Thursday, November 21, 2013

Lost in Translation: Sunday

Ah, my last one. Of course, there’s always months left to do.

Spanish: domingo
Portuguese: domingo
Italian: Domenica
French: dimanche
Romanian: duminică
German: Sonntag
Norwegian: søndag
Dutch: zondag
Danish: søndag
Icelandic: Sunnudagur
Sweedish: söndag
Polish: niedziela
Serbian: nedelja
Ukrainian: nedilya
Bulgarian: nedelya
Albanian: e diel
Latvian: svētdiena
Estonian: pühapäev

I’m sure the etymology won’t be a surprise to anyone. Sunday comes from the Old English Sunnandaeg, day of the sun. It was what’s known as a loan-translation, which is taking a foreign word or phrase and translating it into your language so you can use it without those pesky foreign sounding words. In this case, Sunnandaeg comes from the classical Latin dies solis, which has the same meaning and is a loan-translation itself of the Greek hemera heliou.

The sun’s day happens to be the name of a pagan holiday in Roman culture, but interestingly enough, the Romance languages instead have the Latin dominica, God’s day, as it’s root. The Germanic languages preferred to keep their pagan reference, thank you very much. Eastern Europe gives us more variations. Sunday is the first day of the week in the Albania, so they call it “first day”. Latvian very obviously has day (diena) in it, but I have no idea about svēt. Estonian also has day in it (päev), and püha just happens to translate to holy, so I think it’s obvious what they were going for there. In Polish, dziela is close to dzień, day, but I’m not familiar enough with the other languages to be sure if the others are the same word. The same with the first part, which might mean “not” in Polish, or could be me totally not understanding a language I’m not that familiar with. You guess which.

In other words, don’t use me as an academic reference.

Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English


  1. I seem to recall seeing something somewhere about how the days got their names with regards to the planets and hours and something.

    Yeah, this would make more sense if I could remember what I'm trying to say.

  2. You think if I memorized all those names and recited them while running around the room, I could keep Monday from coming? :P

  3. I find the days of the week and their translations interesting.

  4. Whatever it's called, it's my day off! Usually anyway...


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