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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  • 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.

  • In Arabic language “Earth” is called “ardd”

    • 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).

  • yes
    it has an arabic origin

    which appears in geramn الأرض or aardd

    do not forget to remember arabic

  • 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.

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

  • 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.”

    • 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.

  • 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.

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

  • 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…?

  • 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.

    • 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…

    • 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)

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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 :)

  • 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…)

  • 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.

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

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

  • 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.

  • @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).

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

  • 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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