I know in Chinese, the days in a week from Monday to Sunday are called 星期一, 星期二, ..., 星期六, 星期日, which are verbatim translated as weekday one (or 1st weekday), weekday two (or 2nd weekday), ..., weekday six (or 6th weekday), however, not weekday seven (or 7th weekday) but weekday sun. Similarly, the twelve months from January to December are called 一月, ..., 十二月, which are 1st month, ..., 12th month.

I wonder is there any other language naming the days and months by number like Chinese?

  • 1
    Actually, the Chinese used to call the week days just like the Japanese: sun, moon, fire, water, wood, etc. Like sushi and sake, it's another Chinese cultural item that was lost in its birthland yet survived in her cultural satellites. And these day-names actually came from Babylon, it's really the same Latin names in disguise, each planet associated to a Chinese element: fire-Mars, water-Mercury, wood-Jupiter, gold/metal-Venus, earth-Saturn (thanks Sailor Moon!) – Joe Pineda Sep 2 '14 at 1:45
  • I'm voting to close because this is a list question, but please see this Meta question because I'm not sure of the current expectations in that regard. – curiousdannii Sep 2 '14 at 9:26
  • @JoePineda. It is true that the Babylonians were the first to identify the seven planets and to name them after gods. It is also true that the Greek, Latin etc. names of the planets are "translations" of the corresponding Babylonian names, e.g. Ishtar > Aphrodite > Venus. But it should be noted that the Babylonians did not have a seven-day week and did not identify days with the planets. The Romans were the first to do that. – fdb Sep 2 '14 at 15:12
  • @fdb Had to double check, thx! Ancient Romans had originally an 8-day week based on their market cycles. Jews had a 7-day week for millenia. Don't know much about Babylonians but guess it'd be odd for other Semitic peoples not to share it. According to the Wiki article the Chinese tutelar planets of the week days seems to be a Manichean influence - since prophet Mani was half-Persian and half-Babylonian, maybe that's the link to Babylon. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_calendar#Nundinal_cycle en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – Joe Pineda Sep 2 '14 at 17:32
  • @JoePineda: When mentioning the seven planets in regards to the knowledge of the ancients, is the third planet the moon? I've heard that the seven classical planets are Mercury, Venus, Moon, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. It seems like you might be able to confirm or deny that bit. – dotancohen Sep 2 '14 at 18:31

14 Answers 14

up vote 9 down vote accepted

The seven-day week is first attested in about the first century BC, in two different forms: the planetary week (where each day is associated with one of the seven visible planets) and the numbered week (where most of the days have the names of numbers, beginning with 1 = Sunday). The planetary week is first attested in Rome, while the numbered week appears to be a Jewish invention, later adopted by Christians. Some modern languages (like English) use a form of the planetary names, others a form of the numbered week (e.g. Portuguese, Modern Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, Persian etc.). The Chinese names for the days of the week are a modern innovation.

On the other hand, the numbering of the twelve months of the lunar calendar is an ancient Chinese tradition, continued by the present-day use of numbers for the Gregorian months.

  • 1
    While it explains where the words in Chinese, which was listed as an example in the question, come from, it doesn't really answer the question (it only mentions what was actually asked for in passing). – O. R. Mapper Sep 1 '14 at 13:56
  • A planetary week? I have read somewhere (don't remember the source" that the days in English are named for gods, not for the planets named after the gods. This gives an explanation for Wednesday, Wodan's day, and I think some of the others as well. – rumtscho Sep 1 '14 at 19:31
  • 1
    The planets are named after gods, of course. So when the planets were translated into English they got the names of the corresponding Germanic gods. – fdb Sep 1 '14 at 20:28
  • 2
    Monday=Moon, Tuesday=Mars (Tiw - god of war), Wednesday=Mercury (because in earlier Germanic pantheons, Wotan was identified with Mercury, Thor, the thunder god was often treated as chief god), Thursday=Jupiter, Friday=Venus, Saturday=Saturn. – Francis Davey Sep 1 '14 at 22:04
  • Just for completeness sake, expanding on @FrancisDavey's answer: Thor's depiction as god of thunder and chief of gods equated it to Jupiter, hence thursday=dies jovis. Goddess Freigja was a lover of Wotan, got Frig's day. As for Saturn, seems no clear Germanic god quite fit his attributes :( – Joe Pineda Sep 2 '14 at 1:49

Portuguese uses ordinal numbers to number five of the seven days of the week.

Feira coincides with the term for fair, not the fair of fairy tales, but the fair that is an open-air market. But this is a distortion of the féria word, which means holiday.

English name — Portuguese name — Portuguese name using ordinal digits — Literal English meaning — Ecclesiastical Latin name

  • Sunday — Domingo
  • Monday — Segunda-feira — 2ª feira — second-fair — feria secunda
  • Thursday — Terça-feira — 3ª feira — third-fair — feria tertia
  • Wednesday — Quarta-feira — 4ª feira — fourth-fair — feria quarta
  • Tuesday — Quinta-feira — 5ª feira — fifth-fair — feria quinta
  • Friday — Sexta-feira — 6ª feira — sixth-fair — feria sexta
  • Saturday — Sábado

Note: terça is a shorthand used only in this context for terceira, the feminine for third .

