Days of the Week in Mongolian: Planetary and Numbered Names
There are two different systems for naming the days of the week in Mongolian-speaking lands: those based on numbering the days, and those based on the names of the planets. Each country or area uses a different system or systems of names.
The predominant system in Mongolia numbers the days of the week, as seen in the following table. (Traditional Mongolian script is given for reference)
|ᠪᠦᠲᠦᠨ ᠰᠠᠢᠨ ᠡᠳᠦᠷ||ᠨᠢᠭᠡᠳᠡᠬᠢ ᠡᠳᠦᠷ||ᠬᠣᠶᠠᠳᠠᠬᠢ ᠡᠳᠦᠷ||ᠭᠣᠷᠪᠠᠳᠠᠬᠢ ᠡᠳᠦᠷ||ᠳᠦᠷᠪᠡᠳᠡᠬᠢ ᠡᠳᠦᠷ||ᠲᠠᠪᠣᠳᠠᠬᠢ ᠡᠳᠦᠷ||ᠬᠠᠭᠠᠰ ᠰᠠᠢᠨ ᠡᠳᠦᠷ|
|бүтэн сайн өдөр||нэгдэх өдөр||хоёрдахь өдөр||гуравдахь өдөр||дөрөвдэх өдөр||тавдахь өдөр||хагас сайн өдөр|
|büteŋ saiŋ ödör||neg dekh ödör||khoyor dakh' ödör||gurav dakh' ödör||döröv dekh ödör||tav dakh' ödör||khagas saiŋ ödör|
|'full good day' (='full holiday')||'first day'||'second day'||'third day'||'fourth day'||'fifth day'||'half good day' (='half holiday')|
The word өдөр ödör 'day' is often omitted in ordinary conversation.
|бүтэн сайн||нэгдэх||хоёрдахь||гуравдахь||дөрөвдэх||тавдахь||хагас сайн|
|büteŋ saiŋ||neg dekh||khoyor dakh'||gurav dakh'||döröv dekh||tav dakh'||khagas saiŋ|
Features of the naming are:
- The days from Monday to Friday use ordinal numbers; that is, they go ‘day no. 1’, ‘day no. 2’, 'day no. 3', etc. Дахь dakh' / дэх dekh is a word meaning 'number'. The form depends on the vowel in the preceding word. Хоёр khoyor, гурав gurav, and тав tav contain masculine vowels, calling for дахь dakh'. Нэг neg and дөрөв döröv contain feminine vowels, calling for дэх dekh.
- Saturday and Sunday are named according to whether there was a full day off work (Sunday) or only half a day (Saturday) during Soviet times. Although this is now anachronistic, especially in larger companies, the naming remains unchanged.
The word for 'week' in Mongolia is долоо хоног doloo khonog, literally 'seven days'.
This naming system gives little hint of its possible origin, although it may be related to Mongolian as spoken in China (see below).
A second set of names is based on the Tibetan names of the Sun, Moon, and the planets, a result of the profound influence of Tibetan Buddhism (lamaism) through the centuries. The Tibetan names are now principally used in official contexts such as documents and public signs, e.g., hours of business. They are not normally used in conversation.
The Tibetan names are as follows:
|ᠨᠢᠮᠠ (ᠭᠠᠷᠠᠭ)||ᠳᠠᠸᠠ (ᠭᠠᠷᠠᠭ)||ᠮᠢᠭᠮᠠᠷ (ᠭᠠᠷᠠᠭ)||ᡀᠠᠭᠪᠠ (ᠭᠠᠷᠠᠭ)||ᠫᠦᠷᠪᠦ (ᠭᠠᠷᠠᠭ)||ᠪᠠᠰᠠᠩ (ᠭᠠᠷᠠᠭ)||ᠪᠢᠮᠪᠡ (ᠭᠠᠷᠠᠭ)|
|ням (гараг)||даваа (гараг)||мягмар (гараг)||лхагва (гараг)||пүрэв (гараг)||баасан (гараг)||бямба (гараг)|
|nyam (garag)||davaa (garag)||myagmar (garag)||khlagv (garag)||pürev (garag)||baasaŋ (garag)||byamb (garag)|
|'sun (planet)'||'moon (planet)'||'Mars (planet)'||'Mercury (planet)'||'Jupiter (planet)'||'Venus (planet)'||'Saturn (planet)'|
In their full form, these names include the word гараг garag (or гариг garig) meaning ‘planet’, but this is often omitted.
