The planets of the solar system: a quick guide to their mythological name origins.
The word planet came to us from a Greek element meaning “passively drifting,
wandering, or roaming” and has resulted in several related planetary
words as shown in the following:
planet: An astronomical body that orbits a star and does not shine with its
own light, especially one of the nine such bodies orbiting the Sun in the solar
interplanetary: Situated between the planets. Also, existing between planets
or pertaining to travel between planets.
While studying the sky, ancient astronomers observed that while most of the stars
maintain fixed relative positions, there were a few heavenly bodies that obviously
changed their positions in relation to each other and to the greater number of so-called
fixed stars. The most obvious of these were the sun and the moon; but five others
seemed to revolve around the Earth at different rates. These five (Mercury, Venus,
Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn) were called by the Greeks asteres planetai (wandering
stars) or planetai (wanderers). The Latin term used in place of the Greek
was stellae errantes (wandering stars); but Late Latin borrowed the Greek
term in the plural form, planetae, while the singular was planeta.
By way of Old French, Middle English borrowed this word in the fourteenth century
to give us the modern planet. Later, not only has the word become completely
anglicized but three more planets were discovered: Uranus in the eighteenth
century, Neptune in the nineteenth, and Pluto in the twentieth.
Source of Information:
Webster’s Word Histories
(Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster Inc., Publishers, 1989), p. 368.
A medical term for “a tree struck by blight” comes from an old belief
that malignant aspects of the planets caused death and suffering on earth. When
plants and animals died or fell ill for no apparent reason, they were said to be
planet-struck. The term is first recorded in 1600.
Source of Information:
Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins
by Robert Hendrickson
(New York: Facts On File, Inc., 1997), p. 530.
The ancients were convinced that there were just seven planets including the: Sun,
Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. It was also strongly believed
that these planets were particularly important in the affairs of mankind. The astrological
study of their positions among the stars at the moment of one’s birth was supposed
to give information about his/her fate. The general character of a person was thought
to be determined by which planet she/he was “born under” according to
the calculations of astrologers, and such superstitions continue in modern times.
Each of the seven planets was also believed to have a special influence over its
designated day of the week: First day, Sol or the Sun; Second day, Luna or the Moon;
Third day, Mars; Fourth day, Mercury; Fifth day, Jupiter; Sixth day, Venus; and
the Seventh day, Saturn. The alchemists of the Middle Ages noted that there were
seven planets and seven metals which were matched with the planets. The seven metals
presented by the alchemists and matched with the planets include (in English): gold
(Sun), silver (Moon), copper (Venus), iron (Mars), tin (Jupiter), lead (Saturn),
and quicksilver (Mercury). Much more has been learned about the planets since 1977
because of the flights of Voyagers 1 and 2 (you
may see a summary of the subject with a simple click).
Planets with and without Moons in their Orbital Orders from the Sun
- Mercury, no moon
- Venus, no moon
- Earth, one moon: Moon (Luna)
- Mars, two moons: Phobos (fear) and Deimos (terror)
- Jupiter, sixty-three satellites.
- Saturn, sixty-two satellites including Titan,
the second largest moon in our solar system.
- Uranus, twenty-seven satellites.
- Neptune, thirteen satellites.
- Pluto, four moons, the largest being Charon.
The planets are illustrated below and links are available for more details about
their myths, symbolisms, and scientific information. Just click on the image of
your choice for further details.
Apollo, the Sun god, and the center of our solar-planetary
Mercury, messenger of the Roman gods (first planet from
Venus, goddess of love and beauty, springtime and flowers
(second planet from the sun).
Gaea, Earth goddess (ancient Greeks thought of her as Terra
Mater) Earth Mother (third planet from the sun).
Diana, or Luna, Roman goddess of the Moon, animals, and
hunting (earth’s moon).
Mars, Roman god of war (fourth planet from the sun).
Jupiter, King of the Roman gods (fifth planet from the
Saturn, god of harvest or time of reaping (sixth planet
from the sun).
Uranus, father of Saturn and grandfather of Jupiter (seventh
planet the sun).
Neptune, Roman god of the sea (eighth planet from the
Pluto, Greek god of wealth, ruled the dark underworld of
myth (ninth planet from the sun).
Other terms related to the word “planet”
planetarian: 1. Belonging to or connected with a planet or planets; planetary.
2. An astrologer. 3. An inhabitant of a planet.
planetarium: 1. A building usually with a domed ceiling onto which movable
images of the stars, planets, and other objects seen in the night sky are projected
for an audience. 2. A model of the solar system, often a working model showing how
the planets revolve around the Sun.
planetarily: After the manner of a planet; figuratively, with uncertain recurrence.
planetary: 1. Relating to, belonging to, involving, or typical of planets.
2. Involving or relating to the whole earth, all the people or countries of the
world, or a large proportion of them.
planetesimal: 1. A small body that is the precursor of a planet in the early
stages of solar system development, or the fragmented result of a cataclysmic collision
between a planet and another celestial body. 2. A small rocky celestial object thought
to have orbited the Sun in the early stages of the solar system before coalescing
with others to form the planets. 3. A small solid body following a planetary orbit;
a miniature planet.
planetical: 1. Of or pertaining to the planets; planetary. 2. Wandering,
planeticose: Given to wandering.
planetography: A description of the physical features of a planet.
planetoid, planetoidal: 1. A branch of astronomy that studies the origin
and composition of the planets and other solid bodies in the solar system such as
comets and meteors; asteroid. 2. A body resembling a planet; a name sometimes given
to the minor planets or asteroids. 3. Of or belonging to the astroids.
planetolatry: Idolatrous worship of the planets.
planetologist: 1. Someone who studies the planets including their origins
and compositions. 2. An expert or specialist in planetology.
planetology: A branch of astronomy dealing with planets and satellites, including
their surface features, structures, chemical compositions, and atmospheres.
planisphere: A circular star map drawn for a given latitude, having a rotating
mask that shows which constellations are visible at any time and date in the year.
superplanetary: Above the surface of a planet.