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What Are The Days Of The Week In French And Other Romance Languages?

spiral desk calendar in French, blue filter.

For many English-speaking folks, the odds of encountering the French names for the days of the week are pretty low. Sure, you might encounter the French Mardi (Tuesday) every year during Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday” in English), but other examples are few and far between.

So, if you feel like your vocabulary is missing that certain je ne sais quoi, then maybe a tiny little French lesson might be just what you need. The following table lists the English name, French name, and literal French meaning of each day of the week.

English French Literal Meaning in French
Monday Lundi “Moon Day”
Tuesday Mardi “Mars Day”
Wednesday Mercredi “Mercury Day”
Thursday Jeudi “Jupiter Day”
Friday Vendredi “Venus Day”
Saturday Samedi “Sabbath Day”
Sunday Dimanche “Day of the Lord”

Looking at the table you might have noticed something. Like English, the French weekdays besides Monday are all named for gods. Unlike English’s mostly Norse pantheon, French opts for a who’s who of Roman deities. Things change on the weekend, though, as the French Saturday is named for the Sabbath and the French Sunday is named for “the Lord,” i.e., the Christian God.

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If you are a fan of languages, you may have noticed that these French names look very similar to names used in some other Romance languages:

English Spanish Italian Romanian Portuguese
Monday Lunes Lunedì Luni Segunda-feira
Tuesday Martes Martedì Marți Terça-feira
Wednesday Mièrcoles Mercoledì Miercuri Quarta-feira
Thursday Jueves Giovedì Joi Quinta-feira
Friday Viernes Venerdì Vineri Sexta-feira
Saturday Sàbado Sabato Sâmbătă Sábado
Sunday Domingo Domenica Duminică Domingo

Looking at this table, we can see that the names largely match in French, Italian, Spanish, and Romanian besides some slight differences owing to each particular language. As the table shows, Portuguese is clearly the odd one out.

The reason for this is often attributed to St. Martin of Braga, an archbishop in Gallaecia (now present-day Portugal) who was really not a fan of the days of the week being named after what he referred to as “demons.” So, he renamed the weekdays to mean “second feria,” “third feria,” and so on. In Latin, the word feria meant “day of rest,” referring to a day when a person didn’t have to work and could instead worship God. The Portuguese names originally referred to the week of rest before the celebration of Easter which began on a Sunday—which is why Portuguese Monday is “the second day of rest.” With the weekdays resolved, St. Martin kept the Spanish names for Saturday and Sunday, which already referred to God.

🗓  Mark your calendar to set some time aside to take this quiz on these week day names in Romance languages.

Why are the English names mostly based on Norse gods? Learn more about each day here:

Sunday

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

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