7 Words And Expressions About The Moon From Around The World

The moon has hung in our skies since the dawn of man, so it only makes sense we’d talk a lot about it.
Moon words and phrases represented by an astronaut riding on a lunar buggy.

No matter where you live in the world, we all look at the same moon. It shouldn’t be any surprise, then, that words and phrases about the moon pervade every language. We took a tour of lunar linguistics, with some vocabulary and idioms involving the moon. Then, we’ll take 

Lunar Phrases From Around The Earth

1. Gümüşservi (Turkish)

Translation: the reflection of the moon on a body of water

Have you ever seen the reflection of the moon on water? Ever a poetic and romantic language, Turkish has a very lyrical word to describe this amazing natural feature: Gümüşservi. Literally meaning “silver cypress tree,” it surreally describes the reflecting path of the moon on water. Another more commonly used word for this phenomenon is yakamoz, from the Greek word διακαμός.

2. Lune de miel (French)

Translation: honeymoon

When we think of lune de miel (or “honeymoon,” as we say in English), we immediately think of the short holiday newlyweds take right after their wedding. But have you ever stopped and wondered why it’s called that? It’s natural to think that the first month of marriage is always the sweetest, but why “honey” in particular? 

The answer likely dates back several thousand years to ancient Babylon. According to tradition, the bride’s father lavished his new son-in-law with great quantities of beer throughout the entire first month of his daughter’s marriage. That beer, made from fermented honey with water, was called hydromel and was not dissimilar to what we know today as mead.

Another theory states that in ancient Egypt, newlyweds had to consume hydromel in the first 28 days of their marriage to increase their fertility. 

Regardless of which ancient tradition shaped this term, the period of time following a couple’s union is now called a “honeymoon.” But it’s not just French and English that went along with this term. In Spanish it’s called luna de miel, in Italian luna di miele, in Portuguese lua de mel, in Polish miesiąc miodowy, in Russian Медовый месяц and in Turkish balayı — all terms that reference “honey.”

3. Quedarse en la luna de Valencia (Spanish)

Translation: to be absent-minded / disappointed / day-dreaming

The expression quedarse en la luna de Valencia (or quedarse a la luna de Valencia) can be traced back to the Middle Ages when Valencia’s old city walls were still standing.

Legend has it that there were 12 gates along the walls, which closed at 10 p.m. every night and reopened at dawn. If you delayed coming back to the city on time, due to absent-mindedness or idleness, you risked spending the night in the open under the Valencian moon. According to another theory, there was a bench in front of the walls in the shape of a crescent where laggers had to spend the night.

While quedarse en la luna de Valencia is an older expression which is slowly becoming obsolete, you can still say “estar en la luna,” meaning to be absent-minded or daydreaming.

4. Avere la luna storta (Italian)

Translation: to be in a bad mood (lit. “to have a crooked moon”)

Many, many moons ago, it was believed that the moon could influence people’s behavior and even turn the most vulnerable crazy. Shakespeare said: “It’s all moon’s fault, when it gets too close to the earth it makes everyone crazy.” In the 19th century, a man accused of murder was proclaimed innocent after claiming the moon was to blame for his actions.

Today, the English word “lunatic,” which comes from the Latin word for luna, is proof enough that there is something amiss with this celestial orb. Other similar expressions in Italian are: svegliarsi/alzarsi con la luna storta (to wake up/get up in a bad mood) and avere la luna di traverso (lit. to have the moon sideways).

5. Loop naar de maan! (Dutch)

Translation: Take a hike!

If you’re going to be in a bad mood because of the moon, you’d better have an expression handy to match the moon theme. 

Loop naar de maan literally means “walk/run to the moon” and it’s a polite way of telling someone in Dutch to go to hell. Not convinced? Belgian singer Yves Segers talks all about it in his 2014 song Loop naar de maan.  

