Saturday, July 1, 2017

The names of the days of the week, Part 9: Sp. 'domingo' and related words

[This entry comes from a section 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. diēs sōlis to Lat. diēs dŏmĭnĭca

The word for Sunday in Spanish is domingo. As in the case sábado, the word for Saturday, domingo is also not related to the classical Latin name for this day. The traditional Latin name was diēs sōlis ‘day of the sun’, where sōlis was the genitive case wordform of the third declension noun sōl ‘sun’ (cf. Sp. sol). The sun was one of the seven ‘Classical Planets’ after which the days of the week were named and, of course, it was also one of the Roman deities.

Curiously, the Roman sun god was a minor deity during most of the Roman period, only to become a major one in the late 3rd century CE, when Sol ‘Sun’, at that time known as Sol Invictus ‘unconquered sun’, became a patron god of soldiers and was made the official sun god by emperor Aurelian in 274.[1] The cult of Sol continued for some time even after Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire a hundred years later.

The word domingo has a Christian origin, just like the word for Saturday does. In this case, however, the source word is fully Latin and not a loanword from Hebrew as in the case of sábado. Sp. domingo comes from Church Latin through Vulgar Latin. The Church Latin name for the first day of the week, which was consecrated to Jesus Christ, was diēs dŏmĭnĭca ‘day of the Lord’ (accusative diĕm dŏmĭnĭcam). Lat. dŏmĭnĭca was a feminine adjective here, not a genitive case wordform as in the case of the words modifying the word diēs for the other days of the week. It was feminine because the word diēs ‘day’ that it modified was (primarily) feminine, though it was masculine in some contexts (cf. §20.2 above). Because of this, there was another version of the phrase diēs dŏmĭnĭca, one in which diēs was treated as masculine, and thus the accompanying adjective was masculine: diēs dŏmĭnĭcus (accusative: diĕm dŏmĭnĭcum). This is the variant that Sp. domingo comes from.

The gender difference that we have just mentioned helps explain some differences in the endings of the name for this day of the week in different Romance languages. Other differences, of course, stem from the presence or absence of a reflex of the word diēs in the word for ‘Sunday’ and from whether that word came before or after the adjective. The following are some of the words for ‘Sunday’ in several Romance languages and their sources. (For simplicity, the Vulgar Latin form given is the accusative one. Do note, however, that the final ‑m was not pronounced in Vulgar Latin.)

Vulgar Latin (accusative)
Romance reflexes
*dŏmĭnĭcam diĕm
Sicilian duminicadìa
*diĕm dŏmĭnĭcum or ‑am
Cat. diumenge, Occ. dimenge, Fr. dimanche
It. domenica
Sp. domingo

As we can see, Sp. domingo comes from Lat. dŏmĭnĭcum, which was short for diĕm dŏmĭnĭcum. The two things that we need to explain now are, first, what dŏmĭnĭcum meant exactly in Latin and, second, how we get from Lat. dŏmĭnĭcum to Sp. domingo.

The adjective (masc.) dŏmĭnĭcum (feminine: dŏmĭnĭcam) ‘of the Lord’ (nominative: dŏmĭnĭcus - dŏmĭnĭca) was derived from the noun dŏmĭnus (dŏmĭn‑us) by means of the first/second declension adjectival suffix ‑ĭc‑: dŏmĭn‑ĭc‑um. The word dŏmĭnus had different senses, such as ‘master, possessor, ruler, lord, proprietor, owner, boss’. In general, it was used as a term to address one’s superior. The word’s basic association is with the ‘master of the house’, which is not surprising since the word contains the same root dŏm‑ as the noun dŏmus (dŏm‑us) that meant ‘house’. The feminine form dŏmĭna can be translated as ‘lady of the house’.

‘lord of the house, owner, boss’
‘of the lord of the house, of the owner’

Although dŏminĭcus is clearly derived from dŏmĭnus, it does not seem that Lat. dŏmĭnus is derived directly from dŏmus. Rather, the two seem to derive from the Proto-Indo-European verbal root *demh₂‑ ‘to tame, domesticate’.

