Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The names of the days of the week, Part 2: Sp. martes (and related words)

[This entry comes from first section ("Introduction") of Chapter 20 ("The names of the days of the week") of Part II of the open-source textbook Spanish-English Cognates: An Unconventional Introduction to Spanish Linguistics.]

From Lat. mārtĭs to Sp. martes

The source of the Spanish word martes ‘Tuesday’ is Lat. diēs mārtĭs ‘day of Mars’. (Since Latin did not distinguish between capital and lower-case letters, we will not capitalize the Latin word for Mars either. Also, remember that, unlike in English, in Spanish, the names of the days of the week are not capitalized.) The Latin word diēs ‘day’, which is the source of Sp. día, is in the nominative case (for more on this word, see §20.6 below). The word mārtĭs ‘of Mars’, on the other hand, is in the genitive or possessive case, not in the nominative case, which would have been mars. That is because mārtĭs meant ‘of Mars’, not just ‘Mars’.[1]


‘of Mars’


Lat. mārtĭs is formed from the word’s regular stem mārt‑ and the possessive suffix ‑ĭs. In other words, the word mārs in Latin had an irregular nominative case, whereas the other case wordforms were made from the regular stem mart‑ and the regular, third declension, inflectional noun endings. The reason that the name of the day in Spanish is martes, with an e, and not martis, with an i, is that the i in Latin was short, i.e. it was ĭ, and that Latin vowel always became e in Spanish.[2]

Mars, the god of war

And who was this Mars that the day is named after? It was, of course, the Romans’ god of war, whose name descends from an earlier Māvors. The day was named after him because the day was consecrated to him. It is also after him that the Romans named the fourth planet from the Sun and the second-smallest planet in the Solar System, a name that endures in modern English and Spanish. The planet Mars is also known as the Red Planet because of the iron oxide present on the surface that gives it a reddish color. The Romans presumably gave the planet the name of their god of war because of this reddish, blood-like color.

The names of the god and the planet in English, Mars /ˈmɑɹz/, have been taken from the nominative case of the Latin word, namely mars. English borrowed this name in the 14th century, straight from written Latin. The names of the god and the planet in Spanish, on the other hand, have been taken from the accusative case of the Latin word, namely mārtem (mārt‑em), with a loss of a final Latin ‑m that took place very early on in the development of the Romance languages. It must be said, however, that early attestations of the name in Spanish are Mares, obviously derived from the nominative mars, and not Marte.

As in all the names of the days, Spanish dropped the diēs part from the Latin name. Not all Romance languages did this, however. In Catalan, for instance, Tuesday is dimarts, a simplification of dies martis, but without dropping the first part of the phrase. In French the name of the day is mardi, a contraction or ‘corruption’ of martis dies, which is exactly the same thing as dies martis but with the order of the words reversed, which was a perfectly good alternative word order in Latin. The same thing happened in Italian for in this language, Tuesday is martedi.

Going back to the god Mars, he was only second in importance to Jupiter for the Romans (see §20.5 below). He was seen as the ancestor of the Romans, since the was the father of Romulus and Remus, the mythic ancestors of the Romans. Also, he was more than just the god of war for, although he was the most prominent of the military gods, he was also a protector of agriculture. He came to be seen as the equivalent of the Greek god Ares, though the latter god was a violent and destructive god and the former a securer of peace and stability. In Roman times, festivals to this god took place during the month that we now call March after him. The Romans called this month mēnsis mārtĭus ‘month of Mars’. Lat. mārtĭus was an adjective derived from the noun mārs (mārt-ĭ-us) and from that mārtĭus come both Eng. March and Sp. marzo, as well as Ital. marzo, Fr. mars, Cat. març, Port. março, Rus. март (mart), and many more (it was março, pronounced [ˈmaɾ.ʦ̪o], in Old Spanish).

Words derived from Lat. mars

There are other words derived from this god’s name. Thus, for instance, the cognates Eng. martial /ˈmɑɹ.ʃəl/ (as in martial law and martial arts) and Sp. marcial /maɾ.ˈθi̯al/ (as in ley marcial and artes marciales) come from the Latin adjective mārtiālis. This word is derived from the stem mārt-ĭ- of the adjective mārt-ĭ-us and the adjectival suffix ‑āl‑: mārt‑ĭ‑āl‑is (the final ‑is is the nominative, masculine, singular inflection). Eng. martial came into the language in the late 14th century with the sense of ‘warlike’. Sp. marcial is first attested in the early 17th century in Cervantes’ Quijote.

The cognate male given names Eng. Mark and Sp. Marcos are also derived from the name of the Roman god of war. The Roman name was Mārcus, among the most common Roman praenomen or first name (lit. ‘before the name’; abbreviated M.). This name is derived from an earlier *mārtcus, derived from the regular stem mārt‑ of the god’s name. It is a common name in many European languages. The popularity of the name has less to do with its popularity in Rome than with the fact that it is the name of one of the Christian gospels, Mark the Evangelist (cf. the Gospel According to Mark, Sp. el evangelio según San Marcos). Actually, the gospel is anonymous, but traditionally it has been ascribed to a John Mark, assistant to the apostle Paul.

By the way, the name Mark is not related in any way to the homonymous noun mark ‘trace, impression’, and its related verb to mark, which are native Germanic words in English. Spanish marca and marcar are cognates of these English words. They probably came into Spanish in the 15th century from Italian, which got them from a Germanic language, probably Lombard, the language of a Germanic people who conquered the Italian peninsula in the 6th century and who settled in what is now northern Italy, a region that is known today as Lombardy.

Eng. Tuesday

The word Tuesday /ˈt(j)uz.ˌdeɪ̯/, was Tiwesdæᵹ  in Old English (among other spellings). This was a compound word that meant literally ‘Tiw’s day’. It was formed with the genitive case wordform Tiwes of the name Tiw. Tiw was a Germanic sky god which was associated with combat, if not the god of war, at an early time. Thus Tiw was the closest equivalent to the Roman god Mars, just like Ares was the Ancient Greek god of war. Because of his it was chosen for the name of this day when the early Germanic people were calquing or loan-translating the names of the day from Latin.


[1] For a description of the nominative case in Latin, as well as other Latin grammatical terms, see Part I, Chapter 8, §8.4.2.
[2] for this and all the other sound changes mentioned in this chapter, see Part I, Chapter 10, §10.3, change [V2]

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