What Word Makes a “Supermoon” Super

Another supermoon is coming! Whether you think it’s up to the hype or not, this celestial event brings along some spectacular lunar activity and equally fun vocabulary.

While the names of many moon phases are rich in folklore, the supermoon became ”super” because of Richard Nolle – an astrologer with a flair for the dramatic.

The prefix “super” is a Latin loanword meaning “above, beyond” and “moon” is derived from the Old English mona, from the same root as month. “Lunar” comes from the Latin lunaris, meaning “of the moon,” and “perigee” is derived from the Modern Latin perigeum meaning “about, near.” ”Lunatic” is also of Latin descent and, according to legend, refers to someone who goes mad with the changes of the moon.

The Algonquin tribes kept track of the seasons by naming each recurring full moon. Long before it was dubbed the “extreme supermoon,” the orb of night during the month of March was called by the less melodramatic but equally colorful “full worm moon.” The name refers to the change in temperature and the oncoming spring thaw; earthworm casts appear, promising the return of the robin. Tribes north of the Algonquin knew this phase as the “Full Crow Moon,” which refers to the cawing of crows – signaling the end of winter.

Will this supermoon also be a “blue moon,” or a “harvest moon?” Learn what those terms refer to, here.


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  2. Lando -  March 22, 2011 - 1:00 pm

    This giant moon will kill us all!

  3. Luna Lovegood -  March 20, 2011 - 10:17 am

    Oh, and happy equinox! It’s finally spring!

  4. Vicki -  March 20, 2011 - 9:52 am

    I agree with you hayhay hernandez. It’s so true.

  5. Mona -  March 20, 2011 - 9:24 am

    When I looked at the moon last night there was a shadow to the left of it about the size of quarter moon. At first I rubbed my eyes to make sure I was seeing clear and I was. It very was gradually moving into a position to where it was soon no longer there. I called my brother to look at it but by the time he got up and got dressed and and navigated his way out of his home through all the things he has “hoarded,” the shadow was gone. I thought it was an interesting sight!

  6. TheBlackMan -  March 20, 2011 - 8:41 am

    Its all connected; amazing things are happening in space and other dimensions and amazing things will happen on earth….Dont be suprised. We are celestial beings and are affected by celestial objects. in many ways. Trust…
    Ethan the full moon will last for three days March 18-20

  7. Lola358 -  March 20, 2011 - 8:10 am

    I saw the beautiful moon last night through my window. I didn’t even have to get
    out of the chair.

  8. Eli -  March 20, 2011 - 7:41 am

    I hope something happens. I don’t want to go to school monday =(
    which is tomorrow. I got this major project due and i haven’t started. Oh well. I will sure be out tonight to see that Big Moon In The Sky. Grab your binoculars!

  9. flo -  March 20, 2011 - 6:33 am

    Hey everyone you forgot the “super-ust, -ist, -dupper” of them all the Super Bowl. It happens annually and includes lots of food and drink. The name should be changed to “Supper bowl” as most of the games are far from super. Have a GREAT day everyone and best wishes froma less than super Vikings fan.

  10. Lone Star -  March 20, 2011 - 6:31 am

    Ethan, I believe a Full Moon technically, is when the moon is ‘FULL FACED’ toward the earth. Technically, that only occurs for a short period of time. On the day/evening that occurs, it’s the only day really considered a “Full Moon”. Correct me if I’m wrong someone.

  11. Lone Star -  March 20, 2011 - 6:26 am

    Hmmm…. listening to some of you guys is making me VERY concerned about this state of this country. LOL!

  12. Luna Lovegood -  March 20, 2011 - 6:21 am

    If you wanted to be picky, today isn’t a complete full moon (only 99% of the moon is visible), but human eyes can’t pinpoint the tiny sliver that’s in shadow.

