A few weeks ago I commented that Friday was not only date night for us, but had been the Day of Love for millennia. I went on to explain that that was where the Spanish word Viernes came from. That was news to the people I was talking to, so let me share more widely.
During the Roman period, two millennia ago, the 7 days of the week were named after the seven planeta, or heavenly wanderers. These “planets” were (of course) considered to be manifestations of gods: the Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn. In Latin, the days were dies solis, dies lunae, dies martis, dies mercurii, dies jovis, dies veneris, and dies saturni. “Dies veneris” means the “Day of Venus” or the “Day of Love”, hence my statement.Centuries earlier, the ancient Greek names were the same, just in their own language and corresponding gods: hemera Heliou, hemera Selenes, hemera Areos, hemera Hermou, hemera Dios, hemera Aphrodites, and hemera Kronou. Once again, “hemera Aphrodites” is the “Day of Aphrodite” or the “Day of Love”.
In English, we still use Sun day (Sunday), Moon day (Monday), and Saturn day (Saturday), but the rest of these sound strange to the modern ear. Let’s return to that in a minute, but look at Latin-based languages first.
The five week days in Spanish are lunes, martes, miércoles, jueves, and viernes. Stressed Latin E and O become IE and UE in modern Spanish: it is very easy to see how the ancient Latin names mutated into the modern Spanish names. The only difficult one is veneris which should have become vieneres and ended up as viernes … a simple spoonerism. The modern Spanish words for the weekend days have dumped the old planetary names and are derived from Judeo-Christian terms: Sabbath (sabado) and Dominus (domingo).
Italien names are even closer to the Latin (once you realize that “gi” in Italien is equivalent to J in English): lunedi, martedi, mercoledi, giovedi, venerdi, sabato, and domenica. Just separate off the “di” and move it to the front: lunedi <- di lune < dies lunae (and so on). French is similar to Italien, a little shorter: lundi, mardi, mercredi, jeudi, vendredi, samedi, and dimanche. The one difference is the addition of the Germanic diety, Sam. My recollection is that he was a sea god, equivalent to LLyr or Neptune.
How about English, then? The pagan gods of the English or Germans were basically Norse and usually had Roman equivalents. Tiw was god of War (same as Mars), Tyr to the Norse. Norse Odin was English Wodan, and besides being King of the Gods, he was a great thief … same as Mercury. Anyone who has seen the recent Avengers movie knows about Thor, the god of thunder and lightning … same as Jupiter/Jove. Freya was goddess of beauty, same as Venus. And I have already commented on Germanic Sam and Norse LLyr. Although possibly the correct goddess for Friday is Frigga, Odin’s wife. Dagr was both the Norse god of the day, and also the Norse word for “day”.Looking through that list it is not surprising that the Old English/German/Norse names for the days following Sunday and Monday are: Tiwesdag / Dienstag / Tysdagr; Wodensdag / Wodanstag / Odhinsdagr; Thursdag / Donnerstag / Thorsdagr; Frigedag / Frietag / Frijadagr; and Saternesdag / Samstag / Lørdag. It does not take much effort to convert Old English Tiwesdag, Wodensdag, Thursdag, and Frigedag into Modern English Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
And as I said originally, Friday is the day of Venus, Aphrodite, Freya, or Frigga … love and beauty. Sounds like date night to me !
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