How Earth Got Its Name

Today I found out how ‘Earth’ came to be called so. Firstly, it’s important to understand that nearly every language has its own name for the planet. It’s called ‘terra’ in Portuguese, ‘dünya’ in Turkish and ‘aarde’ in Dutch, just to name a few with their own etymology. However, 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’,  is said to go 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 A.D, the word ‘Earth’ came from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘erda’ and it’s germanic equivalent ‘erde’ which means ground or soil. In Old English, the word  became ‘eor(th)e’ or ‘ertha ‘. There is speculation that the origins of the word may be from an Indo-European language base ‘er’ which produced more modern adaptations of the word used in languages today.  What is certain though is of all the Planet’s names, Earth is the only one in our solar system that does not come from Greco-Roman mythology. All of the other planets were named after Greek and Roman gods and goddesses.

Bonus Facts:

  • Translations of the Bible into English was one of the earliest recorded use 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. “(Genesis 1:10)
  • Earth is the only planet in the Solar System with plate tectonics. The outer crust of the Earth is broken up into regions known as tectonic plates. These are floating on top of the magma interior of the Earth and can move against one another. When two plates collide, one plate can go underneath another.
  • Earth doesn’t take 24 hours to rotate on its axis. It takes 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4 seconds to completely rotate around its axis; If you add up that little motion from the Sun that we see because the Earth is orbiting around it, as well as the rotation on its axis, you get a total of 24 hours.
  • Everyone knows that the Earth has 1 Moon. But did you know there are 2 additional asteroids locked into a co-orbital orbits with Earth? They’re called 3753 Cruithne and 2002 AA29. The first doesn’t actually orbit the Earth, but has a synchronized orbit with our planet, that makes it look like it’s following the Earth in orbit, but it’s actually following its own, distinct path around the Sun. The 2002 AA29 travels in a horseshoe orbit around the Earth that brings it close to the planet every 95 years.
  • Earth is gradually slowing down. Every few years, an extra second is added to make up for lost time. In other words, millions of years ago, a day on Earth would have been only 20 hours long. It is believed that, in another million years time, a day on Earth will be 27 hours long.

Expand for References:

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  • Kevin Hansen

    Earth and Terra are okay names, but I like to use the Latin translation, as it sounds more scientific: Tellus.

    I vote for a change of name, though. Keep “Earth”, “Tellus” etc. as nicknames, and find a new one, more in line with the other planets.

    • Skotous

      Well In Greek It’s called Gee that comes from the world Gaeh wich was a mythological goddess like the rest planets.

    • It sounds to me that Tellus comes from Terra and was pronounced by people who did not have rr in their vocabulary and mispronounced it as ll.
      Terra became Terru and it had added to it s, a Greek feature. And from Terrus to Tellus it is just a mispronunciation away.

  • B. Johnson


  • iman

    In Arabic language “Earth” is called “ardd”

    • Zoubir

      You’re right Iman.. I would even say that ‘earth’ and ‘Erde’ in German come from the Arabic word أرض pronounced [‘arD]. It can’t be a coincidence and the Arabic word can’t be derived as it is much older (Semitic language).

    • Richard

      are you sure thats not Klingon?

      • Oli

        Lol I laugh at that one, good one, I could see Sheldon Cooper saying it .

    • Solomon

      In Turkish, It called ” Dünya ” but actually it comes from (دنياء)(dunyāˀ)arabic.It’s meaning is “on bottom, the former life(Where your on test to be a good prayer or worshipper in Islam)” It is feminen form and with it is simple form, It called “edna”. I got it from Atabet-ül Hakayık and it was written 1300 years ago. So your arguament is inappropriate now. Maybe, You could questioned me about Turkish and Arabic are not in same language group but they have closely related with each other for 1400 years(roughly).

  • hamed

    it has an arabic origin

    which appears in geramn الأرض or aardd

    do not forget to remember arabic

    • The word Earth is of Indo-European origin. Semetic languages (Aramaic, Arabic, Hebrew, others) are not related. Still, it’s interesting the Arabic word is ardd.

      • Ilya

        I have found this word (source of this word) in Arabic dictionary and it’s meaning craving and rubbing so it,s Semitic origin and it is not Indo-European origin.

  • Krist Martin

    Er…he got it wrong in his statement that Earth wasn’t named after a Greek God. In fact the Greeks called Earth Gaia, which means mother (not soil). Gaia was originally a preter-god, similar to Chronos. Had the Roman’s taken in the concept of Gaia which predates the other gods of Greek Mythos we’d probably be calling Earth Gaia and not Earth at all. Sadly however the Romans used a Latin word for Earth, Tera (Terra) which has been transformed with the different Latinate languages (French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, etc).