These were not the names of the days in Old Portuguese, as Wikipedia Page on days of week says:

Saint Martin of Dumio (c. 520–580), archbishop of Braga, decided not to call days by pagan gods and to use ecclesiastic terminology to designate them. This may be the origin of the present Portuguese numbered system. Martin also tried to replace the names of the planets, but was not successful. In the Middle Ages, Galician-Portuguese retained both systems. The Roman gods' names are still used in Galician.

Korean and Japanese has inherited the method of numbering months from Chinese, but use a different enumeration for days of the week: 日月火水木金土.

Greek is using numbering as well for 4 out of 7 days. Those are:

  • Monday (δευτέρα / 2nd)
  • Tuesday (τρίτη / 3rd)
  • Wednesday (τετάρτη / 4th)
  • Thursday (πέμπτη / 5th)

However, there is no numbering for months.

In Hebrew, the weekdays are called:

  • יום ראשון First day
  • יום שני Second day
  • יום שלישי Third day
  • יום רביעי Fourth day
  • יום חמישי Fifth day
  • יום שישי Sixth day
  • שבת Day of rest

That is, Sunday is literally "First day" and all the days follow from there. Saturday is "Day of rest".

  • Don't Jewish people rest on Sunday? – Lưu Vĩnh Phúc Sep 2 '14 at 17:45
  • @LưuVĩnhPhúc: No, our day of rest is Saturday. Sunday is a regular work day for Jews, at least in Israel. – dotancohen Sep 2 '14 at 17:46
  • So Israeli works for 6 days a week with Sunday is the start of week right? – Lưu Vĩnh Phúc Sep 2 '14 at 17:48
  • 1
    @LưuVĩnhPhúc: Yes, exactly. For many people (most, even) Friday is only a half-day. I see from your post that Vietnamese have the same day names, mostly. Do you also have a half-day of work on Saturday in addition to resting on the Lords day on Sunday? – dotancohen Sep 2 '14 at 17:55
  • No, most of us work 5 days a week (40 hours) and rest on Saturday + Sunday, although some companies will work for 5.5 or 6 days a week – Lưu Vĩnh Phúc Sep 2 '14 at 17:59

Czech names for "Thursday" and "Friday" are "Čtvrtek" and "Pátek," based on the words fourth ("čtvrtý") and fifth ("pátý"). The name for "Tuesday" is "Úterý," which I believe is based on the Russian for second, "второ́й" (not certain on this one).

As for months, Latin should qualify, with names like September, October, November and December (based on 7, 8, 9 and 10 in a year starting with March).

  • 2
    ... and for Latin at an earlier stage (in the Republic), Quintilis (July) and Sextilis (August). Both months renamed after Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar later on. – Francis Davey Sep 1 '14 at 22:06

Latvian language names weekdays as Monday - 'first-day' (pirmdiena), Tuesday - 'second-day' (otrdiena) etc except for Sunday which is named svētdiena, literally 'holy-day'.

Slavic languages also have some (not all) weekday names derived from numbers - for example, in Russian Tuesday / Вторник is derived from второй (second), Thursday / четверг from четыре (four); according to wikipedia it occurs in other slavic languages as well - Slovak, Czech, Polish, Croatian, Ukrainian, etc.

Note also the gap between this pattern and some other languages (like the Portuguese example) that would start numbering from the Sunday instead - the start of the week is not an arbitrary choice if weekday names literally refer to their numbers.

  • 1
    Besides the days you mentioned, Wednsday tends to be called "Sreda" or similar in Slavic languages, which means "middle" - not literally a number, but still a name showing order in a sequence. – rumtscho Sep 1 '14 at 19:28

Vietnamese uses numbers for both months and weekdays

January: Tháng 1
February: Tháng 2
...
December: Tháng 12

For weekdays

Monday    → Thứ hai  (2nd day of week)
Tuesday   → Thứ ba   (3rd day of week)
Wednesday → Thứ tư   (4th day of week)
Thursday  → Thứ năm  (5th day of week)
Friday    → Thứ sáu  (6th day of week)
Saturday  → Thứ bảy  (7th day of week)
Sunday    → Chủ Nhật (Lord's day)

However, albeit the name, it should be noted that in Vietnam Monday is the start of week, and there is a song about that which everyone should learn from kindergarten, too.

It was said that this possibly originated from Portuguese when the Portuguese Jesuit missionaries came to Vietnam and created an alphabet based on Latin characters for Vietnamese.


Some other examples are the Mongolian, and Buryat languages, which use 2 systems for day of week names, one based on the planets and one based on ordinal numbers.

