• Weird History

Common Words With Surprising Mythological Origins

List RulesVote up the everyday words you didn't notice had such grand mythical origins.

Have you ever wondered why the days of the week are named the way they are? Sunday and Monday are named after the sun and moon, which makes sense, but then we've also got Saturday, which is named after the Roman god Saturn. And then, just to shake things up, the remaining four days of the week are named after the Norse gods Tyr (Tuesday), Odin/Woden (Wednesday), Thor (Thursday), and Frigg/Freya (Friday).

It may seem bizarre, even anachronistic, to name days of the week after these ancient deities, but there's actually a ton of everyday words with mythological origins. Many English words derive from Roman, Greek, and Germanic mythology - from the obscure "aegis" to the ubiquitous "cereal."  

Just as many common phrases derive from outdated traditions, words associated with mythology are indelibly bound to our vocabulary. Here are some of the most intriguing examples.

  • Photo: ChrisO/AnonMoos / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    This one's pretty simple. Ceres was the Roman goddess of agriculture (particularly grain crops), and "cereal" literally translates to "of Ceres."

    Never noticed this?
  • Photo: Sandro Botticelli / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    'Charity' Comes From Charis, One Of The Graces Of Greek Mythology

    The Graces, or Charities, were Greek goddesses that symbolized the good things in life: beauty and charm and being excellent to each other. They're often grouped into a trio - Aglaea ("Splendor"), Thalia ("Good Cheer"), and Euphrosyne ("Mirth") - but other stories add a few more.

    In some versions, Charis is a member of the Charities, or an alternate name for Aglaea.

    Never noticed this?
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    'Jovial' Comes From Jove, or Jupiter, The King Of Roman Gods

    In astrology, Jupiter is is a lucky sign to be born under, imparting good fortune and joy. "Jovial" used to be a word reserved only for those born under this sign, and means "of or relating to Jove," another name for the god Jupiter.

    Over the years, it's become a general term for anyone with a joyful, charming nature.

    Never noticed this?
  • Photo: Carl Emil Doepler / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    'Friday' Comes From Frigg, The Germanic God Of Wisdom

    Alternately rendered as Frigg, Frīja, Frea, Frīg, and Frī (and sometimes equated with Freyja), this goddess is the wife of the god Odin, and is associated with wisdom and foresight.

    Friday means "Frigg's day."

    Never noticed this?