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Why are the names of weekdays numbered in Portuguese?

After making the plans for my upcoming trip to Portugal, I thought I should also look up a few useful Portuguese words and phrases. Being a Latin based language, Portuguese has similarities with Romanian, French, Spanish and Italian, but also comes with a few surprises! 😛 For instance, the names used for the days of the week.

While in the rest of the Latin languages, the weekdays have names derived from Latin and related to the names of the planets from the Solar system, Portuguese is the odd one out. It uses numbered days of the week. These are:

    • Domingo – Sunday
    • Segunda-feira – Monday
    • Terça-feira – Tuesday
    • Quarta-feira – Wednesday
    • Quinta-feira – Thursday
    • Sexta-feira – Friday
    • Sábado – Saturday

Sunday is considered the first day of the week, according to the Judeo-Christian tradition. The name has its origin in the Latin expression for “the Day of the Lord”.

Saturday corresponds to the Sabbath and is also named after it.

The rest of the names for the weekdays though literally mean second to sixth fair. The decision to stop using the pagan names for the weekdays was taken by Saint Martin of Dumio (who lived in the 6th century), the archbishop of Braga.  Apparently he also tried to replace the names for the planets, but he was not successful. The names for weekdays are based on observance of an Easter week and come from the Latin terms for “second day in which one shouldn’t work”, “third day…” etc.

Useful info:

this is a really good book on language learning in case you are trying to learn a new language 🙂

Info sources:

http://www.duolingo.com/ – for Portuguese lessons (they also have French, Spanish and German lessons 😉 )



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