This is one of those language skills you need to master early on, so you don’t show up to a doctor’s appointment on the wrong day or a miss an important coffee date. Erin has had several day name mix-ups, so she’s here to encourage you to get this right, and quickly!
The days of the week in German
Montag is Monday
Much like the word in English, Montag is related to thinking of Monday as the moon’s day. Mond is the word for the moon in German, so much like the word in English, it got a bit smooshed together over the years.
Dienstag is Tuesday
Even though it doesn’t look anything like Tuesday in English, it actually is related. It was originally named after an old German called called Tyr or Tíw, hence Tuesday in English. However, by the time modern German rolled around, it became Dienstag, or the day of service, possibly from the Latin dies Martes.
Mittwoch is Wednesday
This is an easy one. Literally the middle of the week (Mitte is middle or centre and Woche is week), it makes much more sense in German. Interestingly, our word Wednesday in English comes from the name of the old Germanic god Woden, sometimes called Odin in Scandinavian mythology. Either word is better than ‘hump day’ in my opinion.
Donnerstag is Thursday
Donner means thunder in German, and we all know which god/superhero controls the thunder, right? It’s Thor with his mighty hammer. In German we have thunder’s day, and in English we have a version of Thor’s day, so really quite similar!
Freitag is Friday
Both the English and German words here are related to the Norse goddess of love, Frige. She was Woden’s wife, and managed everything to do with marriage, love, home, and children. Interestingly, I had always assumed Friday was named after Freya, however it is a little unclear as to whether these two goddesses are actually different or not. Dive deep into Norse mythology for the answer for that one, but the English and German days have the same root, whichever goddess it is!
Samstag is Saturday
We return to Latin for this one, as both English and German draw on dies Saturni (the day of Saturn) for their names. To get confusing, however, in north and eastern Germany you will also hear ‘Sonnenabend’ to mean Saturday, referring to the evening before Sunday.
Sonntag is Sunday
Just like in English, Sonntag is straightforwardly the sun day.
Remember: All the days of the week are masculine, using der and ein.
A trick for Dienstag and Donnerstag
Getting Dienstag and Donnerstag mixed up is a rite of passage for any new German speaker, I think. I all out showed up for a doctor’s appointment on a Tuesday when my appointment was booked for Thursday (they kindly fit me in anyway, whew). A friend let me in on this little trick for helping to remember which is which: Dienstag is a shorter word, so it comes earlier in the week. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve referred to this.
A word of warning on dodgy translations – English speakers learning German are not the only ones to get this wrong. I’ve found Tuesday and Thursday mixed up on unofficial translations more than once, so it always pays to double check.
In German, the days of the week are shortened to only two letters, with no full stop to denote the short form. Like this:
Mo – Montag
Di – Dienstag
Mi – Mittwoch
Do – Donnerstag
Fr – Freitag
Sa – Samstag
So – Sonntag
Reading signs in German
Quickly reading signs about parking, new bus schedules, and store opening hours, means you’ll be using these skills a lot. The phrasing ‘von… bis’ means ‘from… to’, for example: Von Dienstag bis Donnerstag (from Tuesday to Thursday).
Every Monday I dance
Finally, if you want to talk about something happening every week on a specific day, you no longer capitalise the day of the week and add an ‘s’. If I want to say, ‘I dance on Mondays’, it would be: ‘Ich tanze montags’.