30 March 2011

The Solar System ( 태양계 )

I'm currently teaching books on the Solar System in my school and as a result I've learned the names of all the planets in Korean.  Not particularly useful knowledge, but considering my major it's probably not too surprising.  I figured I would share this knowledge with you and I thought it might be fun to learn the names of the planets in some of the different countries that I visit.

Let's start by defining the word "planet".  "Planet" is known as haengseong ( 행송 ) in Korean.  "Haeng" comes from a Chinese character that means walking and "seong" is the Sino-Korean word for star, so haengseong literally means "walking (or traveling) star".  As for the other elements of our Solar System (which by the way is known as tae-yang-ge), let's begin with the guy at the center of it all.

1. Sun : 태양 : Tae-yang
  • Korean Meaning : The brightest
  • English Meaning : No hidden meaning.  The word is thought to be about 3,000 years old.
2. Mercury : 수성 : Su-seong
  • Korean Meaning : Star of Water
  • English Meaning : Roman god of travel - Named after Mercury because the planet moves so quickly.
  • Different meanings
3. Venus : 금성 : Geum-seong
  • Korean Meaning : Star of Gold
  • English Meaning : Roman goddess of love - Named after Venus because it was considered the brightest and most beautiful celestial object.
  • Same meaning
4. Earth : 지구 : Ji-gu
  • Korean Meaning : Ground Sphere
  • English Meaning : On the ground - Originates from the Greek word "eraze" and is the only planet not named after a god (Uranus is named after a Greek god rather than a Roman god).  This is because Earth was not thought to be a planet when it was originally named.
  • Same meaning
5. Moon : 달 : Dal
  • Korean Meaning : The only natively named celestial object.  All others come from Chinese.
  • English Meaning : Comes from a Germanic word (which is related to the word "month") and was originally thought to be a planet.
6. Mars : 화성 : Hwa-seong
  • Korean Meaning : Star of Fire
  • English Meaning : Roman god of war - Named after Mars because of its blood-like color.
  • Same meaning
7. Jupiter : 목성 : Mok-seong
  • Korean Meaning : Wood Star
  • English Meaning : Roman king of the gods - Named after Jupiter because of its massive size.
  • Different meanings
8. Saturn : 토성 : To-seong
  • Korean Meaning : Earth Star
  • English Meaning : Roman god of farming - This was the most distant planet visible during Roman times and therefore was named after Jupiter's father.
  • Kind of the same meaning
9. Uranus : 천왕성 : Cheon-wang-seong
  • Korean Meaning : King of Heaven Star
  • English Meaning : Greek god of the sky - This planet was not discovered until 1781, which explains why the Romans did not have a name for it.  The planet was originally named after King George III, but Uranus was finally agreed upon in the 1850s because Uranus was the father of Kronos in Greek mythology (or Saturn in Roman mythology).
  • Same meaning
10. Neptune : 해왕성 : Hae-wang-seong
  • Korean Meaning : King of the Sea Star
  • English Meaning : Roman god of the sea - Named after Neptune because of its blue color.
  • Same meaning
11. Pluto : 명왕성 :Myeong-wang-seong
  • Korean Meaning : King of Darkness Star
  • English Meaning : Roman god of the underworld - The name was suggested by an 11-year old schoolgirl in England and was probably chosen due to Pluto's ability to disappear.
  • Kind of the same meaning
12. Asteroid : 소행성 : So-haeng-seong
      Asteroid belt : 소행성대 : So-haeng-seong-dae
  • Korean Meaning : Minor planet
  • English Meaning : The word has Greek origins and means "star-like".  This of course is inaccurate and some astronomers have begun to call them minor planets or planetoids, which means "planet-like".
13. Comet : 혜성 : He-seong
  • Korean Meaning : ?
  • English Meaning : Comes from the Latin word "cometes", which means "long-haired".  The Latin word was derived from a Greek word that was originally used by Aristotle to describe "stars with hair".


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  3. That is a really perfect description for planets in both English and Korean!
    Great job!

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  5. In Korean, the 혜 in 혜성 (comet) is either from the hanja彗, meaning sage, or 惠 meaning grace. The standard hanja (first one) gives the meaning "Sage Star", and the second one gives the meaning "Star of Grace"

  6. 小行星 소행성

    And by the way, asteroid translates to "small procession star" or "small attendant star"

  7. Thanks for the great post on your blog, it really gives me an insight on this topic.

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  8. This post has been helpful for me while planning my English space camp for my students. Thank you!