The original Tibetan names are:
|gza' nyi ma||gza' zla ba||gza' mig dmar||gza' lhag pa||gza' phur bu||gza' pa sangs||gza' spen pa|
||'planet moon'||'planet Mars'||'planet Mercury'||'planet Jupiter'||'planet Venus'||'planet Saturn'|
In naming the days after the Sun, Moon, and planets, the Tibetans were following Indian models, which were, in turn, based on influence from ancient Mesopotamia (Note: The Buddhist route of transmission).
B. Inner Mongolia and other Mongolian-speaking areas of China
Mongols in China use a similar numbering system to that in Mongolia but with a different format:
|ᠭᠠᠷᠠᠭ ᠦᠨ ᠡᠳᠦᠷ||ᠭᠠᠷᠠᠭ ᠦᠨ ᠨᠢᠭᠡᠨ||ᠭᠠᠷᠠᠭ ᠦᠨ ᠬᠣᠶᠠᠷ||ᠭᠠᠷᠠᠭ ᠦᠨ ᠭᠣᠷᠪᠠᠨ||ᠭᠠᠷᠠᠭ ᠦᠨ ᠳᠦᠷᠪᠡᠨ||ᠭᠠᠷᠠᠭ ᠦᠨ ᠲᠠᠪᠣᠨ||ᠭᠠᠷᠠᠭ ᠦᠨ ᠵᠢᠷᠭᠣᠭᠠᠨ|
|гарагийн өдөр||гарагийн нэгэн||гарагийн хоёр||гарагийн гурван||гарагийн дөрвөн||гарагийн таван||гарагийн зургаан|
|garagiŋ ödör||garagiŋ negeŋ||garagiŋ khoyor||garagiŋ gurvaŋ||garagiŋ dörvöŋ||garagiŋ tavaŋ||garagiŋ zurgaaŋ|
|'day of the week'||'one of the week'||'two of the week'||'three of the week'||'four of the week'||'five of the week'||'six of the week'|
The names consist of:
- гарагийн garagiŋ, the genitive (possessive) form of the word гараг garag (or гариг garig). The original meaning of гараг garag is 'planet', but it is now also used in Inner Mongolia to mean 'week'.
- For all but Sunday, a number ending in -н -n, with the exception of хоёр khoyor, which does not normally take a final -н -n. The names literally mean 'x of the week'.
- Sunday is known as гарагийн өдөр garagiŋ ödör, literally 'day of the week'.
These names run completely parallel to the official Chinese names for the days of the week, which are based on the word 星期 xīngqī 'week' (literally 'star period'). The Mongolian names mechanically equate 星期 xīngqī 'week' ('star period') to гараг garag 'week' ('planet').
As in Chinese, 'Sunday' is known as the 'week day' or 'day of the week'. Like Chinese 星期 xīngqī, which alludes to the planetary names brought to China by the Buddhists over a millennium ago, гараг garag 'planet' refers to the planetary naming familiar from Tibetan. However, the Tibetan planetary names themselves are no longer in general use for days of the week in Mongolian as spoken in China.
C. Buryat (Russia)
The Buryat language is a variety of Mongolian spoken in Buryatia (Russian Federation), Mongolia and China. In China and Mongolia it is treated as a dialect of Mongolian. However, in Russia an independent literary standard has been set up using the Cyrillic script. Buryat is an endangered language in Russia.
Buryat as standardised in Russia uses a system of numbering the days of the week:
|гарагай нэгэн||гарагай хоёр||гарагай гурбан||гарагай дүрбэн||гарагай табан||гарагай зургаан||гарагай долоон|
|garagaj nägän||garagaj ȟojor||garagaj gurban||garagaj dürbän||garagaj taban||garagaj zurgaan||garagaj doloon|
|'one of the week'||'two of the week'||'three of the week'||'four of the week'||'five of the week'||'six of the week'||'seven of the week'|
The names follow the Inner Mongolian format, using the term гараг garag, 'planet' or 'week'. Since it is found both to the north and the south of modern Mongolia, his suggests that the "гараг garag plus genitive" format may previously have been more widespread in Mongolian-speaking areas.
What is curious, however, is that Buryat uses a different numbering convention from Inner Mongolia and Mongolia. Sunday, not Monday, is identified as the 'first day of the week' and the subsequent days are numbered accordingly. The reason for this divergence is not clear.
