Wednesday (IPA: /ˈwɛnzdeɪ/) is the day of the week following Tuesday and before Thursday. According to international standard ISO 8601 adopted in most western countries it is the third day of the week. In countries that use the Sunday-first convention Wednesday is defined as the fourth day of the week. It is the fourth day of the week in the Judeo-Christian calendar as well, and was defined so in the ancient Mesopotamian and biblical calendars. The name is derived from Old English Wōdnesdæg and Middle English Wednesdei, "day of Woden", ultimately a calque of dies Mercurii "day of Mercury".
Wednesday is in the middle of the common Western five-day workweek that starts on Monday and finishes on Friday.
- See Names of the days of the week for more on naming conventions.
The name Wednesday continues Middle English Wednesdei. Old English still had wōdnesdæg, which would be continued as *Wodnesday (but Old Frisian has an attested wednesdei). By the early 13th century, the i-mutated form was introduced unetymologically.
The Latin name dates to the late 2nd or early 3rd century. It is a calque of Greek ἡμέρα Ἕρμου heméra Hérmou, a term first attested, together with the system of naming the seven weekdays after the seven classical planets, in the Anthologiarum by Vettius Valens (ca. AD 170).
The Latin name is reflected directly in the weekday name in Romance languages: Mércuris (Sardinian), mercredi (French), mercoledì (Italian), miércoles (Spanish), miercuri (Romanian), dimecres (Catalan), Marcuri or Mercuri (Corsican), dies Mercurii (Latin). The German name for the day, Mittwoch (literally: "mid-week"), replaced the former name Wodenstag ("Wodan's day") in the tenth century. The Dutch name for the day, woensdag has the same etymology as English Wednesday, it comes from Middle Dutch wodenesdag, woedensdag ("Wodan's day").
Most Slavic languages follow this pattern and use derivations of "the middle" (Belarusian серада serada, Bulgarian сряда sryada, Croatian srijeda, Czech středa, Macedonian среда sreda, Polish środa, Russian среда sredá, Serbian среда/sreda or cриједа/srijeda, Slovak streda, Slovene sreda, Ukrainian середа sereda). The Finnish name is Keskiviikko ("middle of the week"), as is the Icelandic name: Miðvikudagur, and the Faroese name: Mikudagur ("Mid-week day"). Some dialects of Faroese have Ónsdagur, though, which shares etymology with Wednesday. Danish, Norwegian, Swedish Onsdag, ("Ons-dag" = Oden's/Odin's dag/day). In Welsh it is Dydd Mercher, meaning Mercury's Day.
In Japanese, the word Wednesday is 水曜日(sui youbi), meaning 'water day' and is associated with 水星 (suisei): Mercury (the planet), literally meaning "water star". Similarly, in Korean the word Wednesday is 수요일 (su yo il), also meaning water day.
In most of the languages of India, the word for Wednesday is Budhavãra—vãra meaning day and Budh being the planet Mercury.
Portuguese uses the word quarta-feira, meaning "fourth day", while in Greek the word is Tetarti (Τετάρτη) meaning simply "fourth". Similarly, Arabic أربعاء means "fourth", Hebrew רביעי means "fourth", and Persian چهارشنبه means "fourth day". Yet the name for the day in Estonian kolmapäev, Lithuanian trečiadienis, and Latvian trešdiena means "third day" while in Mandarin Chinese 星期三 (xīngqīsān), means "day three", as Sunday is unnumbered.
The Eastern Orthodox Church observes Wednesday (as well as Friday) as a fast day throughout the year (with the exception of several fast-free periods during the year). Fasting on Wednesday and Fridays entails abstinence from meat or meat products (i.e., four-footed animals), poultry and dairy products. Unless a feast day occurs on a Friday, the Orthodox also abstain from fish, from using oil in their cooking and from alcoholic beverages (there is some debate over whether abstention from oil involves all cooking oil or only olive oil). For the Orthodox, Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the year commemorate the betrayal of Jesus (Wednesday) and the Crucifixion of Christ (Friday). There are hymns in the Octoekhos which reflect this liturgically. These include special Theotokia (hymns to the Mother of God) called Stavrotheotokia ("Cross-Theotokia"). The dismissal at the end of services on Wednesday begins with these words: "May Christ our true God, through the power of the precious and life-giving cross...."
In Irish and Scottish Gaelic, the name for Wednesday also refers to fasting, as it is Dé Céadaoin in Irish Gaelic and Di-Ciadain in Scottish Gaelic, which comes from chéad, "first" and aoine, "fasting" which means "first day of fasting".
In American culture many Catholic and Protestant churches and some Jewish synagogues schedule study or prayer meetings on Wednesday nights. The sports calendar in many American public schools reflects this, reserving Mondays and Thursdays for girls' games and Tuesdays and Fridays for boys' games while generally avoiding events on Wednesday evening.
In the folk rhyme "Wednesday's child is full of woe", reciting the days of the week, Solomon Grundy was 'Married on Wednesday.' In Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day, the disagreeable nature of the weather is attributed to it being "Winds-Day" (a play on "Wednesday"). In Richard Brautigan's In Watermelon Sugar Wednesday is the day when the sun shines grey. Wednesday Friday Addams is a member of the fictional family The Addams Family. Her name is derived from the idea that Wednesday's child is full of woe. Additionally, Wednesday sometimes appears as a character's name in literary works. These include Thursday's fictions by Richard James Allen and Neil Gaiman's novel American Gods. In the 1945 John Steinbeck novel Sweet Thursday, the titular day is preceded by "Lousy Wednesday".
The astrological sign of the planet Mercury, ☿, represents Wednesday—Dies Mercurii to the Romans, it had similar names in Latin-derived languages, such as the Italian mercoledì (dì means "day"), the French mercredi, and the Spanish miércoles. In English, this became "Woden's Day", since the Roman god Mercury was identified by Woden in Northern Europe and it is especially aligned by the astrological signs of Gemini and Virgo. Wednesday is one of the 3 only days aside from Neptune and Pluto to be associated by another planet, which is Uranus.
- Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent in the Western Christian tradition, occurs forty-six days before Easter (forty, not counting Sundays).
- Holy Wednesday, sometimes called Spy Wednesday in allusion to the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot, is the Wednesday immediately preceding Easter.