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Moon & planets, etc

Posted by GPP on November 07, 2003

In Reply to: Moon posted by ESC on November 06, 2003

: : Hey, I'm new and loking to further research something. Personally, I am big on citing my sources (and find it irritating when an author does not do similarly). So...I was reading a book in which the author asserted that the word "Moon" comes fromes the Indo-European "me," which means among other things (his words), "a quality of mind" and "measurement". As well, he asserts, "The Greek 'metis' (wisdom) and the Old High German 'muot' (mind or spirit) share the same root word as Moon."

: : I would also like to research the etymology of the names of the planets/Gods, as well as the Gods of Greece, Rome and other European deities, if anyone might be able to point me to some excellent sources (very reputible ones at that). ;o)

: : FRankly, I'm surprised that I can find no other Dictionaries akin to the Oxford Dictionary of Celtic Mythology, which are scholarly, and include the translations for their deities' names. "Seus," I hear (as an example) means either "bright" or "sky" yet I have been unable to validate it. :o)

: : Wade MacMorrighan

: MONTH - Old English. "In ancient times the passing of time was recorded by noting the revolutions of the moon. Consequently prehistoric Indo-European had a single word, 'menes-, which denoted both 'moon' and 'month.' The Romances languages retain it only for 'month': Latin 'mensis' (source of English 'menstrual') has given French 'nois,' Italian 'mese,' and Spanish 'mes.' The Germanic languages, however, have kept both, distinguishing them by different forms. In the case of 'month,' the Germanic word was 'maenoth,' which has differentiated into German 'monat,' Dutch 'maand,' Swedish 'manad,' Danish 'maaned,' and English 'month.'"

: MOON - Old English. "Indo-European 'menes' meant both 'moon' and 'month.' It was probably a derivative of base 'me-' (source of English 'measure'), reflecting the fact that in ancient times the passage of time was measured by the revolutions of the moon."
: From "Dictionary of Word Origins: the Histories of More Than 8,000 English-Language Words" by John Ayto (Arcade Publishing, New York, 1990).

: Merriam-Webster online:
: Main Entry: 1 moon
: Pronunciation: 'mün
: Function: noun
: Etymology: Middle English mone, from Old English mOna; akin to Old High German mAno moon, Latin mensis month, Greek mEn month, mEnE moon
: Date: before 12th century

Eric Partridge in his etymology book 'Origins' lists 'moon' under his entry for 'measure'. Here's a very brief paraphrase: The changes of the moon afforded the earliest measure of time longer than a day. The basic root is Indo-European 'me-', to measure. (Re the "quality of mind" meaning you refer to, derivations include a 'measure' in the sense of 'exact knowledge' in Sanskrit, and 'prudence, cunning' in Greek.)

For names of planets, constellations, stars, etc, I would start with This site will direct you to Merriam-Webster and other dictionaries for etymologies. If there are also entries leading to a "1911 encyclopedia", by all means check that source also; this is the most famous edition of the Britannica ever published. Some of OneLook's cites will specify that it is the Britannica, and others won't--there were trademark issues. Columbia Encyclopedia is also an excellent and trustworthy source. For nearly all topics, Merriam-Webster and American Heritage are by far the most reputable dictionaries (excepting Oxford English Dictionary, which is a pay site.)