Oct 14, 2015

Etymology Expeditions: Spaced Out

In honour of the Far Orbit Apogee anthology, I thought we'd explore the final frontier today, or at least word associated with it.

Space as in "area, room" comes from Old French espace, meaning "period of time, distance, interval," from Latin spatium "room, area, distance of time." The astronomical term has existed only from the 1700s.

We all know the planets in our solar system are named after Roman gods, so I won't dig deeper into that one, but what about the word planet itself? It comes from Old English planete, from Old French planete from Late Latin planeta, from Greek asteres planetai,"wandering stars."

The word Moon comes from Old English mona, from photo-Germanic menon, meaning "moon, month." The Greek selene comes from selas "light, brightness (of heavenly bodies.)"

Star comes from Old English sterra meaning "star," from Proto-Germanic sterron. The root is from Proto-Indo-European ster- perhaps from "to stew, scatter," or maybe borrowing from Akkadian istar, meaning Venus.

What about aliens then? The word alien comes from Old French alien, "strange, foreign," from Latin alienus "of or belonging to another, foreign strange." The meaning "not of the Earth" was only recorded in 1920.

Apogee, the point when a celestial body is the farthest from the Earth, from French apogée, originally from Greek apo (far) + Gaion (Earth).  Perigee is almost the same, but peri means near.

Supernova, from Latin super (over, above) +  nova from Latin novus, new. Nova was used to describe a star previously unknown, so that's the logic behind the name.

That's all, folks. Happy star-gazing:)


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