I am new to Japanese and I've seen several questions similar to this one, but not exactly that one. If this has been asked before, I am very sorry.

In our class, we introduced weekdays and the Kanji for them. Until then, we only had the Kanji for couting (e.g., 一 and so on), for which I could manage to pronounce them correctly (e.g., while 四 is usually よん, 四時 is よじ, just because I know that 4 o'clock is not pronounced yonji).

However, for 日曜日, I cannot really comprehend how we get to にちようび. I understand that 日 has several readings, and ひ・び and にち are among them. All weekdays contain 曜日 - ようび - which means "day of week". Hence, as 日 is read as び here, I assume ひ・び to literally mean "day". As 日 can also mean sun, it makes sense that 日曜日 is Sunday, as it's composed of 日 - Sun and 曜日 - day of week.

However, the first occurrence of 日 is pronounced にち(にち曜日), and apparently, にち does not mean sun. For example, まいにち(毎日)is "every day", and here にち means day. This would imply that にちようび is "day day of week" which does not make sense to me. I cannot understand a) why we read the first 日 as にち and the second as び, if both mean day (I know one is the sino-Japanese reading and one the original Japanese reading, but I cannot make sense on how to derive this).

And b) next to not understanding why we read 日曜日 as にちようび, I also don't understand why it means "Sunday" and not "Day DayOfWeek" (obviously, that doesn't make sense), as にち (as well as ひ・び?) means day (as in まいにち) and ようび is the day of week.

I've read that beginners should just "accept" 日曜日 as Sunday, but I want to understand how to parse/read/understand Kanji. I think I still do not really understand how they work.

Thank you so much for your help. I hope I've made my question clear...

  • 1
    The first 日, pronounced as にち, does correspond to "Sun". 日 read as に/にち/にっ does mean "sun" in 日食 (にっしょく, "solar eclipse"), 日光 (にっこう, "sunlight"), 日輪草 (にちりんそう, "sunflower"), 日射病 (にっしゃびょう, "sunstroke") and so on. 日 in 日本 (にほん/にっぽん, "Japan") is also etymologically "sun", as the flag of Japan indicates. I believe the last half of the linked post answers your question.
    – naruto
    Jan 20, 2022 at 9:40
  • @naruto Thank you for your answer. However, I do not understand how にち can mean both day and sun. In まいにち, it's clearly day. When I look it up in a dictionary (jisho.org/search/%E3%81%AB%E3%81%A1), にち also only comes up as "day". I thought the meaning of a word is fixed, i.e., にち always means the same, just as "day" is always day in English. Just the Kanji can have different meanings. This unfortunately still confuses me :(
    – Maxbit
    Jan 20, 2022 at 12:30
  • This might help. One of the meanings of 日 as a kanji is "sun", even when it's read にち/にっ, but that does NOT mean you can use にち as an independent word meaning "sun". Your link explains the meaning of 日 (にち) as a word, and this is the entry for 日 as a kanji (i.e., as a component of a compound such as 日本, 日食, 日光, etc.).
    – naruto
    Jan 20, 2022 at 15:49
  • 2
    にち is not an independent word meaning "sun", but にちようび is an independent word meaning "Sunday", and にち in にちようび is a component meaning "sun". Even in spoken Japanese. This isn't strange at all; tele is not an independent word meaning "distant", but telepathy is an independent word, and tele- in telepathy is a component meaning "distant".
    – naruto
    Jan 20, 2022 at 16:07
  • 3
    And keep in mind that your study has to be basically based on words, especially while you are a beginner. Every word has a long history, and its components may or may not be relevant to the current meaning. English is full of weird words like this and this. When a native speaker uses 日曜日, whether in speech or in writing, they do not worry about its etymology at all. There's a reason people say beginners should just accept.
    – naruto
    Jan 20, 2022 at 16:25


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