6. Mångata (Swedish)

Translation: a shimmering moon path on a body of water

Whoever said Swedes aren’t great poets, too, when it comes to elements of nature? From måne (moon) and gata (street), its meaning is similar to the Turkish gümüşservi

With over 97,500 lakes over 100 square meters of water in Sweden, it’s only a matter of time before you experience your very own silvery stairway to heaven on a Swedish lake trip. 

7. Selenophile (English)

Translation: moon lover

Let’s end this article with a word that encompasses our deep love for our bright night companion, the moon. Selenophile comes from the Greek words selene (“moon”) and phile (“lover”), while the word selene itself is derived from the Ancient Greek word selas, meaning “light.”  

Selene was a Goddess of the Moon according to Ancient Greek mythology and it’s where the name of the element selenium comes from.

The Phases Of The Moon

Every 29 and a half days, the moon cycles through its phases. These are often broken down into eight different segments:

  1. New Moon — The moon is not visible from Earth because it is positioned between the Earth and the Sun, with the sunlit side facing away from us.
  2. Waxing Crescent — A small sliver of the moon’s illuminated side becomes visible, marking the beginning of the moon’s waxing (growing) phase.
  3. First Quarter — Half of the moon’s surface is illuminated, resembling a half-circle. This phase occurs when the moon has completed about one-quarter of its orbit around Earth.
  4. Waxing Gibbous — More than half of the moon’s illuminated side is visible, but it has not yet reached full illumination.
  5. Full Moon — The entire illuminated side of the moon is visible from Earth, appearing as a complete circle.
  6. Waning Gibbous — More than half of the moon’s illuminated side is still visible, but it is decreasing in size.
  7. Last/Third Quarter  Half of the moon’s surface is illuminated, but on the opposite side as the First Quarter phase.
  8. Waning Crescent — A small sliver of the moon’s illuminated side is visible, marking the beginning of the moon’s waning (shrinking) phase, leading back to the New Moon.

The waning crescent then shrinks down to the New Moon, and the cycle repeats itself. While it’s not exactly the length of the month, months themselves are based on the moon (and the word “month” is related to “moon”).

The Names Of Full Moons

In addition to the phases, each full moon of the year has its own name. These names were bestowed by the Native American peoples who lived mostly in the northeastern United States, such as the Algonquin tribes. The names varied from tribe to tribe, but here are the most common full moon names (and why they were given).

  • January — Wolf Moon. This full moon, shining in the dead of winter, was named for the howling wolves trodding though the snow-covered wilderness.
  • February — Snow Moon. Probably isn’t too hard to guess that this moon gets its names during the snowiest month of the year.
  • March — Worm Moon. Spring is coming, the ground thaws, and earthworms start to show their not-quite-faces to the world again.
  • April — Pink Moon. The rains come and pink flowers — including the North American phlox — rise from the ground to meet this moon.
  • May — Flower Moon. This moon shines down on the full bounty of spring flora, and could perhaps also be called the Allergy Moon.
  • June — Strawberry Moon. What better way to usher in the summer solstice than with fresh red strawberries?
  • July — Buck Moon. Flowers aren’t the only things that blossom. The male deer known as bucks grow their horns in July, ready to battle each other for a mate.
  • August — Sturgeon Moon. The lakes fished by the Native American tribes fill with this fish as summer begins to wane.
  • September — Harvest Moon. Maybe the most famous moon (thanks Neil Young), this moon gives reapers a little extra light to get to their crops.
  • October — Hunter’s Moon. With the bountiful season coming to an end, hunters stalk out into the moonlit night to make sure they have ample meat for the winter.
  • November  — Beaver Moon. As humans ready their abodes for winter, so too do the beavers build their dams along the rivers of North America.
  • December — Cold Moon. You know, because it’s cold.
  • Bonus — Blue Moon. Every once in a while, two full moons happen in a single month, and that has been dubbed a “blue moon.” Unlike the rest on this list, this moon nomenclature comes from England. Despite the phrase “once in a blue moon” referring to something rare, they occur every two to three years.

Just like the moon, languages are always in our orbit, so think of these moon words, idioms and phrases the next time you gaze up at the night sky.

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