moon and clouds

Does The Moon Have a Name?

The moon orbiting around Earth does not have an official name the way other moons do. Its name is, quite simply, moon. The roots of the word ‘moon’ can be traced back to the Old English word mōna. Mōna, in turn, can be traced back to the Latin word mensis, which translates to month. It can also be traced back to the Latin word metri, which means to measure. In other words, the moon was initially named because it was used to measure the length of the months.

Why Doesn't the Moon Have an Official Name?

The moon
While moon was once the name of Earth's moon, it is now used to refer to all natural satellites in our solar system.

There are over 200 moons in our solar system, each of which has a specified name. The reason our moon does not have a name lies in the discovery of those other moons. Before the seventeenth century, the moon orbiting around Earth was the only known orbital satellite. Galileo Galilei was the first to discover moons orbiting around another planet when he discovered four moons around Jupiter in 1610. These four moons of Jupiter have since been dubbed the Galilean moons. They include Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. After this discovery, instead of creating a new name for the orbiting celestial bodies around Jupiter, astronomers at the time used the name for our moon. What was once the name for our moon became a word to describe these orbiting celestial bodies.

Alternative Names for the Moon

The moon
The moon has had multiple names from different cultures throughout history.

While there is no official name for the moon, there are a couple of unofficial names. The moon was known to the ancient Greeks as Selene. She was a goddess that represented the personification of the moon. The word ‘Selene’ in greek translates directly to ‘moon’. As with most Greek gods and goddesses, the Romans had their version of a moon goddess which they called Luna. Luna is the Roman equivalent of Selene and translates to moon in Latin. This became the root word of many words we use to describe the moon, like the word lunar. Luna is also often used in poetry to differentiate our moon from others. Before the moon was orbiting Earth it is theorized that it could have been a Mars-sized planet in the early solar system. This planet has been retroactively named Theia and stems from the giant-impact hypothesis. According to this hypothesis, 4.5 billion years ago the Mars-sized planet collided with Earth. Debris, which would become the moon, would have resulted from the impact. The name Theia comes from Greek mythology, where she is one of the nine titans and happens to be the mother of Selene.

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