Days of the Week in Mongolian & Buryat: Planetary and Numbered Names
There are two different naming systems current in Mongolian-speaking lands: systems based on numbering, and systems based on planetary names. Each country or area has a different system or systems of names.
The predominant systems of naming use numbers to identify the days of the week. The specific names differ according to the country, with different names used in Mongolia, China, and Russia (Buryatia).
The following names are those used in Mongolia itself. (Traditional Mongolian script is given for reference; Mongolia now almost exclusively uses the Cyrillic alphabet):
|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' can be omitted in ordinary conversation.
The days from Monday to Friday use ordinal numbers; that is, they go ‘day no. 1’, ‘day no. 2’, 'day no. 3', etc. The term дахь dakh' or дэх dekh means 'number'. The form used depends on the vowel in the preceding word. Хоёр khoyor, гурав gurav, and тав tav contain masculine vowels, resulting in the use of дахь dakh'; нэг neg and дөрөв döröv contain feminine vowels, resulting in the use of дэх dekh.
The two weekend days are an exception. They are named according to whether there is a full day off work (Sunday) or only half a day (Saturday). Although this is now becoming anachronistic, especially for staff in larger companies, the naming remains unchanged. The word for 'week' in Mongolian is долоо хоног doloo khonog, literally 'seven days'.
This naming system gives little hint of its possible origin. To help connect the dots, it is useful to look at Mongolian as it is spoken across the border in the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region of China.
Numbering in China
Mongols in China use virtually the same numbering system as 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 Inner Mongolian word for 'week', гараг garag (also spelt гариг garig in Cyrillic). The original meaning of гараг garag is 'planet'.
- Number (ending in -н)
Sunday is known as гарагийн өдөр garagiŋ ödör 'day of the week'.
These names are clearly modelled on the official Chinese names for the days of the week, which are based on the word 星期 xīngqī 'week'. The Mongolian names have been derived by mechanically replacing 星期 xīngqī 'week' (literally 'star period') with гараг garag 'week / planet'. As in Chinese, 'Sunday' is known as the 'week day'. Like the Chinese word 星期 xīngqī, which alludes to the planetary names brought to China by the Buddhists a millennium ago, гараг garag 'planet' is a direct reference to the planetary naming familiar to the Mongols through Tibet (for more on this, see below).
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, with Monday as гарагийн нэгдэх өдөр garagiŋ neg dekh ödör 'number one day of the week', etc. This incorporates both гарагийн garagiŋ 'week/planet' and дэх dekh 'number'. It's not possible to state definitively, however, that the two sets of modern names actually derive from this single format.
Numbering in Buryat (Russia)
Evidence from Buryat, a standardised variety of Mongolian spoken in Buryatia (Russian Federation), yields conflicting results. The Buryat language is very close to Mongolian and is treated in both China and Mongolia as a dialect of Mongolian. However, in Russia it is an independent language with its own literary standard.
The native Buryat names (which have now largely been replaced by Russian names) are as follows:
|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'|
These names follow the Inner Mongolian format, using the term гараг garag, 'planet' or 'week'. This suggests that the "гараг garag plus genitive" format was once common both to the north and the south of modern-day Mongolia.
On the other hand, Buryat uses a different numbering convention from either Inner Mongolia or Mongolia. Sunday is called the 'first day of the week' and the subsequent days are numbered accordingly.
The origins of this 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 taking Monday as the second day are neighbouring Turkic languages 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.
To sum up the numerical names:
1. Inner Mongolian naming 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 now largely defunct 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.
As a result of the profound influence of Tibetan Buddhism (lamaism) on the Mongols through the centuries, Mongolian has historically used both Tibetan and Sanskrit planetary names for the days of the week. In addition, Mongolian also has native Mongolian names for the planets and names influenced by Chinese. (See Note 13: The Seven Luminaries in Mongolian). Currently, only the Tibetan names are used for days of the week in Mongolia and (possibly) in Buryatia. The Kalmyk language also uses planetary names (see below).
Tibetan planetary names
Mongolia currently uses the Tibetan planetary names as a second set of names for days of the week. The Tibetan names are principally found in documents and public signs, e.g., advertising hours of business. They are not normally used in conversation. These names are not used at all in Inner Mongolia.
The Tibetan names are as follows (with Buryat forms given below):
In their full form, these names include the word гараг garag (or гариг garig) meaning ‘planet’: ням гараг nyam garag 'sun planet', даваа гараг davaa garag 'moon planet', мягмар гараг myagmar garag 'Mars planet', хлагва гараг khlagv garag 'Mercury planet', пүрэв гараг pürev garag 'Jupiter planet', баасан гараг baasaŋ garag 'Venus planet', and бяамба гараг byamb garag 'Saturn planet'.
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 4: The Buddhist route of transmission).
Indian planetary names
Besides the Tibetan names, Mongolian has historically also used Indian terms for the days of the week. However, these are no longer used in naming the days of the week. They are mostly used as names of planets and 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. Indian-based names for the days of the week are as follows:
In their full form, these 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 planetary names are found in both Hindi and Southeast Asian languages such as Thai.
Chinese planetary names
A third set of planetary names is based on the five elements of Chinese, paralleling the Seven Luminaries of Chinese and the Japanese names of the days of the week.
These names are as shown below (from Mongolian Wikipedia and Antoine Mostaert via China History Forum, with disagreement about the word for Friday):
|наран өдөр||саран өдөр||гал өдөр||усан өдөр||модон өдөр||төмөр өдөр,
|naraŋ ödör||saraŋ ödör||gal ödör||usaŋ ödör||modoŋ ödör||tömör ödör,
||'moon day'||'fire day'||'water day'||'wood day'||'iron day, gold day'||'earth day'|
These are seldom used except for the purpose of bestowing personal names.
Mongolian planetary names
Mongolian also has a native set of planetary names, which can be found at Note 13: The Seven Luminaries in Mongolian. These are now only used in the Kalmyk names of days of the week (see below).
There is one language in the Mongolian group that has not adopted numbered names and still exclusively maintains the planetary names for the days of the week: Kalmyk, which is closely related to the Oirat form of Mongolian. It is spoken in Kalmykia in Russia, where it has been standardised with a different Cyrillic orthography from Mongolian and Buryat.
Kalmyk uses a mixture of Tibetan and native planetary names for the days of the week (from geonames.de).
The Tibetan names survive at Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. For Sunday, Monday and Wednesday, Kalmyk uses native Mongolian names.
Mongolian & Buryat