  13. Debbie -  March 20, 2011 - 5:34 am

    I’m not into all this hype but I couldn’t help but notice the overactive behavior of my 3 year old preschool class last week. Even before we knew anything about this “super moon” my teacher aide said, “I wonder if there is a full moon!” Can’t help but wonder if it is connected.

  14. JupiterIndo -  March 20, 2011 - 3:56 am

    Full moon, yep. I saw it yesterday. It was so beautiful yet scary. I actually kneeled down opposite it. I was so scared because I didn’t know what Jins meant. So then I preferred kneeled down to The Only One who must see me. The Greatest One must want something good out of it. But still, confusing in this scientific circumstances.

  15. ontoursecretly -  March 20, 2011 - 2:41 am

    Thanks to all of you who supplied irrelevant, patronizing, and less than eloquent information about Super Moons. I am glad to see you are all buckling down with your freshman Astronomy for Nonmajors courses. Is Kate Moss not a supermodel? Is that overpriced gasoline we put in our gas-guzzlers not Super Premium? What about Superman? Some people (not me) would take the time to argue that he is a lesser Super. Perhaps y’all are confusing the word “super” with the oft-misused word “unique.”

    I just think Super Moon is more super than an eclipse because we could actually LOOK at it. Stare at it, if we wanted (I stared for a bit, my cat started for hours and hours). A camera obscura image is hardly a satisfactory substitute for the real thing. Comets and eclipses—pshhh. The supermoon and the good old harvest moon beat both of ‘em by a longshot. Not to mention a nice, fullish moon shining brightly silver through a lacy pattern of spectacularly-lit clouds. Find a nice birch grove or circle of redwoods, lie on your back, and stare at that for a while.

  16. Singa G. -  March 20, 2011 - 12:19 am

    yup… I don’t get it … O.O

  17. Gerrard -  March 19, 2011 - 11:22 pm

    actually, once i saw a moon the size of the horizon.

  18. Gerrard -  March 19, 2011 - 11:21 pm

    super super!!!

  19. judeanLion -  March 19, 2011 - 11:16 pm

    Its the jewish holiday of purim

  20. tonigobe -  March 19, 2011 - 10:59 pm

    Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane. It’s…

  21. Ungalie Detris -  March 19, 2011 - 10:55 pm

    how often does this happen?


  22. Peder -  March 19, 2011 - 10:48 pm

    Wow! This is once in every 18 years only! Fantasstic! This is really awesome. I dont reallly care what you guys say but why dont you just stop arguing amongst yourself and JUST ADMIRE THE MOON? This is a reallly cool thing to happen so admire it while you can! I reallly wonder when is the next time a BLUE moon will occur……….

  23. Akhi -  March 19, 2011 - 10:38 pm

    Why does the moon get bigger like this in every 19/20 years thought? Didn’t really explain in the article.

  24. quirly q -  March 19, 2011 - 9:55 pm

    Can anybody imagine anymore, what it was like when people thought the world was flat. What must have we thought the moon was? A mere flat light in the night sky? It too was worshipped, like the sun because it was awesome. People made up stories to gain power, it was a mystery; Still the truth came out. Now that we know it hangs on nothing like the Earth, it inspires fear and we think in real terms. The reality is, there is still room to imagine how big is the universe and beyond. The answers will come if we give it time, if we have time.

  25. Eyewitness -  March 19, 2011 - 8:36 pm

    Well, I just thought I would mention that “Mona” is also a woman’s name, so the sense of the Old English word “mona” for moon is–or has acquired–a kind of ornamental connotation, “moon” as an object of embellishment and aesthetic, rather than “moon” in the strictly objective, planetary sense.

  26. BB -  March 19, 2011 - 8:19 pm

    will the werewolves be super too? .. .. .. please answer soon.. I’m scared..

