Which 5 Moody Words Come From Other Worlds?
Every planet in our solar system except Earth is named after a Roman god or goddess. Those deities were a quirky bunch of characters! They each have different personalities.
Each out-of-this-world character comes with their own vibe. Their personalities crept into our language carrying their own mood.
We use words associated with these characters to describe emotional qualities we see in real people and things. We even use those words to describe fictional character archetypes. Here are five mood-driven adjectives that we get from planets and their godlike namesakes:
1. Mercurial. Mercury is the closest planet to the sun. When viewed from Earth, Mercury seems to be zooming around the night sky faster than any other planet. And when Mercury goes into retrograde, it appears to be boomeranging backward. If someone seems speedy but impulsive and unpredictable, we might call them mercurial after the speedy and slapdash planet Mercury.
2. Venerable. The planet Venus is named after the beautiful Roman love goddess. Ancient Romans thought love and beauty are worthy of honor. Don’t we all? If someone has qualities you respect, you venerate them. And that word “venerate” comes from Venus. So if you call someone venerable, it means they have qualities you respect and admire. Just be sure not to call those people venereal, because while that word is also associated with spreading love, it’s not venerable. At all.
3. Martial. Mars, the red planet, is also the angry Roman war god. This is where we get the adjective martial. It means warlike. That’s why arts that involve hitting, kicking, and punching are called martial arts. If the military takes over a civilian government, we call it martial law. Even music like military marches and bugle calls can be called martial music. But be careful! If you mix up two letters in martial it becomes marital. And those two words mean something completely different!
4. Jovial. The ancient Greeks made Zeus king of all the gods. The Romans had another name for Zeus, though. They called him Jove. And later, Jove became Jupiter. When it’s not a time of war or strife, Jupiter the god is kind and giving. The word jovial comes from Jove, or Jupiter, and it means jolly and good-natured. Both Jupiter and Santa Claus have beards -- and they're downright jovial, by Jove.
5. Saturnine. To the ancient Romans, the planet Saturn seemed distant, cold, and slow moving. Saturn was seen as an old and gloomy place: and Saturn the god was also the oldest and gloomiest of the gods. He brings a grumpy attitude with him wherever he goes. That’s why people with dark and sour moods are saturnine: after the distant god and the remote planet Saturn. Santa Claus is jovial, but Ebeneezer Scrooge is saturnine.
But what about Uranus and Neptune? These planets weren’t visible to the naked eye, so the ancients didn’t name them. That’s probably just as well, otherwise urinal might be a word to describe someone’s far-out and radical personality!
And Pluto? While it’s not considered a planet anymore, it once was. But it’s also so far away, it wasn’t visible to the naked eye. And while Pluto hasn’t inspired a personality-packed adjective, we get the word plutocracy from Pluto. It means “government by the rich.” That’s because Pluto is the god of the underworld, where you can find a vast cache jewels, gold, and riches.
That leaves us with Planet Earth. While the ancients could obviously see Earth with the naked eye, they didn’t consider it a planet. As the only planet that’s not named after a Roman deity, it’s viewed as the place where all humans live. For now.
Who knows? We all may be living on another planet sometime by this time next week.
Wait. Does that sound loony to you? It should!
The word “loony” comes from the Roman goddess Luna, who personified the moon. And while the moon isn’t a planet, we see it in the night sky. Every night, the moon is somewhere different, and looks a little different. When you don’t know what is likely to happen from one moment to the next, that’s loony!
Don’t worry! We won’t all be living on another planet next week. You can count on it. But we will continue to use words inspired by the other planets we can see in the night sky!