Where Does the Word Monday Come From?

Last month Word Geek examined the backstory of Wednesday. Referred to often as ‘the hump’, it’s actually named after ‘Woden’, the chief, and most ambivalent, of pagan deities who balanced an interest in divination, wisdom and poetry with his responsibilities for the hunt, war and death. ‘Woden’ is an amalgam of ‘Wod’ meaning ‘violently insane’ and ‘en’ meaning ‘headship’.

This month Word Geek looks into the origins of the word Monday. Not everyone’s favourite day but, looking on the bright side, there are only four more to go until Christmas.


Let’s start at the beginning, which in this instance is 4,000 years ago in southern Mesopotamia. It’s here that the seven-day week first originated. Ancient Sumerians noticed that seven days is the time taken by the moon to transition between each of its four phases: full, waning, new and waxing.

The seven-day time-keeping concept was so successful that subsequent cultures ran with it. The Babylonian calendar, upon which our 365-day year is based, adopted it as later did the Romans.


The Romans had a penchant for naming days of the week after planets and heavenly bodies. Coincidentally they knew seven: the planets Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn, which can all been seen by the naked eye, plus the moon and the sun.

[Nb: it was another 2,000 years before mankind added to this list. In 1781, William Herschel and his telescope discovered Uranus. In 1846, Johann Gottfried Galle became the first person to look at Neptune, and know what he was looking at. And in 1930 little Pluto popped into the list, only to be reclassified 76 years later as a ‘dwarf planet’. Among planetary scientists it seems that size is important].

So, back to Monday, for which the Romans choose the Latin name ‘lunae dies’, translating as Moon Day. It was popular choice and over the years the name stuck. Old English used ‘Mōnandæg’, while other West-Germanic languages such as Dutch and German used the very similar ‘maandag’ and ‘Montag’ respectively.

Although one backstory suggests that Monday is based purely on Germanic and Norse mythology and their personification of the moon ‘Máni’, it is widely agreed that Latin, founded on the thinking of ancient Mesopotamia, is the root of our modern word Monday. Who knew?

At The Language Factory, we can’t promise to translate into ancient Mesopotamian but we can promise to use our global network of native-speaking translators to translate into over 140 ‘living’ languages.


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