Judging by Vicipaedia (I know, I know), Good Friday is known as Dies Passionis Domini in Latin. This is a very direct name. In English it is Good Friday, in Nordic countries Long Friday and other names in other places. Latin is the only language I know which describes the day so directly.

Does Latin have a more indirect name for the day? In particular, is it called any kind of a Friday in Latin? Is Dies Pessionis Domini the only (common) one? I know Latin does not have equally convenient names of weekdays as many other languages, so perhaps calling it a Friday would be awkward.

5 Answers 5


This started out as a comment to comments made to Sam K's answer above but it ran away from itself a little so I'm posting it here!

Just to clarify, parasceve does refer to preparations for the Jewish Sabbath (and hence, Friday) but also to preparations for the Jewish Pesach/Passover, which can fall on any day of the week. Indeed, New Advent notes, “the Parasceve of the Pasch, whatever day of the week it fell on, was kept even more religiously than the ordinary Friday …”

The word was then adopted by Greek ecclesiastical writers although New Advent is not clear in what manner (was it to mean Friday? or some other day or period of preparation?) It seems that parasceve as used in the Catholic church, refers “chiefly” to Good Friday (see also here, where parasceve is used for Good Friday and, moreover, in English law is a dies non juridicus). And indeed, Good Friday of course is preparation for Pasch (Pesach); it just happens to always fall on Friday.

Feria is used in Catholic liturgy for any day of the week except Sunday, each day being counted out from the Sabbath – feria prima, feria secunda, etc. Thus, Feria sexta (VI) simply means Friday.

Feria VI in Parasceve seems a curious redundancy then (pace the Roman Missal!) if parasceve alone is understood to mean Good Friday - it's like saying Friday on Good Friday! Unless parasceve is actually considered to be the whole period of Holy Week. Unfortunately, I can’t find anywhere that parasceve is used in that way; it’s always specific to the Friday of Easter.

The Sacrosanctum Concilium uses Feria VI in Passione et Morte Domini (see point no. 110 - English here) which I think better describes Good Friday but clearly Feria VI in Parasceve is the accepted use in Catholic Latin liturgy and has the added recommendation of referencing the Jewish origins of Pasch and Christianity itself.

  • Tomas Luis de Victoria wrote several motets to be used on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, which were listed under the respective headings "Feria V in coena Domini ad Matutinum", "Feria VI in parasceve ad Matutinum", "Sabbato Sancto ad Matutinum": www0.cpdl.org/wiki/index.php/… Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 14:04

You know, I wasn't expecting to find a wide variety of answers to this question in my search, but in just the Morgan and Silva Furman University Lexicon there are a good number of answers. Let's take a look at them:

  • parasceve, -es f. = a day of preparation, the day before the Sabbath (Note: the Sabbath is Saturday in the Jewish tradition)
  • dies parasceves = the day of the day before the Sabbath (essentially the equivalent of the previous)
  • sexta feria parasceves = the sixth holiday of the day before the Sabbath (this one makes less to me, but I believe it refers to the fact that Good Friday is the sixth day of Holy Week)
  • Feria Sexta in Parasceve = the sixth holiday on the day before the Sabbath (similar to the previous)
  • Feria Sexta in Passione et Morte Domini = the sixth holiday on the passion and death of the Lord
  • Passio Christi = the passion of Christ

Now, the question becomes, which one do you use? I think if one looks at the original sources of these translations, then you can get a better idea as to the answer of this question. The very first answer comes from the 2nd-3rd century Christian writer Tertullian. This man wrote a great deal about the early Church, so this lends credibility that parasceve is perhaps the best option.

The second option comes from Ronald Latham, the third Christian Helfer, and the rest Edwin Levine. These are all more modern writers, but nearly all of them use that original parasceve.

Finally, a quick look online corroborates this. Two pages on the Catholic website New Advent (here and here) state that the day on which Jesus was crucified was called parasceve in the Bible, but in the Roman Missal it is called Feria VI in Parasceve. It therefore seems like one of these two options is your best bet for the Latin name of this holiday.

  • Thanks! Just to be clear, would parasceve be declined like Penelope? I don't recall seeing non-names in the Greek first declension in Latin, so I'm not sure I got it right.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Mar 30, 2018 at 16:39
  • @JoonasIlmavirta Wiktionary says that it is indeed a "first-declension, Greek type," so perhaps its just a unique exception. I am not as familiar with Greek declensions, so I do not know how definitive I can be on that topic.
    – Sam K
    Commented Mar 30, 2018 at 16:54
  • I'm afraid all the names with parasceve on them refer to the preparations of the Jewish Pesach. I could be mistaken, though
    – Rafael
    Commented Mar 30, 2018 at 17:14
  • 1
    @Rafael It is true that it can reference the Jewish Sabbath. That was its original meaning. But, like many Christian, religious terms, it was appropriated beyond its original meaning. And again, the Roman Missal calls it Feria VI in Parasceve according to New Advent. A Google search for both terms turns up results for both. I think the "Passion of the Lord" part of what you suggest refers more to the whole of Holy Week, while what I found, although redundant, refers more specifically to Friday. In summary, I think either would work seeing as they both came up in my original search.
    – Sam K
    Commented Mar 30, 2018 at 18:04
  • 1
    @Rafael Are you sure it's hebdomada in nominative? I thought it's hebdomas, gen. hebdomadis. Perhaps hebdomada is a Latinization into the first declension?
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Mar 30, 2018 at 22:16

