Good Friday

Discuss word origins and meanings.

Good Friday

Post by Wizard of Oz » Sun Apr 11, 2010 7:52 am

.. worldly word wizards of wonderous wit and will .. having just passed through the annual chocolate binge known variously as Easter it came to my grey matter in a moment of hightened chocolate induced clarity and awareness that I did not know why the word "Good" had been appended to "Friday" to celebrate an event that by all accounts had very little goodness about it .. easy I thought .. peesacake .. drop it into google and Bob's ya uncle (well actually he's a mate but I do know another Bob who IS an uncle) .. anyway in it goes annnnnnnnnddddd hmmmmmm no bytes, not even a nibble .. I couldn't find it anywhere ..

.. so what think thee mighty WWs ??

WoZ doing his bit to maintain Australia's 9th place world ranking for chocolate consumption
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Re: Good Friday

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sun Apr 11, 2010 8:23 am

According to Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase & Fable, in this context 'good' means 'holy'. I'm afraid I don't have any more information than that.
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Re: Good Friday

Post by Phil White » Sun Apr 11, 2010 10:01 pm

Probably just someone looking on the bright side of life.
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Re: Good Friday

Post by Phil White » Sun Apr 11, 2010 10:24 pm

None of the OE dictionaries I've managed to look at recognize the meaning "holy" for gód. Brewer seems to be stabbing in the dark. Clearly, gód was used to describe holy people (and there is an echo of that in things like "good King Wenceslas"), but the meaning as such is not "holy". In particular, in Old English, Good Friday was "Langa-Frigadæg", which rather debunks the theory that it came from OE.

The more likely explanation is simply that it comes from "god" (as does "goodbye", for example).
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Re: Good Friday

Post by trolley » Mon Apr 12, 2010 5:20 am

I remember this question coming up many years ago when I attended Cathechism ( a sort of Catholic Sunday School that was not held on Sunday and contained none of the songs or arts and crafts enjoyed by my Protestant friends). I am not sure if this was the official answer of the Catholic Church or the answer of a young Priest who was caught off guard by the question and had to come up with something fast to appear qualified to mold our eager young minds. He said it was called “Good Friday” because that was the day that Christ died so that our sins could be forgiven. He sacrificed himself of the “good” of all mankind. It was the ultimate act of "goodness", much like Spock and his “needs of the many outweigh the need of the few” scene in Star Trek 2….. and I saw that it was good. (OK, I added the Star Trek part)
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Re: Good Friday

Post by Wizard of Oz » Mon Apr 12, 2010 7:12 am

.. thanks guys .. what you have said confirms all that I could find although I did find one Christian site that just said outright that the etymology was unknown .. but I did find the following and with our resident german scholar it may be helpful ..

.. it follows on from the idea that good and holy somehow share the same root ..
There are two possible origins for the name "Good Friday". The first may have come from the Gallican Church in Gaul (modern-day France and Germany). The name "Gute Freitag" is Germanic in origin and literally means "good" or "holy" Friday.
Source: Sharefaith website.
.. so Phil is this possible ?? ..

.. in the second part of the above quote it goes on ..
The second possibility is a variation on the name "God's Friday," where the word "good" was used to replace the word "God," which was often viewed as too holy for commoners to speak.
.. now there's a great way to get your fledgling faith off the ground ..

WoZ still eating chocolate hot cross buns ... naughty WoZ !!!
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Re: Good Friday

Post by zmjezhd » Mon Apr 12, 2010 3:17 pm

You can see the reasoning for the 'holy' meaning in the Middle English Dictionary (link), scroll down to section 5. They cite another good day, Epiphany, Good Twelfth Night.
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Re: Good Friday

Post by Phil White » Mon Apr 12, 2010 8:23 pm

"Gute Freitag" is (and always was) grammatically incorrect. "Good Friday" is (and to my knowledge has been since at least the middle ages) "Karfreitag" in German. It has never been "Gute(r) Freitag".

