Days of the Week in Mongolian & Buryat: Planetary and Numbered Names
Mongolian is spoken in the state of Mongolia as well as the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region and some other parts of China. Both have their own literary standard, although that of the state of Mongolia is far better known than the Chinese standard.
The Buryat language is close to Mongolian and indeed is treated in both China and Mongolia as a dialect of Mongolian. In Buryatia, Russia, however, it is an independent language with its own literary standard.
Mongolian, Buryat, and Kalmyk have two types of naming systems for the days of the week:
* Those based on the names of the sun, moon, and planets -- mostly obsolete or literary (except in Kalmyk).
Historically, planetary names appear to be older. Several systems of planetary names exist, based on Indian, Tibetan, and native vocabulary respectively, but only the Tibetan-based names are current in Mongolian and Buryat, and even these are mostly confined to written contexts. Kalmyk uses a mixed planetary system.
* Those based on a system of numbering -- current in Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, and Buryatia, but differing in detail.
The everyday naming of days of the week in Inner Mongolia, Mongolia, and Buryatia is based on numbering.
In addition, Buryat also uses the Russian names.
The names are given below in Traditional Mongolian script where possible, with Cyrillic for reference. (Note that using Cyrillic for Inner Mongolian names may be slightly inaccurate because the Cyrillic standard was specifically devised for Mongolia. The Cyrillic script for Buryat and Kalmyk is different from Mongolian as the Russians treated each as being a different language from Mongolian.)
A. PLANETARY NAMES
1. Tibetan planetary names
Tibetan Buddhism (lamaism) had an overwhelming cultural influence on the Mongols through several centuries. It is thus quite unremarkable that Mongolian and Buryat should have adopted names for days of the week from Tibetan. The Tibetan names themselves are straight planetary names, probably based on Indian models. The Tibetan names are:
|Pronunciation (Wylie)||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'|
The borrowed names as used in Mongolian are:
In their full form, these names include the word гариг garig (or гарaг garag) meaning ‘planet’: ням гариг nyam garig, даваа гариг, davaa garig, мягмар гариг myagmar garig, хлагва гариг khlagv garig, пүрэв гариг pürev garig, баасан гариг baasaŋ garig, and бяамба гариг byamb garig. However it is more common to omit it, as in the table.
The original meaning of гариг/гарaг garig/garag is ‘planet’, but thanks to its association with the names of the days of the week, it now means 'week' in Inner Mongolia. (In Mongolia itself, the word for week is долоон хоног dolooŋ honog 'seven days'.)
The Buryat forms of the Tibetan names are as follows (Buryat transliterations are from geonames.de):
The Tibetan-based names are still in use in Mongolia, where they have undergone something of a revival, as well as Buryat and also partially in the Kalmyk names.
The Kalmyk names are as follows (from geonames.de):
Note that the Tibetan names survive at Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, while Sunday and Monday use native words (see below).
However, the Tibetan names have almost completely fallen out of use in Inner Mongolia, and even in Mongolia itself they are now found only in written use, principally found in documents and public signs advertising hours of business.
The Tibetan names are frequently used in Mongolian personal names, usually reflecting the day of the week on which the person was born.
Besides the Tibetan planetary names, Mongolian in the past has also used planetary names based on Indian names (also under Tibetan influence) and Mongolian native words (reflecting Chinese influence).
2. Indian planetary names
The Indian planetary names for the days of the week are:
These names in their full form are, like the Tibetan-based names, accompanied by the word гариг garig (or гарaг garag) ‘planet’. Slight variations in spelling include Ангариг angarig for Ангараг angarag and Бархасбад barkhasbad for Бархасбадь barkhasbad'.
These names are now principally used for the planets themselves. However, the connection with the days of the week is still alive, for instance, in their use in personal names reflecting the day of birth (the most common being Санчир sanchir and Сугар sugar).
