How the Planets Got Their Names
Naming the Planets
Have you ever wondered where the planets got their names? What the heck is a Jupiter?
Well, unless you are very familiar with Latin, the language the word originated, or Roman mythology, its not very likely that you'd really know that the planets are really named after Gods from the ancient Roman Pantheon!
Each planet received a name, usually due to color, time of appearance in the sky, or other observations about it's orbit.
Mercury, the closest planet to the sun, is given its name after the god Mercury from Roman mythology. Mercury is not a name very widely recognized (aside from being the name of that red gooey stuff you're not supposed to break the thermometer to play with)
More likely though, you have heard of Mercury's counterpart in Greek mythology: Hermes.
Both Mercury and Hermes were the "messengers of the Gods" in their respective cultures; Mercury was also known as the god of commerce, travel, and thievery.
The planet received this name because of how quickly it travels across the sky (due to its short orbit)
Venus is the Roman equivalent to the greek goddess Aphrodite: Goddess of love and beauty. (Basically, she was a fertility goddess)
Venus itself is also the second brightest object in the night sky, one of the reasons for it being named after the goddess of beauty.
Earth is actually the only planet whose name is NOT derived from Roman mythology.
The word "earth" actually simply comes from old English roots, and the Greek and Roman gods of the earth have different names entirely! (Gaia and Tellus, respectively)
Mars is the Roman god of War, likened to and derived from the Greek god Ares.
The name is associated to this particular planet most likely because of it's red color.
Fun fact of the day: remember the "Looney Tunes" character Marvin the Martian? He was in fact designed specifically to look like the ancient Roman god Mars, (Ares) in honor of the guy!
Jupiter is in Roman mythology the counterpart to Zeus in Greek Mythology. He is the King of the Gods, Ruler of Olympus. He is also the son of Saturn (Cronus in Greek Myth)
The name partially came from the fact that Jupiter is the third brightest object in the sky.
Saturn named after Saturnus, who is the Roman god of agriculture; often associated with the greek god Cronus (also son of Uranus)
It is one of the most easily visible of the planets and can be seen with the naked eye.
Uranus is the ancient Greek deity of the heavens, the only planet aside from the earth that does not come from Roman myth.
I'm unsure as to why the name "Uranus" was used in the end for this planet, but the English astronomer who discovered it originally named it Georgium Sidus after King George III, and through the years many other names were proposed for Uranus, until eventually in the late 1700s and early 1800s "Uranus" was the most common name for the planet.
Neptune is the Roman counterpart to the Greek god of the sea, Poseidon.
The observed color of the planet being blue, the reasoning behind the nomenclature here couldn't make any more sense.
I know what you're thinking, and guess what: I don't care. Pluto may no longer be a planet, but I still think no less of it, and I would just plain feel bad leaving him out.
Or, maybe I should, seeing Pluto is the god of the underworld in Roman mythology, counterpart to the Greek god Hades! I guess Pluto was the runt of the gods, now he's no longer even good enough to have a planet named after him... poor guy!
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