‘doona day’: meanings and origin



The Australian-English expression doona day (also Doona Day) has two meanings:
First meaning: A day spent in bed in order to restore one’s spirits.
Second meaning: An unscheduled extra day’s leave from work, taken to alleviate stress or pressure and sanctioned by one’s employer.—British-English synonym: duvet day.

First meaning: For example, the following is from Lost your mojo? It’s got to be here somewhere…, by Dr. Loretta Poerio, Mental Health Adviser, Department of Veterans’ Affairs, published in the Winter 2018 issue of Vetaffairs, the magazine of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs:

While it may be tempting to snuggle down under the doona with a packet of Tim Tams and a mug of hot chocolate and hibernate for the winter, this activity may need to come with a warning label.
In small doses, a doona day may restore the spirits, but if it leads to more and more isolation from others and, as a consequence, your connection to the outside world becoming smaller, then it may be time to rethink your coping strategy.

Second meaning: For example, the following is from Chucking the sickie: no-questions-asked ‘doona days’ give workers a break, by Seetha Dodd, published in The Guardian (London and Manchester, England) of Wednesday 7th July 2021:

When he founded Edwin George Merchant and Partners (EGM), a recruitment and HR consultancy in Adelaide in 2016, [Mark] Johnson made “doona days” part of his organisation’s culture. Employees are encouraged to take one doona day per quarter.
A doona day is time off for wellbeing or mental health that doesn’t require prior notice. […]
Carman’s Kitchen, the muesli company, offers two doona days per year, and staff say it is a welcome perk. […]
“Doona days are a vehicle that encourages employees to take personal accountability for their wellbeing,” says Lainie Tayler, who heads HR at Carman’s. “They also help to create a culture of honesty and trust. Sometimes we just need a day off, so instead of calling in and telling fibs to get some headspace, our employees can simply call out ‘I need a doona day.’ We hope this creates open and honest dialogue and builds trust.”




In Australia, Doona is a proprietary name for a quilted eiderdown or duvet. This name is probably, with respelling, from Norwegian dyna, definite form of dyne, duvet.

The name Doona has become a generic term for any eiderdown or duvet. For example, the following is from the description of the dormitories at Glade House, in the town of Te Anau, in New Zealand’s Fiordland—description from Over the mountains to Milford Sound, by Nancy Blomkamp, published in The Sun-Herald (Sydney, New South Wales) of Sunday 27th October 1985:

Bunks are comfortable with warm doonas.




The earliest occurrences of doona day that I have found are as follows, in chronological order:

1-: From an interview of the British singer Marianne Faithfull (born 1946) by Susan Chenery, published on Saturday 24th August 1996 by both The Age (Melbourne, Victoria) and The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, New South Wales):

Marianne Faithfull coils untidily into an armchair. Legs splayed, arms waving. “It was good for me to come and see you,” she grins, “otherwise I would have lounged around in bed all day.” And a girl does require a Doona Day *, we agree with alacrity, every now and then. Well, quite a lot, actually.

(* doona-day in The Sydney Morning Herald.)

2, 3, 4 & 5-: From Diary of a day trader, by James Bone, published in The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, New South Wales):

2-: Of Saturday 1st September 2001:

Thursday, August 30
I sold Wesfarmers at $29.30, a profit of $1,800, and took Grace to Killcare, where a friend has a house. She told her office she was having a “Doona Day”. This spontaneity is one of the fantastic things about her.

3-: Of Saturday 22nd September 2001:

Friday, September 21:
Grace took a Doona Day, and we had a picnic in Centennial Park.

4-: Of Saturday 6th October 2001:

Thursday, October 4:
Addled. Took a doona day. Bought 1,000 Newcrest, at $3.40.

5-: Of Saturday 13th October 2001:

Thursday, October 11
I woke up with the faint recollection that it was my birthday. Grace lovingly presented me with her gift: a corkscrew by that French company whose name begins with L. All morning I was madly tempted to unscrew corks, but Grace, who is having a doona day in my honour, counselled stoic restraint until lunch time.

6-: From Getting a Grip on Leadership: How to learn leadership without making all the mistakes yourself! A practical, proven leadership guide (Auckland: Reed Publishing (NZ) Ltd., 2004), by Robyn Pearce and LaVonn Steiner:

What about giving yourself a duvet day, eiderdown day, doona day, mental health day (the labels vary from country to country)—a delicious and luxurious day in bed, reading, resting by yourself—or not, as your choice may be!

7-: From the transcript of The Global Ideas Bank, broadcast on RN Breakfast, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, on Monday 8th November 2004:

Someone has had the especially good idea of putting proposals to tackle 21st-century problems up on the internet, and written a book about it. That someone is Nick Temple, director of the Global Ideas Bank and author of The Global Ideas Book, a collection of existing projects, plans, and dreams connected only by the imagination to improve people’s lives.
One idea in the book is particularly appealing to those of us here on Breakfast: an international duvet day—or ‘doona day’ here in Australia—where shops, businesses and even schools close once a year for a well-deserved sleep-in.

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