How Did Earth Get Its Name?

The name of Planet Earth points back to soil in various languages.
The name of Planet Earth points back to soil in various languages.

Earth is the third planet from the sun after Mercury and Venus. The planet is the only one that is capable of sustaining life. Going by radiometric dating, the earth is at least four billion years old. Earth is also the fourth largest planet out of the eight and is also the densest. The planet has a single moon only. The revolution of the earth around the sun takes 365 days or the equivalent of one year. The rotation of the earth on its axis takes 24 hours or the equivalent of one day.

Name of Planet Earth

Before exploring the origin of the name “earth,” it is crucial to take of the fact that every language has a name for planet earth. In Portuguese, the earth is known as “terra,” the Germans call it “erde,” "aarde" by the Dutch, and “dünya” in Turkey. For all the languages with different names, there is a history that explains the reason why the name was picked. Interestingly, all the names that earth has in the different languages all seem to be pointing towards the ground or the soil.

How Did the Earth Get Its Name?

The modern name “earth” is believed to be at least 1,000 years old. Initially, the Anglo-Saxons elected to name the earth “erda.” Anglo-Saxons were a people of Germanic origin who conquered and occupied Great Britain in the 5th century. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Anglo-Saxon name “erda” has Germanic origins. The German correspondent of the word is “erde,” which bears only a slight variation from its Anglo-Saxon equivalent. The Old English correspondent of the word “erde” was “ertha” or “eor(th)e.” “Terra” is also another word that was used to refer to the earth. However, the word is of Latin and French origins. As such, it cannot be a part of the origins of the word “earth.”

There are certain schools of thought that have completely different theories about the origin of the word. One such theory says that an Indo-European language is the source of the word. With all the theories put forth, though, there is one interesting thing that is clear about the earth. Unlike other planets, planet earth is the sole planet whose name has no roots in mythology either by the Greeks or Romans. All the other seven planets (Venus, Mercury, Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus, Mars, and Neptune) have roots in either Greek or Roman mythology. Even the dwarf planet Pluto has similar origins.

Should Earth Be Capitalized?

Initially, during the periods of the early Middle English, the word “earth” was written entirely in the lowercase. However, the period of the Early Modern English changed the word “earth” to a proper noun. The word was especially capitalized when it was discussed alongside other celestial objects. Recently, things have been a bit different with most styles accepting the word as a proper noun or if it is written entirely in the lower case. Another common style treats the word as a proper noun if it is appearing as a name (such as “Earth’s surface) and accepts the lowercase if the word is followed by the word “the” (such “the surface of the earth”).


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