Etymology map of "Earth" the planet and the substance in several languages
Our planet 🌐

The (planet) Earth often takes its name from the word “earth”. That is true for most languages. But not all. Brown-colored languages form a peculiar group where Earth and earth are quite different. For example Turkic languages, Armenian, Chechen, Hebrew, Abkhaz, Albanian, and Irish.


Etymology map of the planet and the element "Mercury" in several languages
Mercury, the smallest and closest to the Sun

We inherited astronomy from Latin. The symbol, for example, represents Hermes’ caduceus, also associated with medicine. Romans named the planet after his god Mercurius (Mercury), the messenger of the gods, a mediator between the gods and the mortals, and god of commerce (the name comes from Latin merx “merchant”). This was not new: Babylonians called the planet Nabu, also a messenger in their mythology. All these observations were right, the planet is the fastest, it has an orbital speed of 47.4 km/s. Best delivery service in the solar system.

Not all languages use this name. Mercury corresponds to the Greek god Hermes (Ἑρμῆς), thus in Greek, the name is Ermis. Other languages also have local names for the planet like Arabic or Persian Utarid, Hebrew Kokhav khama. Other languages like Armenian or Turkish had also some local names but they are not used anymore. In the case of Lithuanians still they have two names, one for the morning star and one for the evening star as that was the belief in ancient times. At some point, some realized that it was the same one.

Why is it such a polysemic word?
Most of languages have a word for the planet and one for the chemical element. For example, in Ancient Greek ὑδράργυρος (hydrargyros), meaning  “water-silver”: ὑδρ (hydr) + ἄργυρος (argyros). This is why the chemical symbol is Hg. Due to this peculiar property of being silvery and liquid, in the Middle Ages, alchemists connected this rare element with the swiftest god. Therefore in some languages (the yellow group), the common name became the same. How did it happen?


Etymology map of the planet "Venus" in several languages
The second planet of the Solar system is Venus.

What is the connection of Venus with Fridays, women, and devils?

In many ancient cultures, it was not regarded as one but two due to the discontinuous movements of Venus appearing and disappearing.

The name of the planet in English finds its origin in Roman mythology, “Venera”, a Latin that means “loveliness” and that comes from the Proto-Indo-European root *wenh₁- “to wish love”. The Romans adopted the deity from the earlier Greek civilization, where the planet was associated with Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty. In other cultures, it was also associated with love like Ishtar or Inanna goddesses of love and war.

Additionally, Friday was the day chosen to represent Venus. Dies Veneris “Venus’ day” is the name in Latin and thus in most Romance languages: Viernes, Vendredi, Divendres, Venerdi or Vineri. In English is similar: Old English frigedæg “Frigga’s day”, the Germanic goddess of married love, the same as in other Germanic languages. Also in Japanese, 金曜日 (きんようび, kinyōbi) is formed from the words 金星 (きんせい, kinsei ) “gold + planet” and 曜日 (ようび, yōbi) “day”. For some people might be considered an unlucky day.

Women and metals

Another association is the field of alchemy. Each planet was assigned a day fo the week, a symbol and, a metal: Copper (Cu) was Venus, iron (Fe) was for Mars and, mercury (Hg) was the homonymous planet. Later, in biology the so-called “Venus symbol” ♀ was adopted as the conventional symbol of the female sex, Mars symbol ♂ for males, and Mercury ☿ for hermaphroditic (this symbol represents the caduceus, an attribute of the god Mercury or Hermes). The convention was proposed by Carl Linnaeus in the 1750s, but nowadays the symbol ⚥  is used instead for hermaphrodite, intersex, transgender, non-binary gender or, androgynous.

Matches and devils

You might have heard Venus being referred to as the “Morning Star” or “Evening Star” due to its remarkable brightness in the pre-dawn sky. Venus often appears as the first object to rise, outshining all other celestial bodies. In ancient times, this phenomenon led to Venus being associated with the light-bringing deities. So accordingly, the Greeks named it as well: Eosphorus (Ἑωσφόρος, “dawn-bringer”) or Phosphorus (Φωσφόρος, “light-bringer”). The last in Latin was translated as Lucifer ( lucis “light” + ferre “to carry, bear”). Both names are still used today. In chemistry Phosphorus is the element, whose atomic number is 15 and the symbol is P. During oxidation emits a white glow. Other derived terms are phosphate and phosphorescence.

Why did Lucifer go from a good light-bearer to an evil force of darkness? It is complicated. As we mentioned due to the special movement of Venus in the ski, the planet was often associated with birth, death, and rebirth but also with falling and rising. Lucifer was introduced in the late 4th century AD Vulgate to translate reference to Venus. The sins of fallen angels occur before the beginning of human history. Accordingly, fallen angels became identified with those led by Lucifer in rebellion against God, also equated with demons. This myth appears in The idea of fallen angels derived from the Book of Enoch.


Etymology map of the planet "Mars" in several languages

The red planet in the night sky, Mars, is named after the Roman god of war. The planet’s reddish appearance was associated with blood and war. Mars was considered a powerful and warlike figure, symbolizing military prowess and aggression. The name itself is derived from the older Latin “Māvors” and maybe Oscan “Mamers“.

Despite its widespread usage, it is not the sole one. In Greek, it goes by Aries, named in homage to their god of war. Similarly, in Persian, it’s referred to as Bahram, a warrior deity. Nevertheless, certain languages opt for simpler descriptors, such as Kazakh’s “red planet,” or Armenian’s “the fire one.”


Etymology map of the planet "Jupiter" in several languages
The God of planets

The name of the biggest planet in our solar system is “Jupiter”. It has its origins in Roman mythology. In their language, Latin, “Iuppiter” or “Iupiter.” was the king of the Roman gods and the ruler of the heavens. Originally is thought to have derived from the combination of two words: *djous patēr (literally “sky father”). Djous is the same name we find in Ancient Greek Δία (Día), Modern Greek Δίας (Días), and also in Avestan dyaoš and Persian زاوش‎ (zâvoš).

The languages marked in green have a different root, usually from a local deity. Like in Albanian and Armenian. In the East the word “muštarī” used to be more extended.

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  1. Another excellent map (and, I take it, part of a series?). May I repost it, of course with full credit to you, at And if you could give me permission for this going forward, I’d love to do the same (again, with full credit) as to some future posts.

    1. Sure, no problem with that 🙂

      1. Excellent, many thanks!

  2. There is an error in this map. All the North African words mean ‘hand’, and not ‘Earth’.

    1. Thank you! We have just changed it 🙂

  3. In the Hebrew transcription for Mercury the words are in the wrong order. Should be “Kokhav Khama”

    1. Thank you! We’ve changed it 🙂

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