Where does the name "Moon" come from? (Beginner)

My students keep asking where does the name Moon come from. Also why do we call the moon, moon. They say all the other planets that have moons have names for their moon.

The Moon is called many things from different mythologies. For example, Luna by the Romans, Selene by the Greeks. Because the Moon is so obvious it has been known since prehistoric times, so tracing its name is difficult. It developed with different languages rather than being chosen conciously.

See the Nine Eight Planets Moon Page for more information.

The moons around other planets are collectively called moons as they hold the same position relative to their planet as The Moon does to ours - ie. they are named after the Moon. However in order to distinguish between them they also have individual names. The first moons to be discovered around another planet where the 4 largest moons of Jupiter discovered in 1609 by Galilleo Galillei so I suppose we can blame him for calling them moons! Names were then decided for them, unlike objects which have been known since prehistoric times whose names develop with a culture and language.

This page was last updated on July 18, 2015.

About the Author

Karen Masters

Karen Masters

Karen was a graduate student at Cornell from 2000-2005. She went on to work as a researcher in galaxy redshift surveys at Harvard University, and is now on the Faculty at the University of Portsmouth back in her home country of the UK. Her research lately has focused on using the morphology of galaxies to give clues to their formation and evolution. She is the Project Scientist for the Galaxy Zoo project.

Twitter:  @KarenLMasters
Website:  http://icg.port.ac.uk/~mastersk/

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