The Religious Origin of the Days of the Week in Portuguese

Colourful favela, Rio de Janeiro
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Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Romanian, and Catalan make up what is called the romance language. The term "romance language" indicates that these languages are derived from what was originally spoken by the Romans. Portuguese is the only romance language in which all the days of the week have their origin in the Catholic liturgy. According to a widely accepted explanation, the change from pagan names to the current terms was initiated by Martinho de Dume, a sixth-century bishop of Braga, the ancient name for where Portugal is today.

Martinho de Dume based the names on the full observance of  Easter week.

Easter week, also known as Holy Week is the most important week on the calendar for Catholics. Despite its name, it is the week leading up to but does not include Easter Sunday. It is also the last week of Lent. The holy days celebrated during week beginning with Palm Sunday, followed by Holy Wednesday (Spy Wednesday), Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday), Good Friday (Holy Friday), and Holy Saturday.

Domingo (Sunday) has its origin in the Latin expression for the Day of the Lord. Saturday was named for the Hebrew word Shabbat. The other days, which mean "second fair", "third fair", all the way up to "sixth fair", came from the Latin terms for the “second day in which one shouldn’t work” (in observance of Easter week). The weekday names should not be confused with the Portuguese word for vacation,  férias.

Here's the list of the days of the week in Portuguese in both the correct and phonetic spellings: 

  • Domingo [doo-meen-goo] – Sunday
  • Segunda-feira [say-goon-dah fay-ee-rah] – Monday
  • Terça-feira [tayr-sah fay-ee-rah] – Tuesday
  • Quarta-feira [kwar-tah fay-ee-rah]  – Wednesday
  • Quinta-feira [keen-tah fay-ee-rah] – Thursday
  • Sexta-feira [say-eesh-tah fay-ee-rah] – Friday
  • Sábado [sah-bah-doo] – Saturday