Why Is It Called Good Friday?

by Jimmy Akin

in Liturgical Year

You may have heard that today is called Good Friday because it was on this day that Christ accomplished our redemption and, as Martha Stewart might say, "That’s a Good Thing."

Actually, as intuitive as this answer is, the answer is more complex than that. You will find some dictionaries (like this one) that list the origin of the "Good" in Good Friday as the ordinary adjective good, being taken in the sense of "holy." You will find others (like this one) that disagree.

The Catholic Encyclopedia entry on Good Friday lists its designation in several languages, and although it is called "Holy Friday" in the Romance languages, English isn’t a Romance language but a Germanic one. The article concludes that the origin isn’t clear, but notes that "Some say it is from ‘God’s Friday’ (Gottes Freitag)."

This actually sells this explanation a little short. As far as I can determine, the "God’s Friday" explanation is the standard one, particularly among older etymologists. It’s also reasonable since we know of a similar very common "God" > "good" transformation in English, namely "goodbye," which is a contraction of "God be with you."

Once the true origin of a word or phrase is forgotten, people have a tendency to analyze it in terms of the words it sounds like, and so people today tend to analyze "goodbye" in terms of wishing good for someone, though this isn’t at all where the word comes from. I suspect the same thing is going on with "Good Friday." People are reanalyzing the word "Good" based on the familiar adjective today, and this conjecture has crept into some dictionaries. The older, messier "God’s Friday" explanation strikes me as more likely the correct one.

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{ 5 comments }

Donovan February 21, 2005 at 1:47 pm

Well, after all, God is good… ;)

mencius March 7, 2005 at 1:33 am

what is the theology of good friday? and its practical application?

dcs March 7, 2005 at 6:18 am

I think it’s more interesting to consider Spy Wednesday and Maundy Thursday. ;-)

Mary March 25, 2005 at 9:57 am

Err — mencius, what exactly are you asking for here?
The very pith of Christianity is that “Lord by your Cross and Resurrection, you have set us free. You are the Saviour of the World .” Today we commerate the cross.

Anonymous March 30, 2008 at 10:54 am

Im stuck.what do you belive about Jesus’s last week? I need help for my schol work also Im curious. Could you help?

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