When Christianity came to the Roman world, the word dŏmĭnus came to be used to refer to the single Christian God, in both of its instantiations, the Father and the Son (Jesus Christ), translating the equivalent Greek word κῡ́ριος (kū́rios) ‘lord, master, guardian, ruler, owner’ which had been used for the same purpose in Christianity to refer to God and, therefore, to Jesus Christ. In many cultures the word for ‘owner’, ‘master’, ‘superior’, ‘lord’, ‘husband’ was one and the same.[2] Latin dŏmĭnus and Greek κῡ́ριος were equivalent to (or clones of) Hebrew אֲדוֹנָי or אֲדֹנָי (ăḏônāy), literally ‘My Lord(s)’, an expression which was used by the Jews during prayer to avoid using the name of God, which is taboo in this religion.[3]

From Lat. dŏmĭnĭcum to Sp. domingo

So how do we get from Lat. dŏmĭnĭcum to Sp. domingo? There are three sound changes that are very common and regular in the derivation:
  • Between two vowels, the c [k] is voiced and becomes g [ɡ], as expected (cf. Part I, Chapter 10, §
  • The intertonic i is dropped (syncope): a word-internal vowel next to a stressed vowel was typically dropped (cf. Part I, Chapter 10, §10.3.4)
  • The (final) short ŭ always becomes o (cf. Part I, Chapter 10, §10.3.2)
  • The final m is always dropped (cf. Part I, Chapter 10, §10.4.1)



There is actually one thing that is not as expected in the word domingo and that is the i sound/letter. A short Latin ĭ always changed to e in Spanish patrimonial words. In other words, if this was a strictly patrimonial word, as the other sound changes imply, the word for Sunday in Spanish should have been domengo. Because of this, we know that the original Latin word, dŏmĭnĭcum, still uttered in some contexts, such as in religious ones, during the days of Old Spanish, must have influenced the word’s pronunciation. That is, as far as the short ĭ is concerned, i is a spelling pronunciation of the type we expect in learned words, not in patrimonial ones. Such blends of patrimonial and learned words are known as semi-learned words (Sp. semicultismos). Many semi-learned words stem from words that were used in formal, church contexts (cf. Part I, Chapter 10, §10.2.4).

English and Spanish words from the Latin root dŏm-

Lat. dŏmus ‘house’ is the simplest Latin word with the root dŏm‑. This word is also cognate with Greek δόμος (dómos), also meaning ‘house, dwelling’. The following Latin words that contained this root have left descendants in English and/or Spanish:

dŏmus ‘house’ is the source of It. duomo ‘cathedral’ (‘God’s house’); since Italian cathedrals had a high round cupula, English borrowed the word dome with the sense of ‘a rounded vault forming the roof of a building or structure’ (COED); Spanish does not have a cognate of this word and the word for ‘dome’ in Spanish is cúpula. Spanish ended up replacing Latin dŏmus with the Latin word casa ‘house’, a word that originally meant ‘hut, cottage’.

dŏmĭnus ‘lord, owner, etc.’: it has two patrimonial descendants in Spanish: Sp. dueño, which just means ‘owner’ nowadays, and the title don, as in don Juan.

Lat. dŏmĭnus lost the intervocalic ‑ĭ‑, resulting in dŏmnus, and ‑mn‑ always became ñ in Old Spanish (after assimilation to ‑nn‑), cf. Part I, Chapter 10.

Sp. don has o instead of ue because this vowel was unstressed when this word was used as a title and only stressed Lat. ŏ changed to ue in Old Spanish. It also displays final vowel apocope, common in stress-less masculine words that precede other words (e.g. uno, alguno, etc.).

The feminine form of Lat. dŏmĭnus was dŏmĭna, which has given us the feminine noun dueña ‘owner’, as well as the feminine title doña. In Old French, dŏmĭna became dame, meaning Old French dame ‘lady, mistress, wife’. This word was borrowed into English in the early 13th century.

dŏmestĭcus (fem. dŏmestĭca) was an adjective that meant ‘of or belonging to the house, the household, one’s family; domestic, familiar’. The ‑estĭcus part of the word is said to contain the Latin suffixes ‑t‑ and ‑ic‑ (plus the inflectional ending ‑us or ‑a), often lumped together as ‑ticus, but rest of the morphemes came about (in particular the source of the medial ‑es‑) is lost in the history of the word.[4]

Eng. domestic is an early 15th century loanword from Fr. domestique, which was a loanword from the Latin word. It is first of all an adjective, one that meant primarily ‘of or relating to the family or household’, as in domestic chores, or ‘tame or domesticated’ when referring to animals, as in domestic cat (AHD). These last two senses of the English word domestic translate as doméstico/a in Spanish, e.g. tareas domésticas and gato doméstico.

