The days of the week explained
Like in Greco-Roman mythology, the Dutch used to have a number of gods to worship. Or rather the Germanic tribes that lived here had. Because these gods go back a long, long way in history. The Dutch names for the days of the week are similar to the names in English, German and Norse, as these languages also have a Germanic origin. When the Romans conquered these parts of Europe, they did not see a reason to change them, as many of the deities after which the days are named have Greco-Roman equivalent.
So, without further ado, let’s get into it.
Maandag – Monday – Montag – Mandag
As you probably guessed already, the name Monday comes from the moon. The Norse god of the moon was called Máni. His sister (Sól) was responsible for the sun. As he was one of the æsir (Norse Gods), he was destined to perish in Ragnarök (the ruination of the world, in which many of the æsir died).
Dinsdag – Tuesday – Dienstag – Tirsdag
The name for dinsdag also comes from a Germanic deity: Tyr. The current theory about why this day was named after Tyr is this: Germanic people had a traditional assembly, called the thing. The god Tyr is often associated with this ‘’Thing’’, which is why the Dutch for thing (ding) and Dinsdag are so closely linked.
Woensdag – Wednesday – Mittwoch – Onsdag
Spot the odd one out! The German, in this case, doesn’t come from any deity, but simply from the fact that Wednesday is considered the middle of the week (that’s what Mittwoch means). The other names, however, do come from a deity, namely the god Wodan, or better known as Odin. Yes, the Scandinavian one-eyed wanderer also makes an appearance in Germanic Folklore. The question is, why doesn’t the German word Mittwoch match up with Wodan? That’s because the Roman church did not want any links back to the heathen gods of the past. The day of Wodan was replaced by middleweekday. The Romans referred to Wednesday as dies Mercurii, the day of Mercury (God of travellers and guider of spirits to the Underworld).
Donderdag – Thursday – Donnerstag – Torsdag
This obviously comes from Thor, especially present in Thursday and Torsdag. The German and Dutch come from the Germanic for Thor, Donar. Thor is most associated with lighting and thunder (the last one giving him his name). Thor is part of the æsir, the Norse pantheon. He gets into some crazy adventures with mainly Loki, has a goat (yes you read that correctly) driven cart and a hammer, with which he smashes the heads of the giants. As Thor is one of the æsir, he is also destined to die in Ragnarök.
Vrijdag – Friday – Freitag – Fredag
This name comes from Freya, which, in old Norse means Lady. Nonetheless, she has some cool stuff: she rides a cart drawn by two cats (what’s with all the weird animals drawing carts in Germanic folklore?) and has a falcon-feather cloak that allows you to travel to the nine worlds. Freya was goddess of love and fertility. Though she ‘’assisted’’ many women in daily life, such as childbirth, because of her erotic qualities she was made out to be a harlot by the Christian clergymen. Ultimately, the protection of the crops and women in labour (her responsibility) shifted to Virgin Mary. Though Freya is a mix between Ceres (goddess of harvest and fertility of the ground) and Venus (goddess of love and fertility in the sense of having lots of children), Friday, in Latin, is known as dies Veneris.
Zaterdag – Saturday – Samstag – Iørdag
You can again spot the odd one out, Iørdag. That is because the Norse wasn’t influenced by the Romans. You see, Zaterdag, Saturday and Samstag all come from the roman dies Saturni, the day of Saturn. Saturn was the (Greco-Roman) god of agriculture. This evolved into our current names for this day, and let’s not forget about the planet named after this god.
Zondag – Sunday – Sonntag – Søndag
There are two possible explanations as to why we call Sunday Sunday. Like I mentioned earlier, Máni had a sister, Sól. She was responsible for the sun, remember? It is likely that our name for sun comes from Sól. The other possibility is Roman influence (yet again): Sunday is known as dies Solis in Latin. Both, in essence, come from the sun. Yet, the first is most likely, as the Norse was never influenced by the Romans. All of the names do match up this time, unlike Saturday, which indicates that the first theory is, in fact, the most likeliest.
Eline van der Peet