  27. Rick -  March 19, 2011 - 6:54 pm

    There is science at work here, folks. Some have let their imaginations run away with them. (the wolfman,”lunatics” etc.-and I don’t believe in astrology)
    But science IS a huge part of the equation here. The moon does indeed have an effect on the tides, and infact has everything to do with the tides. No moon? No tides. Period. The gravitaional pull, from the moon as it orbits the Earth, causes the tides to come in and go out, or come up and go down…..whatever.
    The Moon orbits the Earth, The Earth, along with all the other planets and bodies that are or are almost planets (Pluto anyone?) orbit the Sun. What does the Sun orbit? We know the Sun is not stationary and does run around the Milky Way, but do we know the Sun’s track, exactly? I never thought about it till I read an article the other day that touched on the subject of the Sun’s movement (an orbit?-I don’t know as said article didn’t go that far into it-darn-it!) but I do plan on doing some research when I get a free hour or two. Anyone?

  28. Erathius -  March 19, 2011 - 6:43 pm

    Wow…Luna’s so hot in her rotund dress this night. :)

  29. pseudonymous -  March 19, 2011 - 6:37 pm

    im in florida and i see it next i see it im gonna be 29

  30. HYDRO -  March 19, 2011 - 6:32 pm

    What if you want to be a hydrokinetic, you know, move water with your mind, do you gain any power, since the moon was the first to learn this?

  31. Argent -  March 19, 2011 - 6:18 pm

    The article states that ““perigee” is derived from the Modern Latin perigeum meaning “about, near.””
    That’s right as far as it goes, but half of the meaning is missing here. It means “near Earth”, in full.
    Dictionary.com’s own definition gives this etymology:
    “< French perigée < Neo-Latin perigēum, perigaeum < Greek perígeion (sēmeîon limit), neuter of perígeios near, of the earth, equivalent to peri- + -geios, adj. derivative of gaîa, gê the earth."

    I learned about perigee and apogee (including their etymologies) when I was a child growing up on the Space Coast. You who write these articles, please exercise sufficient care with your technical terms.

  32. JESSICA -  March 19, 2011 - 6:18 pm

    Sorry to rain on all your guys’s parade, but there are going to be too many clouds in the sky tonight because of the rain. If you haven’t noticed, it is kind of RAINING!!! :P It might not be raining where you all are, but I know I won’t see the moon tonight!!! :’(

  33. irma morales -  March 19, 2011 - 6:17 pm

    after all is silple beautiful!!

  34. Eh'l -  March 19, 2011 - 5:00 pm

    Okie dokie, not to sound like an ass, but the snarky comments from people who think they are SO intelligent, have a serious lack of common sense, and therefore, feel they absolutely MUST point out the obvious. To all the magick weavers reading this~ MERRY MEET! Have a most WONDERFUL Ostara~ Merry part.

    Eh’l out~

  35. ImSupeRAwesomE -  March 19, 2011 - 4:07 pm

    im so watching the sky tonight!! :) maybe aliens will come out too!!

  36. ag -  March 19, 2011 - 3:56 pm

    hey did you guys notice a huge ring surrounding the moon last march 14 or 15: it’s kindda creepy and it just so happen that was also the time when japan’s 3rd nuclear reactor blew up! It was like the clouds where separated and like an eye of a storm and you’re standing right on the center of it. some said its a rection from the radiation released by the reactors and some says its the ozone layer. whatever it is, its really creepy….

  37. nighte -  March 19, 2011 - 3:16 pm

    Well…I found out from my friend…my Mum told me that it is because this is when the moon is closetst to the Earth, thus making it larger than usual…i hope it’s as pretty as it sounds!

  38. gardenia -  March 19, 2011 - 2:52 pm

    Ethan, it’s the ’3 day’ thing. It always ‘looks’ full the day before and day after. Also – all of us, humans that is, are made up of quite a bit of water. The moon affects the tide; why not us then? And remember, ages ago medical people thought women were lunatics when their monthly times arrived, and that’s where ‘hysterectomies’ (hysterical . . not sure of the spelling though) comes from.

