A Week of Words: I Hate Mondays


By Becky Todd

Etymology is the study of the origins of words, a mesmerising subject area that reveals how languages took their roots from ancient times, plundering, stealing, borrowing, and absorbing words from other languages into their own. English is a particularly fine example of this, with words which came from Latin, Greek, Norse, the Celtic languages, and many others. The etymology of the word etymology comes from the Greek word ‘etymon,’ meaning ‘true sense,’ and ‘logia,’ meaning ‘the study of.’ And if that bit of metaphysics hasn’t got you in the mood for this series of posts, I don’t know what will.

Sunday and Monday
Almost everyone in their lives has uttered the phrase ‘I hate Monday,’ and not unreasonable since it is undeniably everyone’s least favourite day of the week. However, not many will have stopped to think about why it is called Monday.
This one is fairly obvious once you think about it. The word Monday comes directly from the Old English, ‘Mondæg’, which literally means ‘day of the moon,’ so Monday can be thought of as ‘Moon-day.’ This is a surprising common theme throughout European tongues, with the German word also being ‘Montag’, meaning the same thing. The romantic languages also have a Moon-day, such as ‘Lundi’ in French, which comes from the Latin, ‘lunae,’ meaning, of course, moon.

‘Day’ itself is another interesting word, directly descended from the Old English ‘daeg,’ as mentioned previously. It also comes from a stem of an ancient Germanic language, but is not considered to be related to ‘dies,’ which is the Latin equivalent. This explains the similarity of the word ‘tag’ (German) and ‘dagr’ (Old Norse) with our own noun and suffix.

Considering the previous explanation, it is not difficult to guess what Sunday is named after. Ice-cream sundaes, of course! Or not. It comes from the Old English word, ‘Sunnandeag,’ which literally means ‘day of the Sun.’ This is a West-Germanic translation of ‘dies solis,’ the Latin phrase. Once again, our Germanic linguistic roots are apparent, as the German equivalent is ’Sonntag.’ Interestingly however, the Romantic languages have taken the Latin words ‘dies Dominica,’ or ‘day of our lord,’ (in reference to Sunday being the holy Sabbath day) and used to make words such as ‘dimanche’ (French) and ‘domingo’ (Spanish).

The theory for why these days are so named is that each day was used to worship a different God (as you will discover in the rest of the series). The Sun and Moon, as you may have noticed, are rather large and obvious in the sky, and consequently were thought of by ancient people as important gods, worthy of worship. Thus, they had the honour of having days named after them. I’m sure the large lump of rock and burning ball of hydrogen in the sky are fairly chuffed about this.

Photography: 1) Pierre Metivier on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0); 2) Nick. K. on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0); 3) FreeFotoUK on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).

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