Russian Language Blog

«Что когда? или: дни недели» [What when? or: Days of the Week] Posted by on Aug 31, 2009 in language, Traditions

When meeting someone at this fall’s new schedule in a Russian university/firm/organization (really, anywhere Russian is spoken) you could ask them courteously: «Что нового приносит эта осень вашему расписанию?» [What new does this fall bring to your schedule?]. But that’s a really ambitious question and could sound a bit formal. A less strict way of asking the same thing would be: «Что на вашем расписании этой осенью?» [What’s on your schedule this fall?] Or why not skip all kinds of formalities and be both «на ты» and a little bit rude at the same time: «Есть ли вообще у тебя какое-нибудь расписание?» [Do you have any kind of schedule at all?]

Tomorrow is 1st of September, known in Russia as «день знаний» [The Day of Knowledge] and the day when both school children and university students begin studying «после летних каникул» [after the summer holiday (note that «каникулы» is always in plural in Russian, even if it’s just ONE holiday/break!)]. Summer is over, even though it might still be warm outside and seem like fall is far away. The 1st of September is my favorite day of the year; there’s something special about going back to school/university that makes me feel all happy inside. It’s very hard to explain (but maybe I’m not the only one who feels this way?) – I’m nervous and excited every time, despite the fact that I’ve studied for so long that I shouldn’t be the least excited, nevertheless nervous about it. September means the beginning of a new season – «осень» [fall]. «Осень» is a feminine noun, thus it should be paired with adjectives in the following way: «золотая осень» [golden fall], «красивая осень» [beautiful fall] or «холодная осень» [cold fall]. Fall means for many of us a stricter «расписание» [schedule], where every day has its very own timetable. That’s why I think we should discuss «дни недели» [days of the week] in Russian today! The names of weekdays in Russian differ a great deal from names in other languages (now I’m mostly comparing with Romanian and Germanic languages) and that’s why they deserve some extra attention. And as always I’m at my best when allowed to mix in «немножко этимологии» [a little etymology] in my posts… Oh, and in Russian language the days of the week are always written with a lowercase letter!

«Понедельник» [Monday]:

«В славянских языках ПОНЕДЕЛЬНИК имеет значение первого дня или, согласно одной версии, дня “после недели”, поскольку “Неделя” является старым
русским словом, обозначающим современное воскресенье»
[In Slavic languages MONDAY has the meaning of the first day or, according to one version, the day “after Nedelya” (week) since “Nedelya” is an old Russian word that marked the modern Sunday].

«Вторник» [Tuesday]:

«В славянских языках ВТОРНИК однозначно читается как “второй” день недели» [In Slavic languages TUESDAY simply reads as the “second” day of the week].

«Среда» [Wednesday]:

«В таких славянских словах, как СРЕДА, СЕРЕДА, а также в немецком Mittwoch, финском Keskeviikko, название дня отмечает наступление середины недели. В древнерусском, оказывается, было ещё одно название среды – “третийник”» [In such Slavic words, as ‘SREDA’ (Wednesday), ‘SEREDA’, and also in the German Mittwoch, the Finnish Keskeviikko, the name of the day marks the advance of the middle of the week. In Old Russian language, it turns out, there was yet another name for Wednesday – ‘tretiynik’ (lit. ‘the third one’)].

«Четверг» [Thursday]:

«В славянских языках значение ЧЕТВЕРГА, очевидно, носит сугубо числовое значение четвёртого дня» [In Slavic languages the meaning of THURSDAY, obviously bears the principally numerical connotation of the fourth day].

«Пятница» [Friday]:

«В славянских языках, как вы уже догадались, этот день по смыслу “пятый”» [In Slavic languages, like you’ve already guessed, this day is according to meaning “the fifth”].

«Суббота» [Saturday]:

«Оказывается, русское название СУББОТА, испанское el Sabado, итальянское Sabato, французское Samedi восходят к ивритскому Шаббат, означающему “покой, отдых“» [It turns out that the Russian name for SATURDAY, the Spanish el Sabado, the Italian Sabato, the French Samedi ascend to the Hebrew word Shabbat, meaning “repose, rest”].

«Воскресенье» [Sunday]:

«День недели ВОСКРЕСЕНЬЕ пишется почти так же, как воскресение – слово, обозначающее то, что Иисус Христос сделал именно в этот день недели. В испанском же Domingo, французском Dimanche, итальянском Domenica, как и в русском ВОСКРЕСЕНЬЕ проявились христианские мотивы» [The weekday SUNDAY is in Russian written almost exactly (but not really!) as the word for resurrection – the word that means that which Jesus Christ did just on this day of the week. In the Spanish word Domingo, the French Dimanche, the Italian Domenica, just like in the Russian ‘RESURRECTION’ showed Christian motives].

Out of the seven Russian week days the last one is the hardest to remember correctly, and learn how to write properly. Try to remember that Sunday has the old neuter noun ending spelling «ье» [soft sign + e], whereas Jesus’ awesome accomplishment is spelled with the more modern ending of «ие» [ji + e]. When pronouncing the word you don’t have to make any difference between the words; they’re pronounced exactly the same. And usually people will know what you mean depending on what context you put the word in. While we’re on the subject it should be added that scholars are still fighting over how to properly translate the title of the famous 19th century novel «Воскресенье» by «Лев Николаевич Толстой» [Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy]. Most translate it as “Resurrection”, but there a few researchers out there fighting to have it called “Sunday”… And some say Tolstoy saw the two as one and the same thing. Whatever the title is meant to mean – it is a wonderful piece of fiction either way.

Good luck with your new fall schedule!

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  1. Ilya Vitic:

    Portuguese has some similarity in not having days of the week named after long-forgotten gods. Monday to Friday are simply 2nd day to 6th day.

  2. Mark Thomson:

    Hi Josefina!

    I live in Sevastopol (Ukraine) but was up in Lutsk over the Sept 1st back-to-school holiday. I had actually wanted to return to Sevastopol earlier, but my girlfriend absolutely insisted I had to be there for little Maxim’s first day of school. Wow! IIn the U.S., the first day of school is a day of mourning. It’s a day for black clouds and tears of pain. But here? In Ukraine? *Every single student* brought flowers for their teacher. Entire families show up in support. Fathers take the morning off from work. Babushkas shuffle in on the tram from the celo. It’s amazing. (Anyway, I have pics if you’re interested in sharing.)

  3. marc:

    Great blog! Very useful.

    A few questions/comments:

    Shouldn’t it be после летних канИкул?

    Finnish “Wednesday” => keskiviikko, with an ‘i’.

    I’m pretty sure “христианские мотивы” is “Christian motifs” and not “motives.”

  4. viktor:

    Nice blog!!!
    Kanikun sounds a littele latin, but no kapusta at all.