The weekdays in my native language (Bavarian) are very inconsistent and two of them apparently came to us from the Goths, who in turn have adopted them from Greek.
The two days in question are "Iada" (Day of Ares; Tuesday) and "Bfinsda" (Fifth Day; Thursday).
What bothers me especially about that is why one comes from the old Greek system (using god names) and one from the new system (using numbers). Quite a while ago I read that the Greeks (among others) adopted the number system because they did not want their weekday names to originate from heathen gods. Sadly I cannot find the source anymore.

So my basic question is:
Why did we adopt these two different styles?

I am aware that this question may not have a factual answer, so here some alternative questions that could shed some light on it:

  • Are there records of the Gothic weekday names and if so, what are they?
  • When did the change of the weekday style occur in Greek?

Please not that the Bavarian names vary. I took my local variant. More can be found here: www.bairische-sprache.at

1 Answer 1


The names of seven days of the week exist in two forms, both attested from shortly before the beginning of the Christian era. One is the (originally) Roman planetary week, where each day is associated with one of the seven planets, which in turn have their names from seven Roman gods; this form is first alluded to by the Roman poet Tibullus in the first century BC. The other is the Jewish numbered week, with six days numbered from one to six, and the Sabbath on the seventh day; this is attested in Jewish writings from about the 2nd century BC onwards. It is thus not correct to say that the planetary week is older than the numbered week. In later Christian uses the two forms of the week are often combined. For example: Italian has giovedì “Jupiter’s day” (Thursday), but sabato “Sabbath” (Saturday).

It is generally accepted that at least some of the day names in West Germanic languages derive from Gothic. The main basis for this is that the word for “Saturday, Sabbath” is sambaʒtag in Old High German, Samstag in modern (Southern) German, etc., with dissimilation of -bb- to -mb-. This dissimilation occurs also in the word for "Sabbath" in Mediaeval Greek and in Slavic languages; it is thus assumed that Gothic borrowed the dissimilated form from Greek and then passed it on to West Germanic. There is a slight difficulty here, namely that the word for “Sabbath” in the Gothic Bible is in fact sabbato, not *sambato, but scholars have got around this by assuming that a popular form *sambato existed alongside the “learned” sabbato. A good synopsis of the standard theory is here:


As far as the Bavarian names are concerned, I think the page linked by you gives a very good account of these. erchtag, iarta, iada etc. come from Ares, the Greek planetary name for the third day (Latin Mars), and pfinzda etc. come from Greek pempte, “fifth”. It is just that I would have written not “durch gotische Vermittlung” but “wahrscheinlich durch gotische Vermittlung”, as the name for Thursday is not in fact attested in our meagre corpus of Gothic texts.

You can find a recent discussion of the origin of the seven-day week here:


  • 1
    To corroborate, as far as I can tell, Greeks and Armenians were using the numbered days by the genesis of Mashtotsian Armenian script in the 5th century. (Their pattern is the same: Monday-Thursday based on 2-5, Saturday on 'sabbath'.) Jul 15, 2016 at 17:19
  • 1
    @A.M.Bittlingmayer. Yes, and the "Lord's day" on Sunday. It is a Christianised version of the Jewish week.
    – fdb
    Jul 15, 2016 at 17:31

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