Days of the week on other cultures

We have seven days of the week here in America (and Europe I gather). We have the days named after pagan deities. What about other systems. Jokes aboot Aussies and Canadians can be held off for a few posts please.

In Egypt (and probably other Arab countries use the same system) there are also seven days, but the days are named more or less after numbers, and Friday is something like “prayer day”. Friday is the day for prayer in Islam and in Egypt (and I assume other Muslim countries) the weekend is Friday/Saturday.

Never heard of a country in modern times that has anything but a seven-day week. I think that there is a lot of conformance to the Western calendar for commercial purposes, although Islam, Judaism, and China (and many other Asian countries) have another calendar they observe besides the one they share with us. For example, the Islamic calendar is lunar and not one solar year long. So months (like Ramadan) occur about 10 days earlier every year.

China has the old or agrarian calender and the modern calender.

The modern calendar has 7 days a week and is basically the same as the western calendar.

The days are named after numbers (1-6) with the exception of sunday which is literally the day of the “Sun.”

The Old calendar or the agrarian calendar is subject to a bunch of major differences that I dont have a good understanding of.

The year actually starts in February, on Chinese new year, also know as the spring festival.

This is becasue the start of the year is officially recognized as the beginning of the season of spring. This way, the year begins at the beginning of spring and ends at the end of winter, unlike western calendars that begin and end in winter.

Traditions and holidays are still scheduled around the old agrarian calendar, while daily life (like the work week.) is structured around the modern one.

EDIT: For what it’s worth, the 7 day calendar with the 5 day work week is fairly new. In the eighties in China, there was a 5.5 day work week, where only half od Saturday and Sunday was considered the weekend. People on Saturday were expected to work reduced hours. Some time in the 90’s the convention was changed to have 2 full days for the weekend.

In Japanese, they are named after the sun, the moon and the classical planets.

The names in Indonesian are derived from Arabic, I believe.

In parts of Cameroon there are towns that observe irregular market weeks. For example, I believe the market in Dschang happens every eight day, and I’ve heard of towns with six and ten day market weeks.

In bigger cities, the odd market weeks work in parallel with a seven-day business week. But in some smaller and more isolated villages life still works to the rhythms of traditional calendars.

There is a great appendix in E. G. Richards’s Mapping Time that covers exactly this question for a wide range of languages. He also points out that although our days are after the pagan deities, they are calques of the Latin names, which are in turn named after the planets and only indirectly after the deities.

Also known as “Day of the Sky,” too 星期天.

In Russian, for example, Wednesday is from the word middle, Friday is from the word fifth, and Sunday is from the word resurrection.

I can see Sunday, Monday (Moon’s Day) and Saturday (Saturn’s Day) as planets. However Tuesday (Tyr’s or Twi’s Day) Wednesday (Woden’s Day) Thursday (Thor’s Day) and Friday (Frigga’s Day) are Norse deities.

Vietnamese is the same except it’s 2-7, with Sunday being the lead or main day.

Yes, but in Latin (and Romance languages), Tuesday is named after Mars, Wednesday after Mercury, Thursday after Jupiter and Friday after Venus. Presumably what Dr. Drake meant is that English calqued the idea of naming the days of the week after deities, but using Germanic (Norse) instead of Roman deities.

They’re still loosely based off of Mercury (Mercredi? in French), Jupiter (Jeudi?), and Venus (Vendredi?). Jupiter and Thor being Gods of lightning, Freya and Venus being female beauty dieties, and Woden and Mercury having some correspondence that I can’t remember because it’s not obvious. Most Romance languages preserve the Latin names of the gods, if only barely, in their days of the week. English’s names are based off the planets, even if it is a bit of a stretch to see it.

In Thai they are derived from Sanskrit and named after the sun, moon and planets.

Saturday - Saturn
Sunday - Sun
Monday - Moon
Tuesday - Mars
Wednesday - Mercury
Thursday - Jupiter
Friday - Venus

Yes, it was common for Romans to identify foreign gods with their own, and the Germanic deities Tyr, Odin, Thor and Freya were apparently identified to Mars, Mercury, Jupiter and Venus respectively. Here is an article about it.

What I find interesting is that even though Saturday is Saturn’s Day and apparently is the same in Latin, it is the Sabbath’s Day in many Romance languages. I can’t tell if samedi in French is from Saturn or Sabbath, but Spanish sábado and Italian sabato are obvious enough. As for Sunday, it’s usually Our Lord’s Day (dies Dominica) but still the Sun’s Day in English. You pagans.

That’s interesting. Is it something universal in Indo-European languages to have the days identified with these planets or deities (or their equivalent), or was the identification introduced into Sanskrit later?

If this isn’t adopted from some Western language, that’s an amazing coincidence as those same day are associated with those same planets. Were the Sanskrit names given to the days of the weeks as “translations” of the Latin/romance names? Was there a traditional 7 day week in India?

Seeing the classical planets show up in Thailand, Japan, and Europe makes me wonder, how far back does that association go in each culture? It would be rather a big coincidence for both the Japanese and the Europeans to have come up with the same set of name-roots, and in the same order (yes, there’s a logical reason why the Europeans chose the order they did, but there are still many other logical reasons one could choose for other orders).

Seven days in a week has always been close to near universal–most early cultures had months based on the cycle of the moon which is 28 days. The only way to divide this into a sub unit of days would be to have a week of either 4 days (too short), 14 days (too long) or 7 days (just right!).

In Japanese:

日曜日 (sun day) - Sunday
月曜日 (moon day) - Monday
火曜日 (fire day) - Tuesday
水曜日 (water day) - Wednesday
木曜日 (wood day) - Thursday
金曜日 (gold day) - Friday
土曜日 (earth day) - Saturday

PS: The character for “day of the week”, 曜, is a terrible, terrible character, and I hate it.

According to Wiki, the Japanese system was originally imported from Europe around 800 AD.

Note that while the characters 火, 水, 木, 金 and 土 literally mean one of the 5 traditional Chinese elements, in this context, they most likely are refering to the planets, which are also named after the 5 elements. When the characters are read to mean the planets, the system is a direct translation of the Latin one, in exactly the same Western order of the planets, instead of the traditional Chinese order of the 5 elements, which should be 金, 木, 水, 火, 土.

Oh, cool. Didn’t know that. You learn something new every day, I guess.