Why are the days of the named what they are?

Barbara10Broek By Barbara10Broek, 30th May 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>History

Discusses how the days of the week were named and how the calendar changed.

How the week came about.

For much of history there was no week, calendars were simply arranged around lunar months. Our week derives from the fact that the Babylonians held market every seventh day. The Jews copied this custom and added the Sabbath, also observed every seventh day. It was the Jews who named the first day of the week using numbers, with Saturday, the Sabbath as day seven.

The Romans adopted the seven day week and named it after the Egyptian system, one day for the sun, one day for the moon, and one for each of the five known planets.

How the days got their names.

The names we use were derived from the Anglo-Saxons who patterned their names on those of the Romans. Thus the day of the sun Sunnandaeg (Sunday). The day of the moon was Monandaeg (Monday). Tuesday was Twiesdaey, after Twi, their god of war. The nest day had been named for Mercury but the Anglo-Saxons called it after the god Woden (Wednesday). Jupiter, the thunderer, became Thor, the thunder god (Thursday). The next day honored Frigg or Freya, wife of Odin (Friday).

The day of Saturn was Saeternsdaeg (Saturday). At one time a day was counted as the time from sunrise to sunset. It was the Romans who conceived of a day as running from midnight to midnight, the method now used.

How the calendar changed,

The Julian calendar began in 45 BC (709 AUC) as a reform of the Roman calendar by Julius Caesar. It was chosen after consultation with the astronomer Sosigenes of Alexandria. The Julian calendar has a regular year of 365 days divided into 12 months with a leap day added to February every four years. The Julian year is, therefore, on average 365.25 days long. The motivation for most calendars is to fix the number of days between return of the cycle of seasons (from Spring equinox to the next Spring equinox, for example), so that the calendar could be used as an aid to planting and other season-related activities. The cycle of seasons (tropical year) had been known since ancient times to be about 365 and 1/4 days long.

The Gregorian calendar, also known as the Western calendar, or Christian calendar, is the internationally accepted civil calendar. It was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII, after whom the calendar was named, by a decree signed on 24 February 1582, a papal bull known by its opening words Inter gravissimas. The reformed calendar was adopted later that year by a handful of countries, with other countries adopting it over the following centuries.

Because of the Protestant Reformation, however, many Western European countries did not initially follow the Gregorian reform, and maintained their old-style systems. Eventually other countries followed the reform for the sake of consistency, but by the time the last adherents of the Julian calendar in Eastern Europe (Russia and Greece) changed to the Gregorian system in the 20th century, they had to drop 13 days from their calendars, due to the additional accumulated difference between the two calendars since 1582.


Calendar, Calendars, Days, History, Names-Of-Days, Names-Of-Months

Meet the author

author avatar Barbara10Broek
Professional Librarian and freelance writer. Home Page: http://barbaratenbroekfreelancewriter.yolasite.com/

Share this page

moderator Mark Gordon Brown moderated this page.
If you have any complaints about this content, please let us know


author avatar Steve Kinsman
30th May 2011 (#)

Very interesting information on the evolution of the Western calendar. Nice job, Barbara.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Barbara10Broek
30th May 2011 (#)

Thank you Steve.
Wish there was some way to stop the spam comments.

Reply to this comment

Add a comment
Can't login?