  39. Erathius -  March 19, 2011 - 2:45 pm

    @Alan Turner: It’s not the size; it’s the effects of the “supermoon” coming so close to us that they’re trying to get us interested in. I, for one, am looking forward to this. I wish this would have occurred when it was still getting light earlier!

  40. Kelly -  March 19, 2011 - 2:38 pm


    Preparing in advance? You would have to wait until the summer for the solstice ^_^. Tomorrow is the equinox.

  41. Kelly -  March 19, 2011 - 2:34 pm


    Whee! I’m excited for spring. Thanks for clarifying.

  42. kewlkiwi -  March 19, 2011 - 2:33 pm

    We have a similar ‘Lunatic’ in New Zealand names Ken Ring.
    In the wake of the disastrous earthquake in Christchurch last month (where I live) he has ‘predicted’ another large quake on the 20th of March 9and yet another in April)
    Not surprisingly, this has upset a lot of people – and many of them have left the city “Just in case” his prediction is true.

    Mind you, we are still getting plenty of aftershocks, so it will be easy for him to point to one and say “That’s the one I predicted”.

    Especially when he also claims that earthquakes are more likely in the periods of 2 weeks either side of a full moon and 2 weeks either side of a new moon…

    After the 7.1 shock here in September, he predicted ‘an aftershock’ and low and behold – there was one! In fact there were over 4000, so that wasn’t very hard to guess.

  43. cj -  March 19, 2011 - 2:32 pm

    Moon Children you all. Anyone out there with a real brain?

  44. tara -  March 19, 2011 - 2:31 pm

    kinda scary but i think it has a connection with what happened to japan

  45. Hungry for Happiness -  March 19, 2011 - 2:06 pm

    No disasters yet, and it’s already nighttime somewhere. The world hasn’t ended yet, has it? No, because I’m still on it. Don’t think that it only counts once it reaches you, because it has already happened to some other person in some other part of the world. Just enjoy it, it’s cool.

  46. Edelhard -  March 19, 2011 - 1:53 pm

    I am a Lunatic, and it doesn’t take a moon to set me off!

  47. hayhay hernandez -  March 19, 2011 - 10:41 am

    well i for one am going to the mountains so i can see the magnificent moon with my telescope. i hate what the city lights do: doesn’t let humans see the wonderful sky.

  48. Ethan -  March 19, 2011 - 10:07 am

    Are you sure it’s only on the 19th? I noticed the full moon in the sky yesterday as I was driving around, which did seem particularly ‘large.’

  49. Alan Turner -  March 19, 2011 - 10:01 am

    and, the moon looks huge on the horizon and small when it is high in the sky but that is an illusion because it is always the same size.

  50. Alan Turner -  March 19, 2011 - 9:59 am

    Full moon, waxing quarter, full moon, waning quarter or no moon is all the same. The moon as a whole is always there but it is just the bits which are lit up by the sun that we can see. What point do I make? There can, therefore, be no such thing as a lunatic.

  51. Erathius -  March 19, 2011 - 9:19 am

    This is going to be super! They say weird things happen on a full moon…I’m thinking there might be more of a wolf population tonight and less humans. ;D JK.

  52. word junkie -  March 19, 2011 - 8:28 am

    If we go along with busmanj’s theory, perhaps the characteristic effects of the “supermoon” might be the opposite of typical full moons; a quieter day, if you will. Maybe the ERs won’t be filled with bizarre cases, and perhaps all the idiots of the world won’t come out to play today.

  53. esra -  March 19, 2011 - 6:50 am

    Dont forget to watch out Watch out for the wolves!!!

  54. Tavo.tee -  March 19, 2011 - 6:34 am

    I think i will go for a walk tonight,with my daughter.Enjoy the view everyone..God bless

  55. B. Wilson -  March 19, 2011 - 6:28 am

    Why must there always be a negative at the end of a statement? Does it intensify the intelligence of the one writing?

