Why Doesn't Our Moon Have a Name?


The satellites of our solar system have some glorious designations: Europa, Io, Triton, Titan, Phobos, Oberon, and...the Moon. Technically, Earth’s only orbiting body does have a name, it just also happens to serve a dual purpose. And the reason it isn’t more personal or flowery has to do with our limited understanding of space for most of human history.

Until very recently (relatively speaking), we simply didn’t know other moons existed. It wasn’t until Galileo observed Jupiter’s many moons in 1610 that we needed words other than “moon” to describe the bodies that orbit planets. We only call them moons in the first place because they behave as Earth’s moon does.

The word "Moon" comes from the Old English word “mona.” Obviously, English isn’t the only language, so the Moon actually has many names. “Luna” is the Latin word and the Greeks called it “Selene,” both of which refer to goddesses. Those words have made their lasting impression on how we talk about moons today, with “lunar” and “selenology,” the study of a moon’s geology.

Our Moon informs the language around which we talk about all moons. It deserves a place in the pantheon of great satellite names, if nothing else, for being the original.