A saintly, pious, virtuous person is by definition (other people's, not mine) "good". You can call Saint Francis "holy", you can call him "good", but the two do not mean the same thing, and to my mind never did. To do good deeds may or may not be a holy act, but that doesn't make the deeds holy.

The "good" explanation does not hold water for me, holy water or otherwise.
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Re: Good Friday

Post by zmjezhd » Mon Apr 12, 2010 9:00 pm

Karfreitag is also spelled Charfreitag 'grief Friday' in older German orthography. In the Romance languages it tends to be Holy Friday, e.g., french Vendredi saint, Italian Venerdì Santo, Spanish Viernes Santo. In Dutch, it is Goede Vrijdag: goed is 'good'. In Slavic languages, it is Big Friday (Russian Великая пятница, Polish Wielki Piątek), and, in Scandinavia it is Long Friday (Danish Langfredag).
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Re: Good Friday

Post by zmjezhd » Mon Apr 12, 2010 9:44 pm

It seems that there are two other terms in German used for Good Friday: der gute Freitag and der stille Freitag. Sources include Grimm's Dicitonary (link) and Christiane Wanzeck Zur Etymologie lexikalisierter Farbwortverbindungen (link).
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Re: Good Friday

Post by zmjezhd » Mon Apr 12, 2010 10:27 pm

One of the definitions of gut in the Deutsches Wörterbuch is "II.A.2.d.α. im sinne 'hoch, heilig' namentlich bei den festtagen und wochentagen der karwoche und des osterfestes" (link). In English gut .. "with the meaning 'high, holy' namely with feast days and weekdays of Holy Week and Easter."
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Re: Good Friday

Post by Phil White » Mon Apr 12, 2010 10:40 pm

I have to bow to Grimm, but a couple of calls to Germany, and 4 native speakers all claim never to have heard "der gute Freitag", which at least suggests that even if it was common in the days of the brothers Grimm, it certainly no longer is. Some discussions on the web point to Luther having coined the term, however, I have located it in dictionaries of MHG, which indicate that the use is earlier than Luther.

I do feel that there is some circular thinking going on with Grimm and some of the other explanations for the English usage, namely "'good' is applied to the Friday of Easter, therefore it must mean 'holy'". There is a distinct lack of other examples of "good" meaning "holy", either in German or in English.
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Re: Good Friday

Post by Erik_Kowal » Mon Apr 12, 2010 10:50 pm

Good Lord!
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Re: Good Friday

Post by zmjezhd » Mon Apr 12, 2010 11:00 pm

I hear you Phil. I was just pointing out that both the Middle English Dictionary and the DWB have these glosses for the word good, gut as 'high, holy'. Me, I haven't made a decision yet, but I will be definitely looking into it some more. The feeling I got from the discussion of der gute Freitag and der stille freitag is that they are Medieval terms at best. I would only expect religious studies folks or medievalists to know about them. Also, the fact, whatever the meaning of good/gut/goed in this context is we have three Germanic languages with the Good Friday construction.
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Re: Good Friday

Post by Phil White » Tue Apr 13, 2010 12:32 am

Quite so. It does suggest that it has a North (Low) Germanic background. I lived half my life in the South (High) Germanic Bavaria, which was also predominantly Catholic. If Luther revived or gave some popularity to the term, that would have been to the Protestant North. He was born and lived in what is now Saxony, which sits firmly between the relatively clearly delineated high and low regions. English and Dutch, of course, are of Low Germanic origin.

Having said that, the only MHG reference I can find is in Meister Eckhart, who was Thuringian (also a Central German region that sits firmly between High and Low German).

Thinking back on my studies of MHG, it does seem to me that "guot" had a far more moral meaning than the modern German "gut" or the modern English "good". Something akin to "virtuous" rather than the modern primary meanings of "pleasing" (a good meal) or well crafted (a good film/boat). Of course, the meaning "virtuous" still survives.
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