The planetary names appear to also be known in Buryatia in the following form:
However, Buryats now mostly use the Russian names for the days of the week:
|'resurrection'||'day after Sunday'||'second'||'middle'||'fourth'||'fifth'||'Sabbath'|
Kalmyk does not use a system of numbering the days of the week. Instead it uses a mixture of Tibetan and native planetary names (names are from geonames.de).
The Tibetan names survive at Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. For Sunday, Monday and Wednesday, Kalmyk uses native Mongolian names.
E. Background and origins
Numerically-based names are used in Mongolia, Mongolian-speaking areas of China, and Buryatia in Russia. The relationship among the three can be summed up as follows:
1. Naming in China is modelled on the Chinese 星期 xīngqī names, which came into official use in 1912. The names feature the word гараг garag 'planet', which was familiar from the Tibetan planetary names. Possibly under the influence of 星期 xīngqī, the word гараг garag now also means 'week' in Inner Mongolia.
2. Mongolia has an ordinal numbering system for the weekdays while naming the weekend days as rest days. Mongolia does not use the word гараг garag in numbering the days of the week, although the word is familiar from the Tibetan planetary names.
3. Buryat has a system of names that resembles the Inner Mongolian names in form. However, the numbering is different, starting with Sunday as day no. 1. There does not appear to be a plausible explanation for this difference.
Teasing out connections among the three is difficult.
Although the relationship between the Mongolian and Inner Mongolian names is unclear, there is a distinct possibility that they have a common origin. One Inner Mongolian dictionary captures this possibility by listing a format incorporating both systems, with Monday as гарагийн нэгдэх өдөр garagiŋ neg dekh ödör 'number one day of the week', гарагийн хоёр дахь өдөр garagiŋ khoyor dakh' ödör 'number two day of the week', etc. This uses both гарагийн garagiŋ 'week/planet' and дахь dakh' / дэх dekh 'number'. It's not possible to state definitively, however, that the two sets of modern names actually derive from this single format.
The origins of the divergent Buryat numbering are unclear. Most languages in the surrounding area, as well as Russian, treat Monday as the first day of the week. The closest languages geographically that take Monday as the second day are Turkic languages of central Asia that have borrowed the Persian names. For example, the Persian word for Monday, دوشَنبه dūshanbah 'second day', has been borrowed into Kazakh (дүйсенбi düysenbi), Kyrgyz (дүйшөмбүa düyşömbü), Uyghur (دۈشەنبە düshenbe) and others. The Iranian language Tajik also uses the term душанбе duşanbe. It is not inconceivable that these languages influenced Buryat. However, there is no clear channel of influence in the given time frame (early 20th century). Without a proper study of historical materials, any hypothesis remains mere conjecture.
Mongolian has historically used a range of names for the planets, which are linked with the days of the week. This includes Tibetan, Indian, Chinese-influenced, and native Mongolian names for the planets. These names are associated with Buddhism, and more particularly lamaism, which came from Tibet. All of these systems survive and are still available for use.
'greedy old woman'
The second column shows the Tibetan names, which are currently used for days of the week in Mongolia and (possibly) in Buryatia. The Kalmyk language (see above) also partially employs the Tibetan names in naming the days of the week.
The third column shows Indian terms for the planets and the days of the week. These are currently used as the general names for the planets in Mongolia, and also in giving personal names based on the day of the week on which a person was born. For example Санчир sanchir is used for people born on Saturday, Сугар sugar for people born on Friday, Адъяа adyaa for people born on Sunday, and Ангараг angarag for people born on Wednesday.
In their full form, the names are also accompanied by the word гараг garag ‘planet’. Slight variations in spelling include Ангариг angarig for Ангараг angarag and Бархасбад barkhasbad for Бархасбадь barkhasbad'. These Sanskrit planetary names are still used in both Hindi and Southeast Asian languages such as Thai.
The fourth column shows the native Mongolian names for the planets. They start with the sun and the moon, then cycle through some well-known as well as obscure terms. The name for Jupiter is more normally found in the term алтан гадасан altan gadasan 'golden gadasan' or Pole Star. Цолмон tsolmon is a common word used in Mongolian names. These names are used for certain of the Kalmyk names of days of the week.
The fifth column shows names of planets based on the five elements of Chinese, that is, the Seven Luminaries, which are used in the Japanese and Korean names of the days of the week. There are actually two alternatives for rendering 金 jīn (алт alt 'gold' and төмөр tömör 'iron'). The sixth column shows the actual Chinese names, including how they are read in Mandarin, Japanese, and Korean.
These are seldom used except for the purpose of bestowing personal names.