Italian Language Blog

La Settimana Italiana Posted by on Jan 23, 2009 in Grammar

The Italian word for week is settimana which comes from Latin and means ‘in numero di sette’ (lit. in number of seven) because, yes you’ve guessed it, there are seven days in the week. The first five of these take their names from the planets.

lunedi’ (Monday) is from the Latin Lunae dies, or ‘day of the Moon’, because in ancient astrology it was believed that the Moon governed the first hour of this day;

martedi’ (Tuesday) was believed to be governed by the planet Marte (Mars);

mercoledi’ (Wednesday) comes from the governing planet Mercurio (Mercury);

giovedi’ (Thursday) is governed by the planet Giove (Jupiter);

and venerdi’ (Friday) is governed by the planet Venere (Venus);

sabato (Saturday), on the other hand, comes from the Hebrew Shabbat meaning (giorno) di riposo ((day) of rest);

domenica, comes once again from Latin, and means (giorno) del Signore ((day) of the Lord). This name was introduced by the Roman Christian emperor Constantine in the 4th century A.D. to substitute the more ancient name of solis dies, giorno del sole (day of the sun), which still survives in other languages such as the English ‘Sunday’ or the German ‘Sonntag’.

In the folk tradition venerdi’ is often considered an unlucky day because according to the Christian Church it’s the day when Jesus died and therefore the day of penitence, but it’s interesting that in Italy the unlucky number associated with Friday is not 13, as it is in many cultures, but 17, so be careful on venerdi’ 17! Whilst on the topic of bad days there is also an old proverb which says: ne’ di venere ne’ di marte non si sposa, non si parte, non si da principio all’arte (Neither on Friday nor on Tuesday should one get married, start a journey, or begin a work of art). We have a particular expression linked to Friday which is used to describe somebody who behaves a bit strangely: gli manca qualche venerdi’ (lit. ‘he lacks some Fridays’).

One of the idiosyncrasies of the Italian language is the fact that all the names of the week are masculine with the exception of domenica, which is feminine: so you have to remember to adjust the adjective accordingly e.g. martedi’ prossimo (next Tuesday), domenica prossima (next Sunday). It’s also important to know that names of the week are considered common names as are names of the months, therefore we write them with a lower case letter at the beginning; for example: oggi e’ venerdi’ 23 gennaio (today is Friday the 23rd of January).

Names of the week are normally used without the article, but you need the definitive article (il and la) to say that something happens regularly on a certain weekday: e.g. giovedi’ vado al cinema (Thursday I’m going to the cinema), but il giovedi’ vado a nuotare (on Thursdays I go swimming).

To express the future we use prossimo/a (next) e.g. sabato prossimo (next Saturday), la settimana prossima (next week); we also commonly use the expression quest’altra settimana (lit. this other week). For the past we use either passato/a or scorso/a (past participle of the verb scorrere, to run away):  l’anno passato or l’anno scorso (last year), domenica passata or domenica scorsa (last Sunday). To talk about something that occurred yesterday you can use ieri and for the day before yesterday  ieri l’altro or l’altro ieri, e.g. Mario e’ arrivato ieri l’altro sera (Mario arrived the evening of the day before yesterday). When talking about the future we have domani (tomorrow), dopodomani (the day after tomorrow), and even dopodomani ancora (the day after the day after tomorrow). N.B. that in Italian dopodomani literally translates as ‘after tomorrow’ but has the same meaning as the English ‘the day after tomorrow’, so it isn’t necessary to say “il giorno dopodomani”. I still get confused about this when speaking English and therefore have the bad habit of saying ‘after tomorrow’ instead of ‘the day after tomorrow’ which greatly annoys my (English) husband because ‘after tomorrow’ in English means, of course, ‘any time after tomorrow’, like maybe next year? At the end of the week most of us are looking forward to il fine settimana (the weekend). These days (unfortunately) il fine settimana is often anglicized into il weekend when many people go off to ‘enjoy’ lo shopping.

Curiously the word domani is also used in an ironic sense to mean mai (never), so if you ask your beloved: mi regali un anello? (will you give me a ring?) and the reply is: Si’, domani! (Yes, tomorrow!) don’t expect to get it any time soon! The reason for this particular use of domani is that the future is uncertain, as Lorenzo il Magnifico says in one of his poems: chi vuol esser lieto sia / di doman non c’e’ certezza (whoever wishes to be happy be so, for of tomorrow there is no certainty).

Buon fine settimana!

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  1. Judith Jenkinson:

    I find your blog very helpful. Would it be possible to discuss when to use Essere and when to use Stare as I am confused. I’m also struggling with when to use the past participle and when the imperfect is more appropriate. It is a very long time since I was at school! I love receiving your emails, thank you. Judy.

  2. Duong To:

    I’ve happened to see your blog and find it very useful as I’m studying Italiano. Molte grazie!!!
    Reading this entry, I wonder why you use ‘settimana’ as feminine but ‘fine settimana’ as masculine? ( Sorry in case you already explained about this, but I’ve just got to read some entries)
    Buon fine settimana!

    • serena:

      @Duong To Salve Duong To e benvenuto nel mio blog!
      Yes, ‘finesettimana’ is a funny word. As you say, ‘settimana’ is feminine, and ‘finesettimana’ can be either masculine or feminine, i.e. ‘questo finesttimana’ or ‘questa finesettimana’, but the masculine form is more common due to the influence of the English ‘week-end’, which in Italian is masculine: ‘il week-end’.
      Saluti da Serena

  3. Al DeMoya:

    Why is Sunday feminine when the other days are masculine?

  4. billy:

    I don’t get the meaning of this

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