The Monday’s Child poem and what it means by “Wednesday’s Child is Full of Woe”

The line “Wednesday’s child is full of woe” is from the nursery rhyme “Monday’s Child,” which is often credited to Mother Goose. The line basically says that kids born on Wednesdays will be sad.

But where did “Monday’s Child” come from, and what’s so sad about Wednesday babies? Let’s go back a bit and see what Wednesday children’s troubles have to do with the past.

Wednesday’s Child Has a Lot of Trouble

First of all, if we want to figure out why Wednesday’s child is so sad, we need to look at the big picture of history. When did the “Monday’s Child” poem come out for the first time?

Even though the poem is often linked to Mother Goose, it may not have come from her or all nursery rhymes. Also, “Monday’s Child” was first published in 1838 in the second volume of Anna Eliza Bray’s book Traditions, Legends, Superstitions, and Sketches of Devonshire: On the Borders of the Tamar and the Tavy, Illustrative of Its Manners, Customs, History, Antiquities, Scenery, and Natural History. (That’s a mouthful, right?)

Because the title is too long, the book is often just called A.E. Bray’s Traditions of Devonshire. Still, “Monday’s Child” may have been around for decades or even centuries before it was written down for the first time. Another book by Adam Fox, called Oral and literate culture in England, 1500–1700, backs up this idea. Fox remembers that the Elizabethan writer Thomas Nashe once said that a group of old women in Suffield, England, in the 1570s could “tell what luck each person would have based on the day of the week he was born on.”

This means that back in the 1600s in England, people were given certain traits based on which day of the week they were born. (These days, we usually use astrology to figure that out.) So, at first glance, “Wednesday’s child is full of woe” may mean exactly what it sounds like, which is that babies born on Wednesday tend to be a little bit sadder than babies born on other days.

Why does Wednesday’s Child have so much bad luck?

Let’s try to figure out what was wrong with Wednesday’s child in the first place. At least we can make some educated guesses. One theory is based on the fact that many of the names of the days of the week come from the names of Anglo-Saxon gods. Wednesday was first called “Wodnesdaeg,” which was named after Woden, who is also known as Odin.

Odin was the most important god in the Norse religion. He was a fierce king and warrior, but he was also a poet who loved to travel the world while pretending to be a traveller. Odin was a serious person who cared about learning more than anything else. He even gave up one of his eyes to learn more.

It’s possible that the bad luck of Wednesday’s child is a reflection of some of Odin, the god who gave the day its namemore ,’s serious traits. “Woe” might not be as sad as it sounds. It might have just meant a more serious attitude or a desire to understand life’s deeper mysteries.

There are, however, many different versions of “Monday’s Child,” and some of them tell a very different story about babies born on Wednesday. In a Scottish version of the poem, Wednesday’s child is “happy and joyful,” while Thursday’s child is “wise and sad.”

Child Poem for Monday

Want to know what “Monday’s Child” says about you based on the day you were born? One way to start is by reading the whole poem.

The child born on Monday has a nice face.

The child of Tuesday is full of grace.

The child of Wednesday has a lot of trouble.

Thursday’s baby has a long way to go.

The child of Friday is kind and caring.

The child of Saturday works hard to make a living.

And the baby who’s born on the Sabbath

Is bright and happy, good, and gay.

If you don’t know what your day’s prediction is trying to tell you about yourself, don’t worry. You’re not the only one. Let’s look more closely.

The child born on Monday has a “fair face.” So, what does that even mean? Merriam-Webster says that “fair-faced” can be used to describe someone with a light skin tone or someone who is beautiful.

Tuesday’s child seems to be pretty simple. They have grace, which can be a fancy way of acting or a general sense of kindness and goodwill.

What does it mean that Thursday’s kid has “far to go”? It may be easier to think of it as a prediction that Thursday’s child will “go far” if you change a few words around. This can be a metaphor for success in life, or it could mean that people born on Thursdays love to travel.

The fact that Friday’s child is “loving and giving” shows that he or she has a very big heart.

Ironically, Saturday’s child will have to work hard to make a living, even though most people use Saturday as a day to unwind. This may come from a time when working on Sundays was frowned upon and people had to try to do last-minute chores on Saturday.

Last but not least, Sunday’s child will be good and happy because it will be born on the Sabbath. If you don’t know what these words mean, bonny means pretty, blithe means happy, gay means jolly or happy, and good means, well, good.

People used to respect the Sabbath, so it makes sense that children born on what many people consider to be the holiest day of the week would have good qualities.

Overall, the rhythm and all its different forms were probably used to teach kids the names of the days of the week. People may have taken their predictions a little more seriously in the past, but now there are a lot of different ones to choose from if yours isn’t very good.

Misha Khatri
Misha Khatri is an emeritus professor in the University of Notre Dame's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. He graduated from Northern Illinois University with a BSc in Chemistry and Mathematics and a PhD in Physical Analytical Chemistry from the University of Utah.

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