  56. Amit Bhattacharjie -  March 19, 2011 - 5:44 am

    Whatever, I will be watching the behaviour of my pets, especially the k9s. One seems to be a bit fidgety today, or maybe I am reacting after reading this. I’d be watching the wifey too. Maybe she might get a bit romantic, who knows. lets see.

  57. Mimi -  March 19, 2011 - 5:25 am

    To Kelly,
    A Full moon last the near equivalent of three days.. Its PEAK day will be Sunday. :) So cheers and celebrate such an event. For Catholics, Sunday is a day off from lent so time to get really drunk and enjoy or for Pagans/Wiccan, lets rock out the solstice! WHOO HOO!

  58. Curt -  March 19, 2011 - 3:41 am

    Maybe I should not install my garage-door opener today?

  59. Michael Hannigan -  March 19, 2011 - 12:46 am

    Give me a break busmanJ. Doesn’t it make sense to you that the gravitation forces would have been increasing until this day and that along the way to it CLOSEST, it reached a distance that was CLOSE enough to trigger the event? It would be silly to think that the eartquake could only be tied to the close approach of the moon if it WAITED until the moon was closest to be affected by it. Thank a little!!!!

  60. tammy -  March 18, 2011 - 10:08 pm

    now this is just plain creepy… if this is gonna kill us… pleaseeee~ i don’t want to die.. :’[

  61. Jason -  March 18, 2011 - 9:43 pm

    If you want a super moon call a plumber to fix your sink.

  62. Moon -  March 18, 2011 - 9:12 pm

    My name is MOON. My name sould be super MOON any way every body have a super Saturday and have a wonderful superday.

  63. .... -  March 18, 2011 - 9:09 pm

    Oh…..such sophisticated people….

  64. J SALIO -  March 18, 2011 - 7:45 pm

    So it will not be as bright as the near super moon in 2008 that was higher in the sky so…what’s the point. Dorks got nothing better to do!

  65. onny -  March 18, 2011 - 7:39 pm

    Please elaborate

  66. HYDRO -  March 18, 2011 - 7:09 pm

    What if you want to be a hydrokinetic…… Do you gain any power?

  67. Queen Sardonic -  March 18, 2011 - 6:36 pm

    Though I did enjoy the article, I do believe Ray is a little more informed on this subject matter.
    If you ever write an article, Ray, on this topic, I would love to read it!

  68. Ray -  March 18, 2011 - 5:10 pm

    Super nonsense– Extreme nonsense:

    The moon does not exceed any limit… It is not ‘super’–!

    It is the extremity,
    the global maximum, as we say in mathematics,
    Geophysics calls it, the unique maximum,
    Latin might call it, summum luna, or nadir moon….

    And the reason it is of concern is, like the stretching of a rubber band– It can go to its maximum and return… But exceed the maximum, and it snaps…. much like with earthquakes:– when the lunar and solar tides reach combined maxima, the Earth is stretched-and-flexed just a little further than all the other lesser, times….

    And that, points out the folly of the so-called ‘supermoon’-calamity theory– You didn’t include the solar tide conjunction in your theory, (Nor Jupiter and Venus)!

  69. busmanj -  March 18, 2011 - 5:05 pm

    Yes, well of course it hasn’t actually coincided with catastrophic seismic events in Japan if it’s today, has it. They were a week ago. Today is notable for there not being an earthquake in Japan. So that’s rained on your fireworks a bit. Doh.

  70. anonymous -  March 18, 2011 - 4:41 pm

    every 18 years!!

  71. Lillyth Keogh -  March 18, 2011 - 3:59 pm

    My son and I would like to know how often this happens.

  72. Jumman Surender -  March 18, 2011 - 3:21 pm

    Hmmmmm!!!! It seems I a a “lunatic” then :-)

  73. a -  March 18, 2011 - 2:51 pm


  74. nino -  March 18, 2011 - 2:33 pm


  75. Kelly -  March 18, 2011 - 1:52 pm

    It would be even more super if it was on Sunday (the vernal equinox). It’s almost as super as the eclipse on the solstice.


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