There are, additionally, to other major senses of the Modern English adjective domestic. One is ‘produced in or indigenous to a particular country’, as in domestic flights, which translates primarily as nacional, as in vuelos nacionales. Another one is ‘fond of home life and household affairs’ (AHD), as in domestic person, which translates into Spanish as hogareño/a or casero/a.

There is a noun derived from this adjective, namely the noun domestic, meaning ‘household servant’, which is a dated if not archaic word today. The equivalent in Spanish would be criado/a. Spanish still uses the phrase empleado doméstico (fem. empleada doméstica) or empleado/a del hogar for someone who works in a household for a variety of chores.

dŏmāre ‘to tame; to subdue, conquer’: it gave us Sp. domar ‘to tame, break in’, typically a horse.

From the stem dŏm‑ and the suffix ‑(ā)‑bĭl‑, we get the adjective dŏmābĭlis ‘tameable, breakable’, source of Sp. domable (same meaning). The negative of this word was indŏmābĭlis ‘untamable, unruly, etc.’, source of Sp. indomable ‘untamable, unbreakable, indomitable, etc.’ (see below).

The passive participle of this verb was dŏmĭtus ‘tamed’ (dŏm‑ĭt‑us). From the negative form of this word, indŏmĭtus, comes the Spanish adjective indómito/a ‘indomitable’ (incapable of being subdued, overcome or vanquished) (for Eng. indomitable, see below).

dŏmĭtāre ‘to tame’: this verb was a frequentative version of domāre, and it is source of Eng. daunt (from Old French danter) ‘intimidate, overwhelm’

Derived from this verb is the Late Latin adjective dŏmĭtābĭlis ‘capable of being subdued, overcome, or vanquished’ (dŏmĭt‑ā‑bĭl‑is) and from the negative, comes Eng. indomitable ‘untameable’, equivalent to Sp. indómito/a or indomable (see above).

dŏmĭnārī ‘to be lord and master, to have dominion’ and ‘to rule, dominate, to govern’; this first conjugation deponent verb is the source of Eng. dominate ~ Sp. dominar and of the derived nouns Eng. domination ~ Sp. dominación; the derived adjectives Eng. dominant ~ Sp. dominante.

From the French version of this verb, dominer, a derived verb prédominer ‘to exert a strong influence’ was developed in 14th century. This verb was borrowed as Eng. predominate ~ Sp. predominar. Derived from these verbs are the adjectives Eng. predominant ~ Sp. predominante and the nouns Eng. predominance ~ Sp. predominancia.

Lat. domino is the first person singular of the present tense of the verb dŏmĭnārī, and thus it means ‘I rule, I dominate, I am lord’. From this word came the name of a game known as Eng. dominoes ~ Sp. dominó, played with small rectangular blocks (Eng. domino, Sp. ficha de dominó) Eng. domino /ˈdɒ.mɪ.noʊ̯/ and dominoes entered the language around 1800 from French domino. Sp. dominó also reflects the pronunciation of this French word with final-syllable stress.

dŏmĭnĭum ‘rule, dominium, ownership’, ‘property’ (as well as ‘feast, banquet’). This noun is the source of Eng. domain, as well as the learned Eng. dominium and Sp. dominio. Sp. dominio means both ‘domain’ and ‘dominium’.

Eng. domain (pronounced /də.ˈmeɪ̯n / or /ˌdoʊ̯.ˈmeɪ̯n/) is an early 15th century loanword from Middle French domaine ‘domain, estate’, which descends from Lat. dŏmĭnĭum. When this word is used in reference to lands, a somewhat archaic and literary use, it typically translates into Spanish as dominios, in the plural, e.g. my domain = mis dominios. The sense ‘a sphere of activity or knowledge’ (COED) does not translate as dominio, but as campo or ámbito. The word is also used in the field of information technology with the meaning ‘a distinct subset of the Internet with addresses sharing a common suffix’ (COED). That sense does translate as Sp. dominio, since this use of the Spanish word is a calque from the English word.