    It should also be noted that Erda isn’t Anglo, its Breton and pronounced Ar-thah, with a voiced -th.

    • @Krist Martin: Sources?

    • Sch

      No, Gaia gave birth to Earth. With her union through Uranus. No pun intended.

  • Gill Avila

    Why is a planet that’s 70% water called “Earth?” That’s what I’ve always wondered.

    • Pale Stine

      I guess because we inhabit the soil, not the water. Without earth we wouldn’t be able to survive. Which reminded me of a nice movie you should watch “Waterworld”. It is old but it shows how its nearly impossible to live without soil.

    • Dr. Jones

      Because only the SURFACE is 70% water, and the actual planet is 99% rock and iron.

    • It is because Yarra means water in the old Aboriginal Languages of Victoria, Australia.
      And they came to Australia over 60 000 years ago, while the Greeks migrated to actual Greece in two waves, 7000 years ago and respectively 5000 years ago.

    • Peter

      It could be that the vast quantities of water came later, after the planet had got its name.
      Just read the Biblical story of the great Flood.

    • Peter

      It could be because the excess water came later, after the planet was already named.

  • stans5425

    Actually, since you mentioned the Bible in your article, the word “Earth” translated from the original Hebrew is “ha’ aretz”, or the earth, or the ground. Looking at the two words, it’s easy to see where the languages may have confounded a letter here or there, and turned “aretz” into “earth.”

    • Iris Harris

      The word in the Hebrew is Eretz. The word you mentioned HaAretz is in the form of the specific noun-The Earth. In it’s not specific noun – Earth, sounds very similar to the word in the Hebrew – Eretz. Also, Since the Hebrew word is not written with vowels, the E after the R is missing in the English version. This is perfectly understandable as the translator of the Bible into English was not familiar with the correct pronunciation of this word. Other than that I assume that the ending TZ turned into TH, is common use for this combination in the English language.

      • R.m

        In my language, Assyrian, it is called Era, Arra, or Ar’aa, depending on the dialect. The Assyrian language pre-dates the bible, definitely more likely word origin, and possibly the source of the word Earth.

        • I agree with you. Please read my comment from 21st of January 2016.

      • Laika

        William Tyndale… are you kidding me? Tyndale used original Greek and Ancient Hebrew text when he translated the Bible into the commoners tongue (English)

  • MC Hambone

    good info in the article, thank you. only thing I want to add/clarify is that PLANETs are not named after GREEK gods and godesses, though at one point they were. To pay homage to the ancient greeks and romans that first named the moving celestial bodies, our PLANETS in the solar system are named after Roman Gods and Goddesses. The moons of the planets are named after people in greek mythology related to the greek counter part to the god in roman mythology. for example Jupiter is a roman god, its moons are named after Zuess’ (the greek counterpart to Jupiter) servants.

    not a big deal, as that isn’t the focus of this article, just thought it would be best to spread more info.

    • Brandon

      Actually Uranus was a Greek god, hence the author’s statement that the planets were named after Greek and Roman gods and goddesses.

  • PdS

    From a ‘universe’ perspective, the most remarkable – although likely not unique – aspect of this planet is that it evolved…humans. So, it’s updated name could maybe be…?

  • Aiesha G.

    Quote: ” It’s called ‘terra’ in Portuguese, ”
    – – – – – – – –
    Oh really? The Spanish have been calling Earth Terra long before Portugual became an idea…

    Portuguese is a subset of Spanish, and not an original language like Mandarin or Arabic. So correct that little fact you have wrong.

    • Daven Hiskey

      @aiesha G: How is it wrong to say it’s called terra in Portuguese when it is? The fact that it came from Spanish has no bearing on the discussion, though of course I’m always interested in such facts. It just doesn’t make the statement incorrect.

      • Tami

        Thank you

    • esteban

      You don’t even have an idea how stupid this is haha… Spanish is my mother language and Portuguese is certainly not a sublanguage, that’s just bullshit… both are romance languages, they came from Latin just as rumani and French… and by the way Spanish word for Earth is TIERRA not Terra so you are twice wrong…

    • Askene

      Portuguese doesn’t come from Spanish, it comes from Vulgar Latin alike all latin languages of the peninsula (Galician, Leonese, Spanish, Catalan, Valencian among others I didn’t mentioned)

    • Dergen

      Why not take it a step further and say the Romans have been calling Earth “Terra” long before Spanish was a language (it’s “Tierra” in Spanish, anyway). There’s nothing wrong with the title, they simply used Portuguese as an example, there’s no logic to your argument. Moreover, Portuguese/Galician are indeed different than Spanish and have a much heavier Celtic influence. Interestingly, Portuguese speakers tend to understand Spanish speakers better than Spanish speakers can understand Portuguese speakers.

