May 25, 2015

Moon and Earth Names

Translations of the Bible into English was one of the earliest recorded uses of the name Earth – "God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good."

It is called ‘terra’ in Portuguese, ‘dünya’ in Turkish and ‘aarde’ in Dutch. The common thread in all languages is that they were all derived from the same meaning in their origins, which is ‘ground’ or ‘soil’.

The modern English word and name for our planet Earth goes back at least 1,000 years. Just as the English language evolved from ‘Anglo-Saxon’ (English-German) with the migration of certain Germanic tribes from the continent to Britain in the fifth century AD, the word ‘Earth’ came from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘erda’ and its Germanic equivalent ‘erde’ which means ground or soil. In Old English, the word became ‘eor(th)e’ or 'ertha '.

The Moon did have other names, including the name of an ancient deity, Luna, the Roman Goddess of the Moon. The word Luna is still associated with the Moon. For instance, Luna is the root of words like lunar.

When humanity first learned of other moons orbiting the planets in our solar system, one of the primary reasons they were given names was to differentiate them from the Moon, which is still the official name of our moon in English. The word “moon” can be traced back to Old English, where it is said to have derived from the Proto-Germanic word “menon”, which in turn derived from the Proto-Indo-European “menses”, meaning “month, moon”.

With few exceptions, the Moon has long been associated with women, fertility, and a whole host of other female attributes. In most cases, menstrual cycles more or less coincide with the phases of the Moon. It should then come as no surprise that across many languages, the words for “moon”, “month”, and the name for a woman’s menstrual cycle often has the same root word.