Eng. dominium entered the language as a legal term in the 19th century with the meaning ‘complete power to use, to enjoy, and to dispose of property at will’ (RHW), a legal meaning that the Latin source word also had.

The word condominium is a New Latin derivation from the Latin word dŏmĭnĭum. It was apparently first coined in the 18th century in German, from where the word spread to other European languages, such as Eng. condominium and Sp. condominio. It was originally a term used in international law with the meaning ‘joint rule or sovereignty’. In the 1960s, the word condominium started to be used in American English to refer to ‘apartment in a building with several apartments, each of which is owned by the people living in it’ (DOCE), i.e. a part of a co-owned building. The word can also be used to refer to the whole building that is co-owned. This word was eventually shortened to condo. This sense of the word condominium has not spread to all dialects of English. In Britain, for example, they refer to a condo as a flat. In Spanish, the most common equivalents are piso and apartamento.

Late Lat. dŏmĭnĭcālis ‘of or pertaining to Sunday’: adjective derived from the name of the day by means of the adjectival suffix ‑āl‑. This word is the source of learned Sp. dominical and Eng. dominical. Sp. dominical is the adjective for the noun domingo, the name of the day so, for instance, servicio dominical means just ‘Sunday service’ and escuela dominical ‘Sunday School’. In the realm of the press, dominical is used in Spanish as a noun that refers to a Sunday newspaper or a Sunday supplement of a newspaper. Eng. dominical is quite fancy and rare and it means ‘relating to the Lord’s day’ or ‘relating to Jesus Christ as Lord’ (M-W).

dŏmĭnĭcus/a ‘of the owner, lord, master; imperial’ in an adjective formed with the first/second declension adjectival suffix ‑ĭc‑. This is the same word that gave us Sp. domingo ‘Sunday’, as we saw earlier. It was also turned into personal names in Medieval Latin: masculine Dominicus and feminine Dominica, Sp. masc. Domingo / fem. Dominga. The English equivalents (cognates) of these names are masculine Dominic and feminine Dominique, both of which are loanwords from French. Dominicus (Sp. Domingo) was the adopted name of the Spanish founder of the Dominican religious order, after whom the Dominican Republic was named (see below).

Late Lat. dŏmĭnĭcānus (fem. dŏmĭnĭcāna): an adjective formed from the adjective dŏmĭnĭcus with the adjectival suffix ‑ān‑: dŏmĭnĭc‑us + ‑ān = dŏmĭnĭc‑ān‑us. This word was created to refer to ‘a member of the religious order founded by St. Dominic’ (Sp. Santo Domingo) (see above). This mendicant Catholic religious order is also known as Order of Preachers (Sp. orden de predicadores, from Latin ordo praedicatorum). The priests in this order are known as Dominican friars or Dominicans in English and as dominicos in Spanish.

When the Dominican Republic (Sp. República Dominicana) was established in the early 19th century in the eastern part of the island of Hispaniola, it was named after its main city, Santo Domingo, which was named after St. Dominic (see above), the founder of the Dominican Order.[5]

The cognate adjectives cum nouns Eng. Dominican ~ Sp. dominicano/a are now used to refer to ‘a person from the Dominican Republic or of its descent’ as well as to ‘a person from the Commonwealth of Dominica or of its descent’ (WKT). Dominica is a small, sovereign island country in the Caribbean, more specifically in the Windward islands of the Lesser Antilles archipelago.

The Dominican Republic got its name when in the mid-nineteenth century the Spanish side of the island of Hispaniola became independent from the French speaking side, which came to be known as Haiti. The whole island shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti has gone by several different names since the Spanish first arrived, starting with La Española (Eng. Hispaniola), which was given to it by Columbus himself in 1492.[6]

Soon after that it became known as Isla de Santo Domingo, after the capital city. Santo Domingo, the first major Spanish settlement in the Americas, was founded and named by Bartolomé Colón, brother of Christopher Columbus (Cristóbal Colón in Spanish), in 1496 in honor of the Spanish saint Santo Domingo de Guzmán, Saint Dominic in English, founder of the Dominican religious order. The city now has 3 million inhabitants, or almost one third of the country’s total population. As we mentioned earlier, the name of the country derives from the name of the capital city and the name of the island for several centuries. Dominicans to this day often refer to the whole country as Santo Domingo, the modern official name for the country, República Dominicana, being a relatively recent creation.