  • rafael

    the name of the earth came from a titan called gaia !! AND ALSO ROMANS DONT HAVE THE SAME GODS WITH GREEKS!! AND I KNOW THAT BECAUSE I AM GREEK

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  • enotes35

    Let’s not for get that earth being a planet is still a relatively new idea compared to Language. People of the old world didn’t look at the plain the walked on as a celestial body. The ground was just the ground to most people.

  • Ruby

    Why is it that at some point people become rude or even downright nasty to one another in these forums? Then it invariably becomes “one-upmanship”. Did you know that it is quite possible to be kind when correcting someone?

    • Brad

      ^Best comment of the lot!

  • HYP3RDR1V3

    Actually the only one that was the closest was the hebrew ha aretz the earth yes gia from greek we do hold fast to alot of greek words to this day but the correct would be the hebrew but if you wanna go deeper seek the root aretz comes from older words such as akkadian,and Sumerian, akkadian is the mother tounge of semetic language earth gets its name from a place located in ancient Mesopotamia modern day Iraq. called ERIDU home of the water god ENKI one in the same in your greek is Poseidon and in roman is neptune and other names in different cultures you can do research on eridu its known to be the oldest of anywhere on your earth some people argue over that or nippur home of Enki’s half brother Enlil the sky god also know as zeus and romanized jupiter eridu was the place where the adumu was created thats akkadian for adam the garden of E.DIN and there know you know 🙂

  • HYP3RDR1V3
    • Felicity

      I agree with your view that it was named because of Ea in Sumerian times.

  • Vanche Eswaran

    Earth is the only one in our solar system that does not come from Greco-Roman mythology. All of the other planets were named after Greek and Roman gods and goddesses.

    But in India, Name of Earth is also based on Goddesses.(In many Indian Languages…)

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  • Iris Harris

    Did it ever crossed anybody’s mind that the word Earth sounds a lot like its equivalent in Hebrew Earetz? Since one of the first use for the word is found in the English translation of the bible, it might as well be that it is actually the Hebrew word misspelled. You have many more words that were copied to the English with the original biblical term in the Hebrew , like Hallelujah , Babel , Messiah and many more.

  • Numnum

    Of course we all know “earth” was derived from “aarde”.
    Dutch is the way to go in this matter!

  • simon hopper

    You’re all wrong…”Earth” is derived from Godspeak…and roughly translated as…”all sales final/no refunds”

  • Sarah

    Hi just wanted to let you know, Earth is an old Anglo saxan word meaning ground and soil, but earth was used to describe for one word a 1000 years ago….. Home. so I for one think Earth is a perfect name for our planet.

  • Zoubir

    @Davin and others… It is most plausible that etymologically, the word ‘earth’ goes back to Semitic languages which are much older than Anglo-Saxon (Germanic…) and other European languages: earth, Erde, aarde, etc… all sound like Arabic أرض pronounced [‘ard] and Hebrew אָ֫רֶץ pronounced [‘eretz] or [‘aretz]. The assumtion is that the ‘r’ remains in mid-position and the final consonant is a dental (either plosive, affricated or interdental).


  • chris

    knowing the Hebrew aretz and the sloppy speech patterns of humans, it is not without reason that arets became erath, then, urth (earth).

    • dave

      yeah, if har meggido turned into armageddon and kfar nahum into capernaum then eretz to earth is even less bastardized.

      having both languages as my mother tongues there are tons of words that are without doubt related…..but look up the etymology and it always seems to stop at greek, rarely will you see it taken back to the semitic languages or earlier.

  • Rojan

    Proto Indo-European culture had a sky father (Dyaus Pitr) and his consort mother earth (Prithvi). Dyaus pitr became Zeus Pater in Greek and then Zeu Piter (Jupiter) in Roman era.

    Prithvi is pronounced p-ri-TH-vee. Drop the p and vee phonemes and you get ri-TH. Start that with a vowel to smooth out the sound, and you get a-ri-TH, which is exactly how we now pronounce earth.

    Many Indo-European languages have similar sounding names for earth, as pointed out in several comments above.

  • Very interesting. It is obvious that many of you are very well read and intellectual in matters of the earth. Personally, I liked B. Johnson’s simple comment…..Home. As John Denver said in one of his songs….”If there’s an answer, it’s just that it’s just that way” As we try to unravel the mystery of how the Earth got it’s name, we learn all kinds of interesting facts, but there’s a pleasant peace in the end of knowing that it is simply our “home”. Thanks for all the cool info!

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  • MarcoC

    Is there any way we can accelerate the phenomenon by which the days are getting longer? I could really use a 36 hours day. A bit more sleep, 8 hours of work and the rest play.