Christianity traditionally marks out from the calendar the week (Sunday to Saturday) before Easter Sunday. We call it Holy Week, hebdomada sancta. The Sunday before Easter Sunday and the three days immediately preceding it are particularly important : Palm Sunday, on which the entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem is celebrated; Holy, or Maundy, Thursday, on which his Last Supper is celebrated; Good Friday, on which his death is remembered; and Holy Saturday, in which we wait expectantly for his resurrection. These last three days are called (in both Latin and English) the Triduum.

"Maxima Redemptionis", a general decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites issued in 1955, discusses the observations of Holy Week, and in the process gives (presumably typical) names for them. It states in its discussion of the Divine Office (the daily prayers said by religious and many lay Catholics):

Dominica II Passionis seu in palmis, feria II, III, et IV hebdomadae sanctae, officium divinum horis consuetis persolvitur.

In triduo sacro, id est: feria V in Cena Domini, feria VI in Passione et Morte Domini*, et sabbato sancto, si officium peragatur in choro, vel in communi, haec serventur.

"Maxima Redemptionis"

That is:

On the Second Sunday of the Passion, or in the Palms, [and on] the second, third, and fourth [weekday] of Holy Week, the Divine Office is to be performed at the usual hours.

During the Sacred Triduum, that is: on the fifth weekday [Thursday], at the Supper of the Lord; on the sixth weekday [Friday], at the Passion and Death of the Lord; and on Holy Saturday, if the Office may be performed in choir, or in common, let them [i.e. the group reciting the Hours] observe it.

I conclude, then, that the "Feria N" is an ablative of time referring to the day purely as a weekday name, and the "in cena...", "in passione...", "in parasceve" are appositive phrases describing the feast observed on that day.

It seems that the names of the days of the Triduum are therefore

  • Feria V, in cena domini [Thursday, on the Supper of the Lord]
  • Feria VI, in passione et morte Domini (or in parasceve) [Friday, on the passion and death of the Lord; or Friday, on the Passover]
  • Sabbatum sanctum [Holy Saturday]

*The phrase "feria VI in parasceve" does not occur in this document; however, it does in, for example, the encyclicals "Redemptoris Nostri Cruciatus" of Pope Pius XII and "Fides et Ratio" of Pope John Paul II.


Here I answer my pending comments, and give an answer from the POV of current Catholic liturgy:

Good Friday is Feria Sexta in Passione Domini. This is the title given for the corresponding day in the Roman Missal (p. 313,) as well as the name used to refer to the day in every cross reference on it. Penelope is right if you consider older versions of the Missal, or look from the outside of Catholic liturgy. I was wrong in thinking parasceve was an exclusively Jewish term, however:

  1. The word parasceve does not occur a single time in the 2002 Missal (this excludes readings.)
    • In the 1962 one (last tridentine version,) it is interchangeable with Passione Domini, and is used exclusively for Good Friday.
    • In the Clementine Vulgate, parasceve occurs 6 times (according to this.) and every time it refers to the day of the passion of the Lord in the sense it was the day of preparation of the Jewish passover.
  2. The word feria as in feria secunda to feria sexta is common church Latin for weekdays (obviously names honouring pagan gods aren't quite appropriate.) Only Saturday (sabbatum, from Hebrew) and Sunday (dominica from... er... you guessed, Dominus) have special names.

    • If feria prima was ever used to refer to Sunday, I can't find a single use in the Missal.
    • Specific Sundays (like the day of the Resurrection) in the Gospels are called prima sabbati, the first day after Saturday, possibly omitting feria. Its morning is also called mane prima sabbati where mane could be acting either as a noun or as an adverb. This sounds like a precedent of feria prima that was quickly replaced by dies Domini(ca) and did't survive in liturgy.

    So, answering that part of the question, calling Good Friday a Friday (feria VI) is not awkward at all.

  3. Hebdomada as n. for week, is accepted as per L&S. It is equivalent to hebdomas.


Until 1955, the Latin term that was used only for Good Friday (that is, the Friday before Easter: not for weekly Fridays) was Feria sexta in Parasceve, Friday of Preparation.

Also, the Jews never called the weekly Friday a day of preparation for the weekly Sabbath (Saturday). There were two feast day during Christ's passion: Passover, and the first day of unleavened Bread. First day and last days of unleavened bread are holy days: a sabbath rest where no work is to be done, just like the weekly Sabbath (Saturday). All Jewish holy days are called "Sabbaths." Passover night was / is not a Sabbath day rest.

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