Eng. Sunday

Finally, Sunday, is of course the day of the Sun, as the word transparently shows. In Old English it was Sunnandæg, a calque or loan translation of Latin diēs sōlis ‘day of the sun’. Old English Sunnan was the genitive case wordform of the word Sunne (in the nominative case). Unlike in Spanish, where the original Latin name for this day was replaced by one inspired by Christianity, English has kept the calqued name to this day

[1] The epithet invictus ‘unconquered, invincible’ was not part of the god’s name and it was used for other deities as well, such as Jupiter or Mars. It is not clear whether the original sun god, sometimes referred to as Sol Indiges, meaning either ‘the native sun’ or ‘the invoked sun’ (it is not clear which), was considered to be the same as the latter one, which was sometimes referred to as Sol Invictus. What is clear is that the later cult of Sol (Invictus) was imported by soldiers from the east, where he was an important god of a city in Syria, either Emesa or Palmyra. An important date in the cult of Sol Invictus was the winter solstice, around December 21, after which days get longer. At one point, December 25 became the assigned date for this celebration. Many think that the Roman Christian Church elected this day to celebrate Christ’s birth (Christmas) because of its association with the very popular Sol Invictus. By the way, invictus ‘unconquered’ is the negated form (in‑) of the word victus ‘conquered’, which is the passive participle of the verb vincĕre ‘to conquer’ (source of Sp. vencer). From a verb derived from vĭncĕre, convĭncĕre ‘to convince; to conquer; to convict’, we get the cognates Eng. convince ~ Sp. convencer (and Eng. convict). From the same root come Eng. province ~ Sp. provincia, Eng. provincial ~ Sp. provincial (false friends), for example.

[2] In Spanish, the equivalent word is señor, which is used equally to address men ‘worthy of respect’ and God. When Christianity came to the English-speaking world, the Latin term dominus was translated as lord, a word that was used to address powerful people. It comes from Old English hlāfweard (later hlāford), which was a compound word of hlāf ‘bread, loaf’ and weard ‘ward, guardian, keeper’. That was because powerful people provided their followers with food. The word lady comes from Old English hlǣfdīġe ‘bread-kneader’.

[3] Most of the books of the Jewish Bible (the Christians’ Old Testament) have יהוה as the name for God. However, ‘conservative Jewish traditions do not pronounce יהוה, nor do they read aloud transliterated forms such as Yahweh’ (WP). Instead, when speaking it out, the replace that word with hakadosh baruch hu ‘The Holy One, Blessed Be He’, Adonai ‘The Lord’, or HaShem ‘The Name’.

[4] The suffix ‑ic‑ itself was originally just ‑c‑, as in rāu‑c‑us ‘hoarse; harsh; raucous’ < rau‑is ‘hoarseness’, and mar(t)‑c‑us (cf. Mark) < mart‑ (cf. mars mart‑is). The suffix ‑ĭc‑ is just that ‑c‑ suffix to which a linking vowel ‑ĭ‑ was added. And ‑tĭc‑ was another extension of this adjectival suffix.

[5] St. Dominic is also known as Dominic of Osma, Dominic of Caleruega, Dominic de Guzmán, and Domingo Félix de Guzmán. He was a Castilian priest who lived 1170-1221. He is the patron saint of astronomers.

[6] The English name Hispaniola for the island is based on a Latinization of the name La Española by a 16th century Italian author, Peter Martyr d’Anghiera, who wrote in Latin about the conquest and whose book happened to be translated to English early on. This resulted in Hispaniola being adopted as the official English name of the island. This author also wrote that the indigenous Taino name for the island was Quizqueia, though there is no other confirmation of this claim. Since 1988, there is a Quisqueya University in Haiti (in French: Université Quisqueya), a private Haitian university located in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti.

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