Today and tomorrow

Yesterday a friend asked me about the origins of the words today and tomorrow, and whether the to- part of them was orginally the. You sometimes come across expressions like ‘on the morrow’, and words appear with hypens in older texts: to-day and to-morrow.

According to the OED, today comes from the Old English tó dæg – the dæg part means day and the part means “at/in/during (a time), or on (a day). Tomorrow comes from to morȝen or to morwen – the morrow part means morning.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, today comes from the Old English todæge or to dæge (on (the) day), and Tomorrow comes from the middle English to morewe, from the Old English to morgenne (on (the) morrow), with morgenne being the dative of morgen (morning). They were written as two words until 16th century, then hypenated until the early 20th century.

In German (der) Morgen means morning, and morgen means tomorrow, and tomorrow morning is morgen früh or morgen vormittag, not morgen Morgen!

In French the word for today, aujourd’hui, comes from the expression au jour d’hui (on the day of today) – hui comes from the Latin hŏdĭē (today), a contraction of hŏc diē (this day). The Italian word for today, oggi, comes from the same root, and the expression al giorno d’oggi (nowadays, these days, today) has the same structure as aujourd’hui, though hasn’t replaced oggi as aujourd’hui has replaced hui in French. The Spanish and Portuguese words for today, hoy and hoje, also come from the same root and are used without embellishment. The Romanian word for today, astăzi, comes from a different root though – the Latin ista die (that day).

Sources: Wiktionnaire, Wikizionario, Wikcionario, Wikcionário & Wikționar.

This entry was posted in English, Etymology, French, German, Italian, Language, Latin, Romanian, Spanish, Words and phrases.

15 Responses to Today and tomorrow

  1. prase says:

    I’ve always found it fascinating that the French word for “today” is in fact a concatenation of at least four words, five if we decompose au to à + le, and six if hui is analysed to the Latin roots.

  2. Mut says:

    Some people even sometimes say “au jour d’aujourd’hui”, so it makes it a double pleonasm.

  3. Agnieszka says:

    It’s good to read, from time to time, about the origins of words. Usually, when I learn them, I don’t think of it much. I had no notion, that in French, it’s composed of few words.

  4. Yenlit says:

    The same process of reinforcement and erosion of meaning of words has an English example as well.
    Latin: hoc die – hodie – hui
    Old French: au jour d’hui – aujourd’hui – au jour d’aujourd’hui

    Old English:
    ufan – ‘on up’ (uf locative)
    be-ufan – ‘be up on’
    an-bufan – ‘on be on up’
    anbufan – ‘above’
    up above – ‘up on by on up’

  5. pittmirg says:

    In Slavic languages the word for ‘today’ is typically a combination of a demonstrative pronoun and the word for ‘day’, most often a reflex of *dьnь-sь (day-this): Old Church Slavonic дьньсь, Czech and Slovak dnes, Polish dziś or dzisiaj (OPl. dzińś/dzińsia), SCr. данас, Slovene danes, Bulgarian днес. East Slavic langs seem to prefer a genitive variant with the demonstrative first (сегодня, i.e. сего + дня).

    Words for ‘tomorrow’ are often derived from Common Slavic *utro “morning”, frequently with an additional fused preposition at the beginning, e.g. Polish jutro, Russian and Ukrainian завтра (за + утра), SCr, сутра.

  6. Christopher Miller says:

    Catalan has avui (and hui in its southern Valencian varieties). Occitan has uèi and auèi (mostly in the west and centre) and in the eastern Provençal varieties, encuèi which probably comes from Latin hanc hōdiē. And on the other side of the Alps, Piemontese has anchoeuj; I seem to remember pretty similar terms in the other Padanian/Gallo-Italic regional varieties.

  7. prase says:

    French seem to like this sort of pleonasms very much. Qu’est ce que c’est? = “what is it what it is?”

    As for Slavic languages, the same way as “tomorrow” is derived from the word for morning, “yesterday” is derived from the word for evening, e.g. Czech včera / večer, Russian вчера / вечер, Polish wczoraj / wieczór.

  8. Yenlit says:

    @Christopher Miller
    There’s a good list of translations for ‘today’ in the various Italian dialects for comparison at the Dizionario dei dialetti website.

  9. Chris Miller says:

    Yenlit– Thanks for the link. I notice that most of the regional varieties of Gallo-Italic seem to fall in consistently with reflexes of hanc hōdiē, whereas the Italian dialects illustrated consistently have reflexes of hōdiē alone.

    It’s interesting to see these equivalents in dialects of the two major languages of Italy, but too bad they gave none in dialects of other languages of Italy besides these two (except for Arpitan/Franco-Provençal in Val d’Aosta), such as Albanian, German, or Greek. I would think they qualify just as much to be considered Italian dialects, and in the case of Greek especially, have at least as much time depth as the dialects of the different Romance languages in Italian territory.

  10. Yenlit says:

    @Christopher Miller

    Glad you found the link interesting.
    A quick look at wikipedia states that the Italian state does recognise Albanian, German and Greek as minority languages as well as: Catalan, Slovene, Croatian, French, Franco-Provençal, Friulian, Ladin, Occitan, and Sardinian; while designating Albanians, Catalans, Germanic peoples, Greeks, Slovenes and Croats as those considered minority groups indigenous to Italy.

    So Slovene and Croatian and their dialectal forms present in Italy could also be added to your list but why not go further and include Maltese as well – not a language of Italy but heavily influenced by standard Italian and Sicilian.

  11. homoid says:

    prase wrote:

    French seem to like this sort of pleonasms very much. Qu’est ce que c’est? = “what is it what it is?”

    … and in spoken French it is not rare to hear Qu’est ce que c’est que ça? /kɛsk.sɛ = “What is it what it is what this?”

  12. Macsen says:

    So, would the Welsh ‘heddiw’ be from the Latin root too?

  13. Yenlit says:


    I’m not certain but I think ‘heddiw’ is from hyd+diw where ‘diw’ is marked as obsolete in older dictionaries, compare ‘diwrnod’. So I think heddiw or rather the -diw element is related to Latin ‘dies’ (day) and the Proto IE *dyeu ‘shine’.

  14. Macsen says:

    Diolch Yentil. So, something like hyd (lengh of) + diw (day or maybe daylight).

  15. Yenlit says:

    Croeso Macsen. I would imagine so; ‘hyd’ as in the sense of:
    hyd a lled – length and breadth (of)
    o hyd – the whole time.

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