner's point of view, I've decided to make 2 groups and subdivide them futher on.



Monday is a direct translation of the Latin name of this day, the day of the moon (the days of the week in English were named after the celestial bodies, seen on the sky in the ancient times). Mostly the words either are of Germanic or Latin origin, with some examples of national etymological structures.


#1a Germanic origin

EN: Monday – the day of the moon (also the Moon or Selene has its equivalent in Mani in Old Norse or Germanic mythology; nevertheless the principle is the same)
DE: Montag – Tag der Mondgöttin

SE: måndag – moon daag

DK: mandag

NL: maandag

FI: Maanantai – moon's day, from Old Germanic


#1b Latin origin

LAT: dies Lunae or primus dies (the latter being the inspiration for the third group)

ES: Lunes – dia de la luna

IT: Lunedi – giorno di luna

FR: Lundi – jour de la lune

CA: (Catalan): dilluns

RO: luni

EO (Esperanto): lundo


#1c other origin than the 2 above, but following the same principle

Suprisingly also Japanese, Albanian, Hindi, Thai and Korean follow that rule :)

JP: 月曜日 (げつようび Getsuyôbi) – the day of the moon, after 月(tsuki) the moon or month

AL: e hënë – of moon

HI: सोमवार (somvār) after Soma, the Moon God in Hindu mythology from Sanskrit Somavāra

Thai: วันจันทร์ Wạn cạnthr̒ (The Moon (จันทร์ – jan))

KR: 월요일 wol-yoil, deriving from Chinese characters: 月 = 월 (wol) Which means moon

Mongolian is interesting and has two options that belong in 2nd and 3rd group

MN (Mongolian): Даваа гариг (davaa (garag) from the moon) or нэгдэх өдөр (neg dekh ödör meaning first day)

*GR old: ἡμέρᾱ Σελήνης (hēmérā Selḗnēs) the day of the Selene



There is a different approach to the names of the days of the week in these languages, however,

it is considered the second day after the Sabbath, the day of the rest so we have:
HE: יום שני yom-sheni – the second day

AR: اليوم الإثنين – the second day

MT (Maltese): it-tnejn – the second day

PT: segunda-feira – the second day

ID (Indonesian): Senin – the second day

GR modern: Δευτέρα – the second day

VT (Vietnamese) : thứ hai – the second day


**SW (Swahili): Jumatatu – day three (and Alhamisi being day six, Thursday, coming from the Arabic word for five, amazing); interesting approach though coming from the Muslim tradition, where Friday is the most important day of gathering and prayer.



The main difference of this subgroup from the previous one, is that it has a different approach to which day is which, what is extremely important when you try to memorize the words, thus for me it has to be separated from the previous one somehow.

PL: Poniedziałek – the day after Niedziela (Sunday),

CSB (Kashubian): Pòniedzôłk

RU: понедельник — the day after неделя (which was previously Sunday, now meaning the week; so it was the day after «неделя» from не делать not doing anything)

the same principle is followed in other Slavic languages

UA: Понеді́лок

BG: понеделник

HR: ponedjeljak


Surprisingly enough Turkish and Hungarian also follow the similar principle:

TR: Pazartesi – the day after Pazar (Sunday), the day of the bazaar, the traditional day of shopping

HU: hétfő – week's head, or week's beginning

The other ones decided to be even more transparent with Monday and count from Monday on as being the first day of the week.

LT: pirmadienis

LV: pirmdiena

EE: esmaspäev - Esmas / päev → First - esimene

xhosa: ngoMvulo – the first working day

zulu: Umsombuluko – the day of unfolding

euskera: Astelehena First of the week (aste=week, lehen=first)

In all its complexity when it comes to writing system and phonetics, the logics and simplicity in its many grammatical rules is also visible in the days of the week or months:

CN: 星期一 (xīng qī yī): meaning week one or day one of the week, so the first day of the week

As simple as that ;) That's the simplest approach.


That's it. Maybe you know a language that does not fit into any of the above mentioned paradigms? Share in the comments below ;)

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