Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Nursery Lore

We are all familiar with the nursery rhyme:
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 who is born on the Sabbath Day
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.
The fortunes of children were considered to be regulated by the day on which they were born. These are undoubtedly of very ancient origin and have a mythological connection and significance.

I am Tuesday's child. The grace attributed to Tuesday's child was physical grace and trust me, I am not graceful. This rhyme takes us back to the pre-Christian days when children born on the day of the Sun were supposed to be under his protection and, subject, for this reason, to very favorable influences. All the other references in the nursery rhyme can be traced to pre-Christian beliefs in the character of the various Gods after whom the days of the week were named.

Nursery lore, like most history, has been subject to many changes stretching over long periods of time. Wednesday's and Thursday's rhymes seem to have changed the most over time. Superstitious parents often would not tell a Wednesday's child he/she had in fact been born on Wednesday.

The rhyme was continued into modern times to teach children the days of the week. Below the rhyme was used by George Clark to sell his thread in the late 1800s. I have included the trade cards he manufactured and the changes that have occurred to the rhyme for each day of the week.


Monday's child is fair of face seems to have remained the rhyme for Monday throughout time. Historically, it meant attractive. Early interpretations, however, held it to mean fair as in light colored. A moon reference perhaps?

The name Monday comes from the Old English Mōnandæg (pronounced [mon.nan.dæg]) meaning "Day of the Moon".

A Monday birthday also meant health.

Clark added - To all be fair - we offer free - The best advice - use ONT.


Tuesday's child has not always been full of grace, Tuesday's child was once solemn and sad.

The name Tuesday comes from the Old English Tiwesdæg (pronounced [ti.wes.dæg] meaning "Tyr's day." Tyr (Old English) was a god of combat and heroic glory in Norse mythology and Germanic paganism.

A Tuesday birth also meant wealth.

Clark added - The dainty costume worn by me - My mama made with ONT.


Poor Wednesday, before it was merry and glad it was full of woe, born to woe, sour and sad, and had toil and woe. I did find one Scottish reference to Wednesday's bairn being loving and giving.

The name Wednesday comes from the Old English Wōdnesdæg (pronounced [woːd.nes.dæg]) meaning the day of the Germanic god Wodan, more commonly known as Odin, who was the highest god in Norse mythology, and a prominent god of the Anglo-Saxons in England until about the seventh century. Odin is associated with poetic and musical inspiration.

A Wednesday birth was the best of all.

Clark added - Merry and glad she'll always be if she will use Clark's ONT.


Thursday had far to go, was sour and sad, merry and glad, worked hard for a living, and worst of all was inclined to thieving.

The name Thursday comes from the Old English Þūnresdæg (pronounced [θuːn.res.dæg]), meaning the day of Thor, the god of thunder in Norse Mythology and Germanic Paganism. Doesn't she look like the god of thunder?

Being born on Thursday also meant for crosses. Were those to bear I wonder.

Clark added - Tho Thursday's child be sour and sad - Clark's ONT will make her glad.


Loving and giving wasn't the only trait of Friday's child. They were also a child of woe, was free in giving, full of sin, and Godly given.

The name Friday comes from the Old English Frigedæg (pronounced [fri.je.dæg]), meaning the day of Frige, the Germanic goddess of beauty. It is based on the Latin Dies Veneris, "Day of Venus." Venus was the Roman goddess of beauty, love and sex.

A Friday birth also meant losses.

Clark added - Loving and giving - with heart so free - She surely must love Clark's ONT.


Saturday's child didn't just have to work for a living, it had to work hard for a living. Saturday's child was also pure within and had far to go.

Saturday is the only day of the week to retain its Roman origin in English, named after the Roman god Saturn associated with the Titan Cronus, father of Zeus and many Olympians. Its original Anglo-Saxon rendering was Sæturnesdæg (pronounced [sæ.tur.nes.dæg]).

A Saturday birth also meant no luck at all.

Clark added - Clark's ONT will smooth the way - For the busy child born Saturday.


Sunday's child has always fared the best in this rhyme. Blithe & bonny & good & gay was also happy and lucky, and wise and gay. Sunday's child has also been full of grace, had a shining journey down life's way, and never shall want. Sunday has been left out of the rhyme on several occasions and replaced with Christmas Day.

The name Sunday comes from the Old English Sunnandæg (pronounced [sun.nan.dæg]), meaning "Day of the Sun". This is a translation of the Latin phrase Dies Solis. English preserves the original pagan/sun associations of the day. Many other European languages, including all of the Romance languages, have changed its name to the equivalent of "the Lord's day."

Clark added - Like the sweet child born Sabbath day - Clark's ONT is good alway.

On What Day of the Week Were You Born - ProGenealogists? If you don't know, go find out. Then pick your poison as to what you'd like it to mean. Leave a Comment telling everyone your day of birth and the attribute you selected!



