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Q: Likely origin of a rhyme about days of the week ( Answered,   2 Comments )
Subject: Likely origin of a rhyme about days of the week
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: jon99-ga
List Price: $100.00
Posted: 18 Jan 2003 20:58 PST
Expires: 17 Feb 2003 20:58 PST
Question ID: 145411
"monday's child is fair of face..." is a famous old nursery rhyme. But
how far back does it go? Which century does it come from - and are
there different, earlier versions recorded anywhere? Also (and
what about Wednesday's child being "full of woe" - What IS probably
being meant here
by woe? Does that word haved another meaning in history? Is it
possibly a mistranslation? Could, for example, it just be alluding to
the fact that Wednesday is traditionally Odins day or WOdin's-day?
Subject: Re: Likely origin of a rhyme about days of the week
Answered By: serenata-ga on 19 Jan 2003 00:45 PST
Hi Jon!

Thanks for asking the question. Researching this was fascinating!

I'll reprint the rhyme to refresh our memory.

Monday's child is fair of face,
Tuesday's child is full of grace,
Wednesday's child is full of woe,
Thursday's child has far to go.
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child works hard for a living,
But the child born on the Sabbath Day,
Is fair and wise and good and gay. 

First, the origins of the rhyme:

The rhyme is generally attributed to Mother Goose. In England it
reputedly first appeared in print form when John Newbery, a London
publisher, printed his first volume of "A Little Pretty Pocket-Book"
in 1744. This work, though not using the identity of Mother Goose,
consisted of many of the nursery rhymes we know today. Later his
stepson, John Carnan, published "Mother Goose’s Melody or Sonnets for
the Cradle" in 1780.

In American literature, it was reportedly included in the 1719 work
"Songs for the Nursery", or "Mother Goose’s Melodies for Children"
written by Thomas Fleet of Boston. This book was said to resemble the
format of the later version by Newbery (above).

No record of either of these works has ever been found, so no concrete
comparison of verification of dates can be made.

Names of the Days of the Week:

We owe the names of the days of the week to the astrological
conception of the planets as being 7 in number, and some writers
(e.g., R. A. Proctor in his Myths and Marvels of Astronomy, 43-47)
have supposed that the week of 7 days owed its origin to this
astrological conception and that the 7th day - Saturn's Day - became
the Sabbath, the Day of Rest, because Saturn was the planet of
ill-omen and it was then unlucky to undertake any work.

It is believed soothsayers used the characteristics of the gods to
determine events, including the future of infants  born on those days.
Such arts were later forbidden by law (Deuteronomy 18:9-15).

Some present-day astrologers still use the system for their forecasts.
"It will of course be noted that the system takes no account of the
actual positions of the heavenly bodies; the moon does not shine more
or less on Monday than on any other day." (The International Standard
Bible Encyclopedia -

The Origin of the Days of the Week (see:
also correspond to the interpretation of the rhyme as we know it

Below is a breakdown of the day, the origin of its name and the
comparison to the line in the rhyme:

Monday - the second day of the week, day of moon goddess, Selene, Luna
and Mani. "Derived from Lunae Dies, day of the moon, the name reflects
the ancient observance of feast days dedicated to moon goddess or
Hence, "Monday's child is fair of face"

Tuesday - the third day of the week, the day of Mars, associated with
Ares. Graceful and swift. "Tuesday's child is full of grace"

Wednesday - the fourth day of the week, Woden (Odin), chief god of
Norse mythology, who was often called the All Father. "Wednesday's
child is full of woe." Odin's responsibilities were such that he was
never attributed with any cheerful disposition.

"Woe" as used in the English language today is an expression of grief,
regret, distress, etc. (Every dictionary, take your pick, uses those
words to describe the word "woe".) In the 17th and 18th centuries, it
was more an expression of deep concern, and heavy responsibilities,
and it has been suggested that "woebegone" might be more accurate; but
"woebegone" wouldn't rhyme, instead we get "Wednesday's child is full
of woe"

Thursday - the fifth day of the week, "... derives its name from the
Middle English Thoresday, or Thursdaye,  corresponding to the Roman
dies Jovis. "Thursday's child has far to go," much like Thor, the only
god who couldn't cross from earth to heaven upon the rainbow.

Friday - the sixth day of the week, named after the Odin's mother,
Frigga (Roman equivalent Venus). Frigga means loving or beloved,
hance, "Friday's child is loving and giving".

Saturday - the seventh day of the week, "corresponding to the Roman
dies Saturni, or day of Saturn, the Roman god of agriculture. Those
who worked the earth worked hard, hence "Saturday's child works hard
for a living"

Sunday - the first day of the week. "From prehistoric times to the
close of the fifth century of the Christian era, the worship of the
sun was dominant. Sunday celebrates the sun god, Ra, Helios, Apollo,
Ogmios, Mithrias, the sun goddess, Phoebe. "But the child born on the
Sabbath day, Is fair and wise and good and gay." Correspondingly,
sunny, fun, and loving - bringing joy to other people.

The only variant of the rhyme I could find was the one Bobbie 7
mentioned in her Comments below. I found this odd, as there were very
many variants of other rhymes in the same Mother Goose references, yet
there was a dearth of variants for this particular rhyme.

Dialect and rhythm of speaking alone, both in England, and later in
the United States should have dictated variations, yet this is the
predominant version of this particular rhyme.

Search terms used:
origin: Days of the Week
origin Monday's child is fair of face
origin: Monday's child .
Monday's child fair face
history Mother Goose
nursery rhymes
folklore: day* week

Sites used for reference:

Origins of the Days of the Week -

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia -

History of publication of Mother Goose Rhymes, Essay by Vikki Harris,
1997 -

Hark, Hark, History - Mother Goose

Folklore of the days of the week:

Definition of Woe - "Humanism, the Fifth Woe", by: D. MARTYN

Thanks again for the question and the challenge to find your answer.

Subject: Re: Likely origin of a rhyme about days of the week
From: bobbie7-ga on 18 Jan 2003 21:57 PST
Hi Jon99,

I found a slightly different version of the poem. 
Note: Wednesday's child is sour and grum,

"The old English rhyme is well known, and perhaps the following is one
of the most usual forms:

Monday's child is fair of face,
Tuesday's child is full of grace,
Wednesday's child is sour and grum,
Thursday's child has welcome home,
Friday's child is free in giving,
Saturday's child works hard for his living.
And the child that is born on Christmas Day
Is great, and good, and fair, and gay."


I hope this helps!

--Bobbie7-ga (Researcher)
Subject: Re: Likely origin of a rhyme about days of the week
From: aceresearcher-ga on 19 Jan 2003 01:23 PST
The version I learned years ago is slightly different, and poor
Friday's Child is the one with the problems:

"Monday's child is fair of face.
Tuesday's child is full of grace.
Wednesday's child is loving and giving.
Thursday's child works hard for a living.
Friday's child is full of woe.
Saturday's child has far to go.
But the child that is born on the sabbath day
Is brave and bonny, and good and gay."

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