Did you know that galaxy is from the Greek word for milk? I didn’t! Given that our galaxy is the Milky Way though, I wasn’t terribly surprised. The original Greek phrase was in fact galaxias kyklos, meaning “milky circle.” The term made its way into Latin, and from Latin to French, and from French to English by the 14th century.
By the mid 1800s, the term had become a bit more technical, meaning “the discrete stellar aggregate including the sun and all visible stars” rather than just “that milky white conglomerate up in the sky.” Around that same time, astronomers began to wonder if some of the things they could see through telescopes were in fact other galaxies…but it wasn’t until the 1920s that telescopes became powerful enough for them to be certain of it. So galaxy and Milky Way were interchangeable pretty much up until then.
I’ve always loved studying the night sky, though I am faaaarrrr from an expert. How about you? Do you enjoy astronomy?
Roseanna, I always enjoy “Word of the Week”! I don’t read it every week, but when I do, it is not a waste of time. Thank you for the depth in your research! FM 🙂