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  • Jim

    But… Isn’t Terra a ROMAN goddess?
    So.. Earth is ALSO named after a roman God?

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  • The Albanian

    the oldest are pelasgians, older tha history itself. The word “earth” in pelasgian “erdh” “ardh” or “i ardhuri” that means in english “its comig” “came” or “the newcomer”
    The latins call it “terra” after the biblical story of Noah’s Ark, still in pelasgian “ter a” wich in english goes for “is it dry” or “dry”

  • Ben

    LOL @ these comments…

  • Banti

    It appears that this “Tinkle” match will not end any time soon, Earth, the word created by many generational and cultural translations will need to re named as was one suggestion during this thread……
    IMHO….. if we all do not take notice of our interaction with all that is Earth and of each other, I offer this as a befitting renaming….. “CRAP”

    Have a wonderful day

  • Chelle

    Earth? What a terrible name for a planet. You might as well call it “dirt”.

  • I have the privilege to have come into contact with old Australian Aboriginal languages, which were so numerous two hundred years ago. I asked many
    Aboriginal people, and I also consulted dictionaries: What does Yarra mean?
    The answer is Water. There is also a river named Yarra in Melbourne, which flows not far from my house. Since the Aboriginal people are said to have migrated to Australia as early as 60 000 years ago and they have this Yarra word into the local language, here in Banyule (Hill in the local language) City, these times pre-date the
    migration of the Greeks from India (which happened in two waves 7000 years ago and 5000 years ago.) So according to how I see it, the word Terra (or Ti Yarra or Tierra) means Watery place, or Watery Planet.

  • Eros

    Isn’t named for a Greek God?
    Even though that is the name of a planetoid, which wasn’t even discovered until much later.
    Not very well researched.
    Still an interesting article.

    • ANGELA


  • JC Robertson

    Gaia IS the Earth. We are all walking on Gaia’s body. She didn’t give birth to it. It wasn’t named after her. All these names such as Tierra or terra, Earetz, so on and so forth, these are all just names that different people have given her. Some like the name Earth because it means home. Others like the idea that it’s name should fit in with the other gods and goddesses. If that’s the case, you should call it Gaia. (Don’t wake her though, lol) maybe that’s why the name is not Gaia- for fear that saying her name too much will wake her up, which would be very bad for us.

    Anyway, my point is: this hunk of rock we stand on, was never given an Official name by the “president of our planet” or whatever. We know where all these names came from in all of our different cultures. It doesn’t have a name. So for me it’s Gaia, Earth is her nickname. Y’all can call it what you want

  • Jim

    Lot’s of entertainment there. I looked but didn’t see this one. Why is “the Earth” often referred to as “the Earth” when we don’t say “the Saturn”, “the Jupiter”, etc. I almost wrote, “the Pluto” but that would be a different topic, wouldn’t it?

  • Mikael Musoke

    Earth had its name before the English language, and before the Bible. It was the ancient Chwezi people of the Kitara Empire who named it. The original name was Isi, Isin, ns, sia and ensi by Africans. A term that came to be written as AETHI by the Greeks (later conceptualized to planet Asia), then Earth by the English. The word Aethi-opia/Ethiopia which greeks applied to refer to what we call Africa, originally came from this concept of Bantu term “Isi” that had become AETHI.

    It’s a shame that Africa is always left out of etymological dispute, cultural origins and often history in general. The cradle of civilization has had so much more impact in history than people think. Even our modern society.

  • Harry

    ‘Earth is gradually slowing down. Every few years, an extra second is added to make up for lost time. In other words, millions of years ago, a day on Earth would have been only 20 hours long. It is believed that, in another million years time, a day on Earth will be 27 hours long.’

    Actually, the extra second is not added to make up for lost time, the Earth is not slowing down a second every few years. That’s actually an incredibly quick slowdown compared to the infinitesimal change of rotation speed that is actually measured. The reason a leap-second is added every few years is that the old time standard used to determine the Earth’s rotation was never quite exactly matched to the atomic second, so the discrepancy adds up to 1 second every so many years, because the atomic second is just a teeny bit shorter than the standard second. Since radioactive cesium atoms count so much more accurately than the outdated method, we have to add a second to the old style year to recalibrate it whenever it falls behind the atomic clock by about that much, because the atomic clock is counting it faster with its shorter seconds.

    • Harry

      I should correct myself on that… it’s the atomic clock that has the extra second added because it is using longer seconds than the old method. Sorry about that. But same idea. And they keep doing it because the institutions using it are loathe to make an adjustment to conform to what the planet is doing.

  • Inge

    It is fascinating to read how languages have evolved. I enjoyed reading this post and all the comments 🙂 Makes you want to go and study all the ancient languages. Thanks Noreen for posting and thanks to all those who have taken the time to expand the topic!