Days of the Week

In Portuguese, the naming of os dias da semana the days of the week does not take inspiration from the planets and gods, as is the case for many other languages. Instead, they are simply numbered.

The origin of the names of the days of the week in Portuguese

The numbering of each weekday in Portuguese might have to do with ancient Easter celebrations, in which people were granted seven days of rest, starting from Sunday. Sunday would then be called, in Latin, feria prima (first free day), while the day after would be feria secunda (second free day) and so on. These Latin roots are evident today in the naming of the days of the week in Portuguese.

Day in English Day in Portuguese Origin
Sunday domingo Latin: dies Dominicus (day of the Lord)
Monday segunda-feira Latin: feria secunda
Tuesday terça-feira Latin: feria tertia
Wednesday quarta-feira Latin: feria quarta
Thursday quinta-feira Latin: feria quinta
Friday sexta-feira Latin: feria sexta
Saturday sábado Latin: sabbatum

Domingo and sábado didn’t remain numbered. Domingo Sunday would never be referred to as primeira-feira! But they still mark the first and last day of the week, respectively, as you’ll notice in most calendars. The word sábado is related to the Jewish Shabbat, or Sabbath, a day of rest and worship.

Business Days vs. Weekends

The business days of the week are called dias úteis, which translates literally to “useful days”. These include all of the days that end in -feira, from segunda-feira to sexta-feira.
Sábado and domingo are the days of the fim de semana weekend, when most schools and workplaces are closed.
Apart from os fins de semana, the only times people are free from school or work is during their férias holidays. Férias is another Portuguese word that comes directly from the Latin term feria.

The days of the week in everyday life

“Que dia é hoje?” “Hoje é sexta (-feira).” ”What day is it today?” “Today is Friday.”
In informal situations, the -feira, is often omitted, because the first part of the name is enough to identify it. -Feira, being shared by all five business days, doesn’t do much to differentiate them, so you could just say Hoje é sexta.
The days of the week in Portuguese are also unique in how they’re abbreviated. You can shorten all of them to their first three letters and get Dom., Seg., Ter., Qua., Qui., Sex. and Sáb.
Since the days are named sequentially, an even shorter abbreviation can be used: 2.ª, 3.ª, 4.ª, 5.ª and 6.ª (Monday to Friday).
Because all business days are considered feminine nouns, the abbreviations in the latter group end with a feminine indicator (ª). Sábado and domingo are masculine nouns, however. Pay attention to the gender agreement in each of the following examples:
Na próxima terça, tenho um teste de Inglês.Next Tuesday, I have an English test.
No próximo sábado, tenho um encontro! Next Saturday, I have a date!

Comments:

  • I found the history of how the days became numbered as they are and information about everyday use interesting. Knowing this type of background and use in the context of everyday life helps me anchor my learning.

  • I enjoyed learning the history of the days of the week and I agree with Maureen in that it does help with retaining the words. I hope where relevant, that you will continue to give us this information.

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