Welcome to another 漢字(한자) 배우자! Did you know that the days of the week in Korean are 한자 words? Each is named after an element or force in nature.
Before we get into the individual days, let’s take a look at the two characters each of the day words has in common. Those are 빛날 (to shine) 요 曜 and 날 (day) 일 日.
Now let’s check out the individual days.
The word for Sunday, 日曜日, starts and ends with the same character. As previously mentioned, the 훈(訓, the meaning of a 漢字 character that is written before the 음 [音] or pronunciation) of 日 is “날 (day),” but it also carries the meaning of “sun” as well. It is normal for 漢字 to have multiple meanings even if they only have a single 훈. So, “Sunday” in Korean is, quite literally, “sun” day!
Monday— 月曜日 (월요일)
The first character in the word for “Monday” is 달 (moon) 월 月. This is the same 월 as used in the names of the months! The months in Korean are simply the number the month is in order + 月. So, January would be 一月, February is 二月, and so on (check out this post if you’re unfamiliar with the number Hanja~).
Tuesday— 火曜日 (화요일)
Tuesday is fire day! It starts with the character 불 (fire) 화 火.
Wednesday— 水曜日 (수요일)
Next we have water Wednesday with 물 (water) 수 水.
Thursday— 木曜日 (목요일)
The first character in 목요일 is 나무 (tree, wood) 목 木.
Friday— 金曜日 (금요일)
”Friday” starts with the character 쇠 (metal) 금 金. More specifically, the metal that this character refers to is gold. Also, this character has a second 훈(訓) and 음(音) pairing. The pairing is 성씨 (family name) 김! If you ever have the chance to look at the government ID card of any of your Korean friends who have the family name 김, you will also see this character printed there.
Saturday— 土曜日 (토요일)
Finally, we have 흙 (earth, soil) 토 土!
BONUS— 年 (년 [연]) and dates
We already know all the other parts of dates in 漢字, so why not learn the last piece of the puzzle and put it all together? This final one is 해 (sun, year) 년 年. Let’s check out how to write today’s date in a few formats. The readings of the month and day are consistent but the year’s reading has changed over time.
This first format was used up through the first half of the 20th century in Korea, though it’s no longer standard. In this case, instead of reading 2017 as “two thousand seventeen” or 이천십칠 (二千十七), you would read the year as “two-null-one-seven” or 이영일칠 (二O一七). The O is a stand-in for 떨어질 (to drop) 령(영) 零. So, written fully in 漢字, following this old standard today’s date would be:
- 二O一七年 六月 十四日 (水)
The current format for writing the date fully in 漢字 would be to write it exactly as it is spoken. That is, the year would be 이천십칠.
- 二千十七年六月 十四日 (水)
Or of course, you can just do things the easy way and write the number in Arabic numerals and just 년, 월, and 일 using 漢字!
- 2017年 6月 14一 (水)
Thank you for reading! I hope some of you have started taking an interest in the Chinese characters as used in Korean.