Have you ever wondered why our planet is named “Earth”? 

And what does it exactly mean? 

Or who named it?

This post aims to discover all the possible answers to these questions. It’s important to remember that humanity did not recognize the Earth as a planet, unlike the rest of the Solar System’s planets, until the sixteenth century.

All the planets except Earth were named after Roman and Greek gods and goddesses. Seven of our solar system’s eight planets are named after Roman or Greek gods. We happen to be the only exception to that rule.

Earth gets its origin from the eighth-century Anglo-Saxon word “erda,” which signifies ground or soil. 

Earth
Earth | Image Credit – Flickr

The planet’s name in Latin, which was used academically and scientifically in the Western Renaissance, is the same as the “Terra Mater,” the Roman deity, which translates to English as Mother Earth

Earth is a simple English/German word that means “ground.” The name ‘Earth’ has been used for at least 1000 years.

The different names of Earth 

  • It’s worth noting that the planet has a different name in almost every language.
  • It goes by the names of ‘terra’ in Portuguese, ‘Dunya’ in Turkish, and ‘aarde’ in Dutch, to mention a few. 
  • The common thread across all languages is that they were all developed from the same root meaning, ‘ground’ or ‘soil.’

In the Bible, who gave the Earth its name?

  • One of the oldest known uses of the word Earth was in Bible translations into English “God gave the dry land the name Earth, and the gathering seas were named the Seas.
  •  It was good in god’s eyes.” Tectonic Plates are found on only planets in the entire solar system, which is Earth.

Origins of the name “Earth”

Space solar system
Space solar system | Image Credit – Pixabay
  • Almost all of the planets in the Solar System were named after gods by the Greeks and Romans, and their names have been preserved in English. Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, all unknown in classical times, were named after Greek and Roman gods and goddesses by the contemporary astronomers who found them. 
  • The Earth is the only planet in the solar system whose name is not derived from Greco-Roman mythology.
  • Its name stems from the Indo-European basis ‘er,’ which gave rise to the Germanic word ‘ertho,’ contemporary German ‘erde,’ Dutch ‘aarde,’ Danish and Swedish ‘Jord,’ and English’ Earth,’ according to the official gazetteer of planetary discovery.
  • Our planet’s contemporary English term and name, ‘Earth,’ is considered at least 1,000 years old. The name ‘Earth’ has roots in the Anglo-Saxon word ‘erda’ and its germanic equivalent ‘erde,’ which means ground or soil, as most of the English language originated from ‘Anglo-Saxon’ (English-German) with the migration of certain Germanic tribes from the continent to Britain in the fifth century A.D. In Old English, the term became ‘eor(th)e’ or ‘ertha.’ The term’s origins might be traced to an Indo-European language base, ‘er,’ which gave rise to more recent word modifications employed in today’s languages.
  • The first recorded use derives from the Hebrew term ארץ (‘éretz), which meant soil or ground over 3421 years ago, as recorded in Genesis (completed in 1513 AC). It was then simplified to eorthe and then erthe in Middle English. All of these terms are cognates of Jör, the Norse mythological giantess (source).

First use in Literature

  • In the early fifteenth century, the word Earth was initially used to refer to the Earth’s spherical. 
  • The Latin word for the Planet, Terra Mater, was used academically and scientifically in the West throughout the Renaissance. Mother Earth is the English translation of this Roman deity.

Why isn’t Earth named after one of the gods?

  • Earth was probably not named after a Greek or Roman god since it was not recognized as a planet back then. 
  • The word Erda comes from the German word Erda, while Ertha comes from the Old English variant of Erda. The term “planet” connotes a wanderer.
  • In both languages, it means “ground.” The land never wanders.

Who was the first person to name the planet Earth?

We don’t know, is the answer. The phrases “erde” and “eor(th)e/ertha” which both mean “ground,” are derived from the German and English words “eor(th)e/ertha” and “erde,” respectively. The originator of the name, however, is unknown (Source).

Why “Earth”?

Earth and the Sun
Earth and the Sun | Image Credit – Flickr
  • Unlike the rest of the Solar System’s planets, Humankind did not recognize the Earth as a planet until the sixteenth century. It wasn’t until much later that humans realized and accepted that the Earth orbited the Sun.
  • As a result, people just thought of Earth as where they dwell. Above the ground was the celestial home, where gods most likely resided. There were stars, the Sun (many didn’t realize the Sun was actually a star), and the Moon (many didn’t realize other planets had moons). Some stars were different. They were clearly wandering the sky. As a result, they were designated PLANETS, which in Greek means “wanderers.”
  • Planets in Greece and Rome were given divine names. It doesn’t always imply that people believed they were gods. It’s possible that some people believed they were gods’ avatars. Or they named the planets after gods because they had certain features with them, such as Mars being red, the color of battle, and therefore being called after the god of war. Venus was called after the Goddess of Beauty because she is a very brilliant and lovely “star.” Mercury was called after the god of speed because he moved quickly.
  • That’s all there is to it. There was the EARTH (soil) and the HEAVENLY ABODE, which included the Sun, Moon, stars, and planets. The planet didn’t need to be named because it was just the LAND where humans lived. 

There was no need to call the Sun by its name. There was just ONE Sun.

And there’s only one Moon!

Conclusion

Because there were so many planets and thousands of stars, they would be given names to distinguish them. When it was learned that the “land” was simply another planet orbiting the Sun, that the Sun was just another star among billions in the Galaxy, and that most planets had moons, naming conventions had already been too firmly embedded in English.

As a result, the planet where we lived was always referred to as Earth, rather than just another planet, as though it were in opposition to the sky. The Moon kept being called Moon, and other natural planetary satellites can also be called moons. And we can say our star is named the Sun. The Moon has been referred to as Moon, and other natural planetary satellites have also been referred to as moons.

Suraksha Pal is an Industrial Engineer currently pursuing my master’s degree in Renewable Energy Engineering at the Institute of Engineering, Pulchowk Campus. She has a keen interest in Renewable Energy and is passionate about sustainable development. She loves to express her views on these subjects through articles and blogs.