In Mongolia

            Cyrillic           Transliteration     Rough meaning
Sunday      бүтэн сайн өдөр    büteŋ saiŋ ödör     'full good day' (='full holiday')
Monday      нэгдэх өдөр neg    dekh ödör           'first day'
Tuesday     хоёрдахь өдөр      khoyor dakh' ödör   'second day'
Wednesday   гуравдахь өдөр     gurav dakh' ödör    'third day'
Thursday    дөрөвдэх өдөр      döröv dekh ödör     'fourth day'
Friday      тавдахь өдөр       tav dakh' ödör      'fifth day'
Saturday    хагас сайн өдөр    khagas saiŋ ödör    'half good day' (='half holiday')

In inner Mongolia they use slightly modified names based on Chinese names

           Cyrillic                    Transliteration            Rough meaning 
Sunday     гарагийн өдөр               garagiŋ ödör               'week day' 
Monday     гарагийн нэгдэх өдөр        garagiŋ neg dekh ödör      'first day of the week' 
Tuesday    гарагийн хоёрдахь өдөр      garagiŋ khoyor dakh' ödör  'second day of the week' 
Wednesday  гарагийн гуравдахь өдөр     garagiŋ gurav dakh' ödör   'third day of the week' 
Thursday   гарагийн дөрөвдэх өдөр      garagiŋ döröv dekh ödör    'fourth day of the week' 
Friday     гарагийн тавдахь өдөр       garagiŋ tav dakh' ödör     'fifth day of the week' 
Saturday   гарагийн зургаадахь өдөр    garagiŋ zurgaa dakh' ödör  'sixth day of the week'

In Buryat

            Cyrillic        Transliteration Rough meaning 
Sunday      гарагай нэгэн   garagaj nägän   'one of the week'
Monday      гарагай хоёр    garagaj ȟojor   'two of the week' 
Tuesday     гарагай гурбан  garagaj gurban  'three of the week' 
Wednesday   гарагай дүрбэн  garagaj dürbän  'four of the week' 
Thursday    гарагай табан   garagaj taban   'five of the week' 
Friday      гарагай зургаан garagaj zurgaan 'six of the week' 
Saturday    гарагай долоон  garagaj doloon  'seven of the week' 

Please find the traditional Mongolian texts as well as more information in the link since it's hard to paste the vertical texts here without breaking the layout

You can also read about the names of week in different languages here: Days of the Week in the West, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Mongolian

Swahili uses numbering for Saturday (Jumamosi, weekday one) through Wednesday (Jumatano, weekday five). The word "juma" by itself means week. Its names for Thursday (Alhamisi) and Friday (Ijumaa) are derived from Arabic.

Standard Basque has a sort of ordering system for the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday: astelehena (week+first), asteartea (week+middle), asteazkena (week+last). The etymology of the standard names for the other weekdays is not transparent. One of several plausible etymologies for osteguna (Thursday) is bost + eguna = five+day. This implies a different numbering system (beginning with Sunday) than what is used for M-W.

In Korean, the months are referred as numbers followed by the word 월 to indicate month.

January 일월 (Month 1, or 1'st month)

February 이월

March 삼월

April 사월

May 오월

June 유월

July 칠월

August 팔월

September 구월

October 시월

November 십일월

December 십이월

Korean and Japanese both number the months exactly the same way as in Chinese. However, both Korean and Japanese have their own set of names for the days of the week, based on the Chinese characters 日、月、火、水、木、金、土 for sunday through saturday, respectively.

In colloquial Croatian, months are just called prvi mjesec ("the first month"), drugi mjesec ("the second month") and so on; they do have their proper names (siječanj, veljača...) but the proper names are more formal.

Persian uses numbers for five of the days of the week, by tagging a cardinal number onto the word for Saturday:

  • Saturday = شَنبه (shanbeh)
  • Sunday = یَکشَنبه (yakshanbeh) literally, "one Saturday"
  • Monday = دوشَنبه (dushanbeh) literally, "two Saturday"
  • Tuesday = سَهشَنبه (sehshanbeh) literally, "three Saturday"
  • Wednesday = چِهار شَنبه (chihar shanbeh) literally, "four Saturday"
  • Thursday = پَنج شَنبه (panj shanbeh), literally "five Saturday"
  • Friday = جُمعه (jumeh), from Arabic, the day for congregational prayer, as in 'Jami mesjid' - Friday mosque.

The word for day in Persian is 'ruz'.

In Estonian days from Monday to Thursday are numbered:

Esmaspäev - "first day"

Teisipäev - "second day"

Kolmapäev - "third day"

Neljapäev - "fourth day"

Reede - (Scandinavian origin, cf. fredag in Swedish & Norwegian)

Laupäev - (Scandinavian origin, cf. laurdag in Nynorsk)

Pühapäev - "holy day"

  • Welcome to SE Linguistics and thanks for your answer! – Ivan Kapitonov Oct 2 '15 at 1:38

Your Answer

 

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.