Hungarian Days of the Week

Just stumbled over Hungarian “Péntek” for Friday, and was wondering whether it’s an accident that it’s really similar to Greek πέντε (5), it being the fifth day of the week. Turns out Hungarian weekdays are quite interesting (I have no specific knowledge of Hungarian whatsoever).

  1. Hétfő — hét “week” + fő “head”. hét does quite look like Greek ἑπτά (hepta) “seven”, and was indeed borrowed from some Indo-European language at some point. One Week = seven days. fő is Finno-Ugric, from Proto-Uralic *päŋe “head”. Head of the week. Cantonese (and probably quite some languages) use the head to signify the beginning of something, for example 年頭 nin4tau4 “beginning of the year”.
  2. Kedd — from Hungarian két “two”. Proto-Uralic *käktä “two”.
  3. Szerda — from Slavic, see for example Slovene sreda “Wednesday”. Related to Proto-IE *ḱḗr “heart”, here in the meaning of “middle” Compare German “Mittwoch” “middle of the week”. “Heart”, “cardio-” and others also come from the same root.
  4. Csütörtök — from Proto-Slavic *četvьrtъ “fourth”, from Proto-IE *kʷetwóres (source of quattro, four, Irish ceathair, Persian چهار čahâr, Greek τέσσερις tésseris, … You go, four!! :)
  5. Péntek — Proto-Slavic *pętъ “fifth”. Proto-IE *pénkʷe, source of fünf, five, Hindi पाँच pām̐c, Persian پنج panj, cinque, πέντε pénte, Albanian pesë, …
  6. Szombat — from Proto-Slavic sǫbota, via Medieval Latin sabbatum, which got it from Ancient Greek σάββατον, which got it from Hebrew שַׁבָּת šabbāṯ.
  7. Vasárnap — from nap “day” (unknown origin) and Vasár “market”. Hmm… Bazaar? Yup, vásár came to Hungarian via Middle Persian wāzār (modern Persian بازار bâzâr). Sunday = Market day.

I’m aware that day names are a special case and in no way representative of a language, but it’s fascinating to see how we have a wild mix of Indo-European in here, with some Hebrew thrown in for spice :)

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