Naming the Months and Days of the Week

The names of the days and months were produced so that all nations could use one calendar, making international trade and politics easier to plan.
The names of the days and months were produced so that all nations could use one calendar, making international trade and politics easier to plan. | Source

By Joan Whetzel

When setting up the Gregorian Calendar, one of the challenges faced by its creators was choosing names of the days and the months. The world’s calendars had a mishmash of names that were difficult to tie together. The names of the week and months, finally adopted, were translated into many languages for international usage. The world's religious calendars, however, have maintained their original names.

Naming the Days of the Week

The weekday names came from the names of the Sun, Moon, and some of the planets with a few of those names combined with the names of gods.

  • Sunday: Named for the Sun, the center of the solar system; translated from the Latin Solis dies, or day of the Sun.
  • Monday: Named for the Moon, Earth’s Satellite; translated from the Latin Lunae dies, or day of the Moon.
  • Tuesday: Named for Tew, a Norse rune symbol resembling a capitol letter “T”; translated from the Latin Martis Dies, or Day of Mars.
  • Wednesday: Named for Woden, a Gothic shaman god; translated from the Latin Mecuri dies, or day of Mercury.
  • Thusday: Named for Thor, the Roman god of thunder; translated from the Latin Jovis dies, or day of love.
  • Friday: Named for the Norse Goddess Frigga, the goddess of love; translated from the Latin Veneris dies, or day of Venus.
  • Saturday: Named for Saturn, a Germanic word symbolized by a scythe or sickle, plough, or a snake biting, which are symbols of “all consuming time”; translated from the Latin Saturni dies, or day of Saturn.


Months

Originally, the precursor to the current calendar had 10 months, by the decree of Caesar. Hence, the names of the months September (7th), October (8th), November (9th), and December (10th). The Gregorian calendar added two more months, giving the final calendar the 12 months it currently contains. The names are of Roman and Etruscan origin.

  • January: Named for Janus, the god of gateways, doors, and transitions.
  • February: Named for Februus, the month of “sacrificial fumigation”; symbolized by purification with incense.
  • March: Named for Mars, the god of weather and wars.
  • April: Naned for the Etruscan Apro, the Greek Aphro, or Aphrodite, the goddess of love.
  • May: From Maia Maiestras, a Roman god known as the “growth bringer.”
  • June: Named for Juno, the Greek goddess know as the “youthful’ or the Etruscan goddess of birth.
  • July: Named for Julius Caesar.
  • August: Named for Augustus Casesar,.
  • September: Originally the 7th (sept-) month of the Roman calendar.
  • October: Originally the 8th (oct-) month of the Roman calendar.
  • November: Originally the 9th (nov-) month of the Roman calendar.
  • December: Originally the 10th (dec-) month of the Roman calendar;.



References

Social Studies for Kids. How the Days of the Week Got Their Names. Downloaded 1/5/2012. http://www.socialstudiesforkids.com/funfacts/daysoftheweek.htm


Astronomy and the Solar System. Calendars. Downloaded 1/4/2012. http://csep10.phys.utk.edu/astr161/lect/time/calendars.html

Harbornet. Month Names and Day Names.

http://www.harbornet.com/folks/theedrich/hive/Misc/MonthDay.htm

Gwydir. Month Names.

http://gwydir.demon.co.uk/jo/roman/months.htm

Wikipedia. Names of the Days of the Week.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Week-day_names

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Comments 1 comment

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JoanCA 4 years ago

I just read a book to my kids about calendars that was so interesting. We learned all about the origins of day and month names. It's so interesting to know where the names of the days and months come from, since they're such a big part of our lives.

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