The Greek root word ge and English prefix geo- mean “earth.” Soon you’ll be saying “golly gee whiz” when you find out the number of words in English that contain this Greek root!
Since Earth is our home, it would make sense for humans to study that home. Geology is the study of the physical or solid “Earth.” Geologists are those scientists who study that solid “Earth.” The study of geography, on the other hand, deals with the lands of our “Earth,” including the boundaries between and features of those lands and the people who inhabit all of Earth’s different countries.
The measurement of the “Earth” or geometry was born when the Greek mathematician Euclid decided he needed a way to measure his planet. Not to be outdone by Euclid, Greek astronomers such as Aristarchus proposed a heliocentric model of the Universe which radically stated that the Earth revolved around the sun, which went completely against the commonly held belief of a geocentric model where the “Earth” was the center of the Universe around which all other celestial bodies revolved. The notions of perigee and apogee came later, when it was discovered that the “Earth” does not revolve around the sun in a perfect circle, but rather travels through space in an ellipse; this advancement enabled astronomers to realize that “Earth” has a perigee in its orbit when it is closest to the sun, and a corresponding apogee, or point in “Earth’s” orbit when it’s furthest away from the sun.
Mother “Earth” was known as Gaia to the ancient Greeks. Her name was made popular in the 1970s via the Gaia Hypothesis, which suggests that living organisms and inorganic matter interact to keep planet “Earth” healthy. Ironically, a man named George Wald spoke at the first Gaia conference; the name George, which comes from the Greek word “farmer,” was so formed because a “farmer” is someone who works with the “earth” to grow things. The state of Georgia, or etymologically an area on the map for “farmers,” was named after King George the II of Britain, who most likely was never a “farmer!”
And so here ends our exploration of the Greek root word ge and English prefix geo-, a linguistic journey which has taken us around the “Earth” and beyond!
- geology: study of the physical or solid “Earth”
- geologist: one who studies the solid parts of the “Earth”
- geography: study of the nations and peoples of the “Earth”
- geometry: mathematics which measures the features of the “Earth”
- geocentric: of an “Earth”-centered Universe
- Gaia: in Greek mythology, the original “Earth” Mother
- George: from the Greek word for “farmer,” or worker in the “earth”
- Georgia: land of “farmers,” an eponym based upon King George II of Britain