The Indian planetary names themselves were a result of Western influence dating back to the 5th century. (Note 4: The Buddhist route of transmission) They are still used for the days of the week both in India and those areas culturally influenced by India. For reference, the following table shows Sanskrit, Hindi, and Thai names for the days of the week (thanks to geonames.de).
|Transliteration||wân ātʰit||wân čân||wân âṅkʰān||wân put||wân priahâtbadī,
|wân suk||wân saw|
||'moon (planet)'||'Mars (planet)'||'Mercury (planet)'||'Jupiter (planet)'||'Venus (planet)'||'Saturn (planet)'|
In addition to the Tibetan and Indian names, a third set of planetary names using native Mongolian words also exists. For the weekdays, these are based on the five elements of Chinese. They thus parallel the Seven Luminaries of Chinese and are similar to the Japanese names of the days of the week. (See also the Seven Luminaries in Mongolian). However, they are very seldom used and are not found in most ordinary Mongolian sources. One notable exception is the use of the word for 'sun' and 'moon' in the Kalmyk names for the days of the week.
The native planetary names are as shown below (from Mongolian Wikipedia and Antoine Mostaert via China History Forum, with disagreement about the word for Friday):
|Cyrillic||наран өдөр||саран өдөр||гал өдөр||усан өдөр||модон өдөр||төмөр өдөр,
|Transliteration||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'|
In the everyday spoken language, Mongolian speakers in both Mongolia and Inner Mongolia use systems of numbered days. Buryat also uses a slightly different numbering system.
1. Numbered days of the week (Mongolia)
In Mongolia, the days of the week are named as follows:
a) The days from Monday to Friday use ordinals, that is, they are called ‘day no. 1’, ‘day no. 2’, etc. This is based on the use of дахь dakh' or дэх dekh, with the actual form being determined by vowel harmony, based on whether the vowel of the number itself is masculine or feminine. Хоёр khoyor, гурав gurav, and тав tav contain masculine vowels; нэг neg and дөрөв döröv contain feminine vowels.
b) Sunday is known as ‘full good day’ (i.e. 'full holiday') and Saturday is known as ‘half good day’ ('half holiday'). The name for Sunday is based on the fact that it is a full day of rest.
|Cyrillic||бүтэн сайн өдөр||нэгдэх өдөр||хоёрдахь өдөр||гуравдахь өдөр||дөрөвдэх өдөр||тавдахь өдөр||хагас сайн өдөр|
|Transliteration||büteŋ saiŋ ödör||neg dekh ödör||khoyor dakh' ödör||gurav dakh' ödör||döröv dekh ödör||tav dakh' ödör||khagas saiŋ ödör|
|Rough meaning||'full good day' (='full holiday')||'first day'||'second day'||'third day'||'fourth day'||'fifth day'||'half good day' (='half holiday')|
2. Numbered days of the week (Inner Mongolia)
Inner Mongolia uses a slightly different set of numbered names that follow the Chinese official names.
Chinese officially uses 星期 xīngqī, meaning 'week', to form the names of days of the week, counting the days from Monday as 'week one', Tuesday as 'week two', through to Saturday as 'week six'. Sunday is 'week day', an incongruous term as explained here. This system was first recorded in 1889.
Inner Mongolian usage is based on the word гариг/гараг garig/garag 'planet'. The use of гариг/гараг garig/garag here is probably a result of the Tibetan planetary names and is reason for assuming that the Tibetan planetary names must have come before the numbered names.
Where Chinese says ‘week one, week two, etc.’ for the days of the week, Mongolian uses ‘one of the week’, ‘two of the week, etc.’ This takes the form 'гарагийн garagiŋ + number', where гарагийн garagiŋ is the genitive (possessive) of гараг garag.
This is similar to the normal method of citing dates in Mongolian. For instance, the 'first of January' is нэгдүгээр сарын нэгэн negdügeer sariŋ negeŋ 'one of the first-month'. In both cases the word 'day' is understood. The names of the days of the week thus mean '(day) one of the week', '(day) two of the week', and so on.
