Pagan Days of the Week?

Not in all languages! This page reminded me of my discovery that four (not just one) days of the week are known in Irish by Christian names, three highly evocative of the Emerald Isle’s original Orthodoxy!

Sunday = Dé Domhnaigh, Day of the Lord (I believe it’s pronounced jay-DOWN-ee. [He was my first grad-school faculty advisor… and a fine way to remember how to pronounce Dé Domhnaigh!)
Wednesday = Dé Céadaoin, First Fast-Day (jay-KAY-deen… which I’ve always thought would be a pretty name for a girl: Kaydeen!)
Thursday = Déardaoin, Day Between the Fasts (JAIR-deen)
Friday = Dé h-Aoine, Fast-Day (jay-HEE-neh)

Cognates in Scottish Gaelic according to the page linked = Di-dómhnuich, Di-ciaduinn or Di-ciadaoin, Diardaoin, Di-haoine or Dia-aoine. (Don’t ask me how to pronounce Scottish.)

As you can also see there, about halfway down the page, Christian Latin (sometimes) and many other Latin-derived languages preserve the Hebrew and Christian Greek designation of Saturday as Sabbath* in some form. (Ultimately it just meant seven, like seventh day of the week, but via Christianity came to connote, for Gentile Christians, Biblical Sabbath.) I’m guessing even the French samedi represents merely the transformation of the original pronounced B into an M, since both are labials: lip involvement. See also Russian subbota here.

Russian calls Sunday Voskreseniye (sp?), Resurrection – as in “Khristos voskrese!” – recalling that for Orthodoxy every Sunday is “Little Pascha.” I really like that idea! (Would it be pronounced vo-skre-SAIN-yeh?)

As the original linked page indicates, Christian Latin (sometimes) and many Latin-derived languages call Sunday variations of The Lord’s Day… as does Modern Greek, Kyriaki (which apparently really is a girl’s… er, woman’s… name!). The traditional English rendering of the appropriate Commandment among Catholics, at least, is, “Keep holy the Lord’s Day.”

(Does Santo Domingo, the former name of the Dominican Republic and still the name of its capital, really mean Holy Sunday? Though one might’ve thought the English for Republica Dominicana would be Dominical Republic, ie, pertaining to Sunday… or is that pushing too far?)

Speaking of Modern Greek, I know they simply call the other days by numbers, like the Portuguese on the other linked page – except Friday, Paraskevi, which I believe I read some hours ago (another of those irretrievable web-trails) means Preparation: a reference to the Jewish “Day of Preparation” surrounding the Lord’s Crucifixion perhaps?… as well as another girl’s/saint’s name (Paraskeva). Interestingly, traditional Quakers and some other Protestants also call the days of the week by numbers, with Sunday as First-day, specifically to avoid taking false deities’ names on their lips.

As these charts show, most Georgian days incorporate sabbath – I’m guessing in its meaning of week rather than Sabbath or Seven in the case of weekdays – and Friday is Paraskevi. Manx, like Scottish Gaelic, follows its parent-tongue, Irish. Icelandic – briefly in communion with Orthodoxy – has “Fasting-Day” on Friday, and three number-days, more or less. Tagalog (Filipino) shows Spanish influence in calling Saturday Sabado. Ecclesiastical Latin – technically not dead! – calls the weekdays numbers. Actually a number of languages simply call many, most, or all the days numbers. Estonian calls Sunday holy day. A number of Slavic languages call Saturday Sabbath, as does Hungarian I’m guessing. Lithuanian calls the month of June “birch” for the traditional Northeast European Pentecost decorations shared by Slavic Orthodox just recently.

(*–Some Orthodox I’ve read even claim that Sunday doesn’t represent a “transfer of the Sabbath,” and theoretically insist on Saturday for “rest” and Sunday for worship/church. So Orthodoxy invented the weekend?!!! 😉 But when would we “get anything done” if we had to rest on Saturday and go to church on Sunday?!! 😉


  1. WordK

    Interesting post. Sunday in Russian is pronounced vas-kri-SEN-ye. Three years of Russian and its one of the few words I’m confident of pronouncing somewhat correctly. 😉 Also, at least Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday are denoted by numerical position in Russian. I’m not sure about the etymology of Monday and Wednesday.

  2. me

    Thanks, Demetria, and welcome!

    If the Wikipedia piece is right, Monday in Russian, like the other Slavic languages presented there, is “Day after work-free day” (implying they used to call Sunday “Work-free Day” like the others still do, before changing it to “Resurrection,” ie, “Little Pascha”), and Wednesday is “Midweek Day,” kind of like our unofficial “Hump Day.”

    Leo Peter

    PS: I didn’t realize the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute was connected with the Graduate Theological Union. I considered doing doctoral work at GTU while still a Catholic and on the West Coast, many moons ago. (Conversion to Quakerism, and earthquake-phobia, prevented me!) Guess I’ll put them on the list of future fantasies, should my health improve and finances allow… though I don’t have any of the languages they require at this time. Maybe I’ll dust-off the Pimsleur French CDs too!!!

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