Whether you’re a language enthusiast, a K-Pop fan, or you’re simply curious about the rich Korean culture, learning how to say the days of the week in Korean can unlock many new possibilities for you. From making appointments with Korean friends or arranging your schedule, knowing the right words to say can save you lots of trouble. It is also a step towards a deeper appreciation and understanding of Korean culture.
In this article, we’ll take you through Monday to Sunday in Korean, uncovering their origins and pronunciation to help you enhance your Korean vocabulary.
How Does Korea Name the Days of the Week?
In Korea, the names of each day of the week are influenced by both the Chinese and indigenous Korean languages. Traditionally, the Koreans used a system of timekeeping based on the lunar calendar, similar to some other East Asian cultures. Each day was associated with one of the ten celestial stems and one of the twelve terrestrial branches, forming a cycle that repeats every 60 days.
Gradually, as Western concepts were introduced to Korea, the days of the week became more aligned with the seven-day week of the Western calendar system.
Today, although the days of the week follow the Western system, the Korean names of Monday to Sunday can be traced back to ancient East Asian astrological beliefs.
The names of Tuesday to Saturday are influenced by the five elements: Metal, Wood, Water, Fire, and Earth, and are named after five classical planets—Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn—from the Chinese astrological week. Each of the five planets is also associated with one of the five elements. The names of each day were also derived from Chinese characters.
In Chinese astrology, Monday is linked to the moon, which symbolises the beginning of a new cycle. The moon (月 yuè), is also known as “월” (wol) in Chinese characters, or Hanja. “월” (wol), when joined together with “요일”, which means “day of the week”, forms the word “월요일” (wol-yo-il)—Monday.
Tuesday is named after the “fire”, or 화 (hwa), element, or 火 huǒ in Chinese characters. It is called “화요일” (hwa-yo-il). But on top of being known as “fire day,” Tuesday can also mean “the day of Mars (화성 hwa-seong).”
Wednesday is associated with water, 水 shuǐ, and is referred to as “수요일” (su-yo-il). “수” refers to water. Wednesday can also mean “the day of Mercury (수성 su-seong).”
Thursday is called 목요일 (mok-yo-il), which is named after the element “wood”, 木 mù in Chinese characters, or “목” (mok) in Korean. It also means “the day of Jupiter (목성 mok-seong).”
Friday is named after the 金 jīn element, which means “gold”, or “금” (geum), and is called “금요일” (geum-yo-il), which can also refer to “the day of Venus (금성 geum-seong).”
Saturday is named after the “earth”, or 土 tǔ element, and is known as “토요일” (toh-yo-il). “토” translates to soil, and hence, represents earth. Saturday can also mean “the day of Saturn (토성 toh-seong).”
Sunday is called “일요일” (il-yo-il). The “일” in “일요일” is derived from the Hanja character “日” (rì) that means “sun” or “day”. So, 일요일 literally translates to “the day of the sun.”
Learning the days of the week in Korean is a gateway to understanding the cultural influences and historical significance that have shaped the language. If you’re interested in learning more about the Korean language and the way its vocabulary is shaped, consider learning Korean with a Korean tutor.
ONLYOU Korean Language School offers Korean courses in Singapore to those interested in learning more about the Korean language and culture. Sign up for our classes here.