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Time and Calendars

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Dates Days and months Weeks Calendars Calendar History

Date annotation

Today Sweden uses the notation
(yy)yy-mm-dd (= year-month-day, 2 digits each, optionally 4 digit year to clarify or use a century different from the current)
in all cases where you want to be exact and in any formal writing. Sometimes the dashes are left out leaving digits only.
This conforms to European standard and is often referred to as the "YMD" format.
01-22 (or 0122)
= 22nd of Jan current year.
00-05-07 (or 00-05-07) = 7th of July, year 00 of current century (i.e. year 2000 now, but if written in 1970 this would mean year 1900 unless another century is implied from the context ).
1803-08-13 (or 18030813) = 13th of August year 1803. Clear and without risk of misinterpretation. RECOMMENDED !

In less formal contexts, such as personal letters, or when you want to include the day of the week AND in older times (before mid 20th century) this format is most often used:
(Day) d/m yyyy (= optional name of weekday day number / month year, required digits only)
PLEASE NOTE the similarity and risk for confusion with US formats (m/d) !!!
3 / 5
= 3rd of May
3 / 5 -73 = 3rd of May of current or century of context.
3 / 5 1873 = 3rd of May 1873. Clear, unmistakable BUT ONLY if you know what standard was used. NOT RECOMMENDED for international writing.
When reading Swedish texts always assume this Swedish format (day/month) even if the text is in English. When we translate we do NOT usually convert the dates to US format.
Optionally you may prefix the date with the name of the weekday - see next paragraph.
Example: "född den 3 dec 1876" = born on the 3rd of December 1876.
In modern Swedish the "ordinal notation" is normally not used but was more frequent in older times.
The letter added is "a for 1st and 2nd, and "e" for the others.
Example: "den 1:a december" = the 1st of December. "den 3:e december" = the 3rd of December.
Swedish does not use the "reverse notation" that English may use: "Dec 3" or "Dec 3rd".
Names of months are NOT capitalized in Swedish

Names of weekdays

Names of DAYS starting with Monday (3rd letter of abbrev in parens is optional). Old spelling (before 20th century) in italics (note capitalization which is not used in modern Swedish):
måndag (må(n)) Day of the moon tisdag (ti(s))
Day of Tyr (God of war)
onsdag (on(s)) Day of Oden (The chief God) torsdag (to(r)) Day of Tor (God of thunder)
fredag (fr(e)) Day of Freja (wife of Oden) lördag (lö(r)) Lögaredagen = washing day (clothes and body)
söndag (sö(n)) Day of the sun    

The origin of these names goes way back to pre-Christian times. Tyr, Oden, Tor and Freja are names of different gods in the ancient Nordic mythology. "Löga" is a very old word for wash.
Note the similarities to English names indicating that the origin of most of the English names is actually from the Viking era.
Imagine this: you are using references to ancient (heathen) Nordic mythology every day - even in English speaking countries !
Saturday is the exception - no ref to cleanliness made here ! :-) English refers to the planet Saturn. Wednesday may not be derived from Nordic "Odin's day". Torsdag is "Donnerstag" in German, meaning day of thunder (just as Tor is the God of thunder and lightning)
Sometimes the definite form is used, created by adding "en" to the day's name, e.g. tisdagen = the Tuesday.

Names of months

The MONTHS are (abbrev in parens) Old spelling (before 20th century) in italics (note capitalization which is not used in modern Swedish). The form ending in double "i" is Latin possessive used in expressions like "den 3e Martii" (the 3rd of March):

januari (jan), Januarius, Januarii februari (feb), Februarius, Februarii mars (mar), Martius, Martii april, (apr), Aprilius, Aprilii
maj (maj), Majii juni (jun), Junius, Junii juli (jul), Julius, Julii augusti (aug), Augusts, Augustii
september (sep(t)), Septembrius, Septembris oktober (okt), Octobrius, Octobris november (nov), Novembrius, Novembris december (dec), Decembrius, Decembris

All these names take their origin from latin and the times of the Roman Empire (a few 100 years around year 0) and several of them are Latin ordinal numbers - but note that March (month of the war god Mars) was the first month so Sept, Oct, Nov and Dec derive their names from ordinal number 7, 8, 9 and 10 respectively. July is named after the Roman emperor Julius (Caesar), August after Augustus.

NOTE 1: that names of days and months are, unlike in English, not spelled with a capital first letter in modern Swedish. Only when context demands so, e.g. at the beginning of a sentence.

NOTE 2: The European week starts on Monday, unlike US standard starting the week on Sunday. Sweden adopted this practice in 1973.

Week annotation

In modern times the weeks have a two-digit ordinal number mostly used for calendar purposes. It is in fact a 3-digit number where the first digit is the LAST digit of the year and the last two is the ordinal week number within that year.
NOTE that the ordinal number of a week is different in different countries and it does not follow language regions (as the US date notation does). It depends on the official definition of the first week of the year. This may be "first week with more than 3 days" ("majority rule") OR first week regardless of number of days. Then the definition of "start of week" (Sun or Mon ..) complicates the whole issue.

The week in Europe starts on a Monday as opposed to the USA where the week starts on a Sunday (cf above).

My rule of thumb is: Never use week number in international contexts without explaining what week numbering system you use (and then you have lost the advantage of a brief ref anyway). Better use the expression "week starting July 3rd". Even if the other person does not start the week on the same day (see "Names of Days.." above) there will be no mistake (the difference is only one day)


Item Description Publication data / Comment L M
Calendar Calendar history (Sweden, Finland) Rötter . Julian, Gregorian calendars, Böndagar. Explains the system and gives the dates 17th to 20th century S I
Calendar Calendar program (Boswed) Rötter . Download . Very useful ! S I
Calendar 10 000 year calendar >Go> . on line. Careful about 1752-1753 calendar change different in Sweden and GB ! S I
Almanac 1835   Examples from a Swedish almanac 1835 S H

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Last updated by F Hae 2005-05-11 18:09 © Fredrik Haeffner, 2003-5