The days of the week are one of those things we take for granted. We say their names constantly, but have you ever wondered why they're named what they are?
Sunday's pretty easy: it's the day of the sun.
But Wednesday? What the heck is a "wednes"? Friday? Is that the day we fry things?
It turns out that there's a very good reason each day is named what it is. Let's take a look at the "etymology" (fancy talk for the origins of a word) of each day's name.
Monday is considered the first day of the week on the international standard calendar, but Sunday is the first day of the week in most religious traditions. Since those traditions played a part in how and why the days are named what they are, we're going to start there.
Our days of the week trace their origins back to ancient Rome, where the common practice was to name the days of the week after planets, which in turn were associated with Roman deities. Since Sunday was the first day of the week, it was naturally named after the biggest heavenly body of them all: the sun.
The word we use today is derived from an Old English term, as are all of our modern names for days. In Old English, it was known as Sunnandæg, which translates as "Sun's day."
Monday is the first day of the work week. Like Sunday, it's named after an object the Romans saw in the night sky, and being the second day of the week, they named it after the second biggest thing they saw when looking up.
In Old English, this name became Monandaeg, which means "day of the Moon."
In ancient Rome, the third day of the week was named for Mars, the god of war. But here's where our story takes a strange turn. It's all the Vikings' fault. Well, okay not really. It's actually because of the Norse, not all of whom were Vikings. (But the Vikings have their own TV show, so there.)
Somewhere along the way, Norse mythology rose to prominence, overtaking the Roman pantheon in regards to naming the days. As a result, four of our days are named after deities those wacky Vikings (er, Norsemen) worshiped.
Tuesday is the first of those. The Norse god of war, Týr, gets the honor for this day of the week instead of Mars. Týr's translation in Old English is "Tïw," so the direct translation of Tuesday is "Tïw's day."
If Roman, aka Latin, names were still in use, the middle day of the work week would be named in honor of Mercury. Instead, the name is given to Woden, aka Odin. Marvel fans should recognize that name, since he's known throughout their comics and movies as Thor's father, king of Asgard. (Incidentally, he's Týr's father too, which makes Týr and Thor brothers.)
In Old English, the day named for Woden became Wōdnesdæg, which means (you guessed it), "day of Woden." We know it today as Wednesday.
Jupiter was the honoree of this day of the week until Norse names took over. Instead, it comes from the Old English term Þunresdæg, which translates as "Thunor's day." Another name for Thunor is Thor, aka, this guy:
That's right, the dreamy blonde guy with the huge muscles from the Avengers has his own day of the week. Basically, Thursday is Chris Hemsworth Day.
We've got days named after the male members of Thor's family, so by the end of the week, sending some love to the women is overdue. Thor's mom Frigga, aka Freya, gets the spotlight on Friday, which is the "day of Frigg."
In case you were wondering, the Roman equivalent of Frigga is Venus.
For whatever reason, on the weekend we revert back to Roman-derived names. Now that you know that the days of the week are named for planets, it's easy to guess which planet this one's named for.
Yep, Saturday is Saturn's day.
The next time you make lunch plans with a friend or talk about what day you're off from work, remember: you're actually talking about a planet or a mythological god.