Interpretatio germanica

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Interpretatio germanica is the practice by the Germanic peoples of identifying Roman gods with the names of Germanic deities. According to Rudolf Simek, this occurred around the 1st century AD, when both cultures came into closer contact.

Names of week days[edit]

Some evidence for interpretatio germanica exists in the Germanic translations of the Roman names for the days of the week from Roman deities into names of approximately equivalent Germanic deities:

In most of the Romance languages, which derive from Latin, days of the week still preserve the names of the original Roman deities, such as the Italian for Tuesday, martedì (from the Latin Martis dies).

The exception to the use of Germanic gods is Saturday, which retains the name of the foreign god, possibly because there was no obvious Germanic substitute. The name of the day after Saturn occurs in many West Germanic languages; such as the English "Saturday", the West Frisian Saterdei, the Low German Saterdag, and the Dutch zaterdag all meaning Saturn's day.[1]

Dissenting view[edit]

Simek emphasizes the paucity of evidence for a widespread interpretatio germanica, as opposed to the well-attested opposite interpretatio romana, and notes that comparison with Roman gods is insufficient to reconstruct ancient Germanic gods, or equate them definitively with those of later Norse mythology.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Saturday". Online Etymological Dictionary. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  2. ^ Simek, Rudolf (2007). Dictionary of Northern Mythology. Translated by Hall, Angela. D.S. Brewer. p. 174. ISBN 0-85991-513-1.