Origins of Days of the week:


Advertising cards:

Clark, George A. "[Monday's child is fair of face]." c. 1875-1899. From Baker Library, Harvard Business School, Historical Collections. (accessed October 9, 2008).

Clark, George A. "[Tuesday's child is full of grace]." c. 1875-1899. From Baker Library, Harvard Business School, Historical Collections. (accessed October 9, 2008).

Clark, George A. "[Wednesday's child is merry & glad]." c. 1875-1899. From Baker Library, Harvard Business School, Historical Collections. (accessed October 9, 2008).

Clark, George A. "[Thursday's child is sour & sad]." c. 1875-1899. From Baker Library, Harvard Business School, Historical Collections. (accessed October 9, 2008).

Clark, George A. "[Friday's child is loving & giving]." c. 1875-1899. From Baker Library, Harvard Business School, Historical Collections. (accessed October 9, 2008).

Clark, George A. "[Saturday's child must work for its living]." c. 1875-1899. From Baker Library, Harvard Business School, Historical Collections. (accessed October 9, 2008).

Clark, George A. "[The child born on the sabbath day is blithe & bonny good & gay]." c. 1875-1899. From Baker Library, Harvard Business School, Historical Collections. (accessed October 9, 2008).

Fifteen books and articles were used to research the origins of the rhyme. Provided upon request.


Blogger Jessica's thoughts said...

Hi footnoteMaven,

I've posted my response to your post here:http://jessicagenejournal.blogspot.com/2008/10/what-day-was-i-born-on.html


October 14, 2008 at 3:35 PM  
Blogger Jasia said...

I was born on a Saturday and I'll say I have to work hard for a living! LOL! I'm not a gambler so I'm not likely to win the lottery. And I didn't marry a millionaire so I'm not going to come into money that way either. What's left but to work for a living??? Pure within...yeah, OK, I'll go with that ;-) Far to go...that's exactly what I think of when I look at my to-do list every morning!!!

Good post, fM!

October 14, 2008 at 4:09 PM  
Blogger Becky Wiseman said...

I was born on a Tuesday, but am really Thursday's child. Wrote about it a couple of weeks ago

October 14, 2008 at 6:12 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Hey Becky:

Great minds! Missed you post, not doing as much reading as I'd like these days.

As a Tuesday, I have no grace at all.


October 14, 2008 at 6:30 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...


I think I'm really a Saturday. I work hard for my money!


October 14, 2008 at 6:31 PM  
Blogger Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

Full of woe sums me up right now but I'm hoping to get back to merry & glad. I guess I should have been born on a Saturday as working for a living is the source of my woe!

October 14, 2008 at 6:59 PM  
Blogger Lori Thornton said...

I'm one of those fair-faced ones!

October 14, 2008 at 7:55 PM  
Blogger wendy said...

I was born on a Wednesday & heard the "full of woe" all the time! That's probably a fair description - however I look at it as opportunities to "turn the corner" and see what else is there! I don't turn it into misery!

October 15, 2008 at 5:00 AM  
Blogger Sheri Fenley said...

fM Baby,

I was born on a Monday, but you'd better take a look here: http://sherifenley.blogspot.com/2008/10/mondays-child-is-fair-of-face.html

I don't think "Fair of Face"

October 15, 2008 at 9:03 AM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Woe Apple & Wendy?

I would never have guessed it. And you're right Wendy - opportunities.


October 15, 2008 at 9:42 AM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...


Guided by the Moon. How romantic!


October 15, 2008 at 9:44 AM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...


Our only Sunday so far!


October 15, 2008 at 9:45 AM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...


Oh Baby!


October 15, 2008 at 9:45 AM  
Blogger Terry Thornton said...


I'm one of the woebegone Wednesday babies. The only baby picture I have of me indicates that I was pained looking even as an infant. Yes, that is my lot in life to be woeful. And I'm happy being a Wednesday's child.


October 15, 2008 at 5:24 PM  
Blogger TERRY SNYDER said...

Of course, I am Wednesday's child and born on April the First, to boot. Matt Monro wrote a song called "Wednesday's Child" which went, "Wednesday's Child is a child of woe. Wednesday's Child cries alone I know." I loved that song. I guess my personality is such that I expect the worst, and therefore I am often pleasantly surprised when the worst doesn't happen - a heck of a way to live your life. If only I had known George A Clark's version!

October 15, 2008 at 9:37 PM  
Blogger my Heritage Happens said...

Loving and giving, Friday's child. That is all I would agree with and in my old age, I am not so sure I agree with this part anymore either! Great fun, thanks!


October 16, 2008 at 8:36 PM  
Blogger FamilyTrees said...

I'm a Tuesday's child, but you wouldn't know it by how uncoordinated I tend to be!

October 19, 2008 at 5:52 AM  

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