The giveway to a Chinese origin is the name for Sunday, гарагийн өдөр garagiŋ ödör, literally ‘day of the planet’ or 'day of the week', which is clearly modelled on the Chinese term 星期天 xīngqītian ‘week day’.
|Cyrillic||гарагийн өдөр||гарагийн нэгэн||гарагийн хоёр||гарагийн гурван||гарагийн дөрвөн||гарагийн таван||гарагийн зургаан|
|Transliteration||garagiŋ ödör||garagiŋ negeŋ||garagiŋ khoyor||garagiŋ gurvaŋ||garagiŋ dörvöŋ||garagiŋ tavaŋ||garagiŋ zurgaaŋ|
|Rough meaning||'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 relationship with the numbering system used in Mongolia is unclear. To sum up the situation:
1. Inner Mongolia uses names modelled on the Chinese 星期 xīngqī names, a system first recorded in 1889. The Inner Mongolian names use the word гариг/гараг garig/garag 'planet', probably a relic of the old Tibetan planetary names. Гариг/гараг garig/garag also means 'week' in modern usage.
2. For the weekdays, Mongolia has an ordinal numbering system and does not use the word гариг/гараг garig/garag. In Mongolia, гариг/гараг garig/garag is not normally used to mean 'week'. The two weekend days have separate names.
An intriguing bridge between the two systems is found in one particular dictionary published in China, the Shin monggol-khyatad tol' / Xīn hàn-měng cídiǎn (Шинэ Монгол Хятад толь / 新汉蒙词典), which gives a longer version of the numbered day names. For the weekday names, these look like full forms of both the Inner Mongolian names and the Mongolian names, and are thus possibly the original forms. They mean quite explicitly 'first day of the week', 'second day of the week', etc. The names are:
|Cyrillic||гарагийн өдөр||гарагийн нэгдэх өдөр||гарагийн хоёрдахь өдөр||гарагийн гуравдахь өдөр||гарагийн дөрөвдэх өдөр||гарагийн тавдахь өдөр||гарагийн зургаадахь өдөр|
|Transliteration||garagiŋ ödör||garagiŋ neg dekh ödör||garagiŋ khoyor dakh' ödör||garagiŋ gurav dakh' ödör||garagiŋ döröv dekh ödör||garagiŋ tav dakh' ödör||garagiŋ zurgaa dakh' ödör|
|Rough meaning||'week day'
||'first day of the week'||'second day of the week'||'third day of the week'||'fourth day of the week'||'fifth day of the week'||'sixth day of the week'|
If this set of names is the common source for the two sets of names, the names quite likely date back to the late Qing dynasty (specifically the period between 1889 and 1911), when all of Mongolia was under Chinese rule.
However, the above must be treated cautiously. First, the dictionary concerned is not entirely trustworthy as a source of Mongolian since it adopts an idiosyncratic approach to vocabulary, listing names that are not in actual use. Secondly, I have no solid sources detailing the origins or history of these names.
3. Numbered days of the week (Buryat)
As in Mongolian, the most common Buryat names for days of the week are numbered names. The names closely resemble those of Inner Mongolia, taking the form of the genitive of гараг garag ('day', 'week') -- гарагай garagaj in Buryat -- followed by a number. But unlike either of the Mongolian numbering systems, the days are counted from Sunday rather than Monday. Thus, Sunday is 'one of the week', Monday is 'two of the week', Tuesday is 'three of the week', etc. There are no special names for Saturday or Sunday.
|Cyrillic||гарагай нэгэн||гарагай хоёр||гарагай гурбан||гарагай дүрбэн||гарагай табан||гарагай зургаан||гарагай долоон|
|Transliteration||garagaj nägän||garagaj ȟojor||garagaj gurban||garagaj dürbän||garagaj taban||garagaj zurgaan||garagaj doloon|
|Rough meaning||'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 source of this numbering is a mystery. Worldwide there are not many languages that clearly number the days from Sunday. The Russian names, which would be the most obvious model, clearly count from Monday. Languages that do start on Sunday include Persian, Hebrew, Old Turkic, modern Greek, and Vietnamese. The mechanism by which Buryat adopted the form of naming found in Inner Mongolia but a different starting day for the numbering is simply unknown.
C. RUSSIAN NAMES
1. Russian names
Buryat has belonged to Russia since Tsarist times and has been strongly influenced by Russian. As a consequence, Buryat also uses the Russian names for days of the week:
Mongolian & Buryat