"Welcome. You've come to Earth." (The Writer’s Almanac)

There seems to be a definite article or not in front of earth in dictionaries. For which meaning, there isn’t one in the example? For what meaning, is there one in other cases?


It's another peculiarity of English. The planet on which we live can be referred to as both Earth and the Earth (and sometimes also the planet Earth).

The presence or absence of the definite article doesn't imply any difference in meaning; it's largely a matter of the writer's taste.

Earth is unusual in being treated this way. Mars is always Mars or the planet Mars but not the Mars.

  • 5
    One small yet noteworthy difference is that when Earth is being used as a name, it's a proper noun, so it's always capitalized. However, earth (lower-case) can refer to the planet, so it need not be, as in: "We need to take care of the earth."
    – J.R.
    Jan 6 '14 at 3:13
  • 3
    There's also the mass noun earth (meaning "soil"), the verb to earth (meaning "to ground"), and so on; these senses are always uncapitalized, since they don't use the word as a proper noun.
    – user230
    Jan 6 '14 at 3:36
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    As an aside, there is also a town named Earth - Earth, Texas. If you relax the rules a bit, there's also Earth City, Missouri.
    – Masked Man
    Jan 6 '14 at 5:26
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    To add to J.R.'s comment on Earth being used as a name (of a planet), it is quite common in sci-fi; and I'm a fan of Isaac Asimov. For example, in Foundation and Earth, the three main characters traverse the galaxy in search of humanity's planet of origin. From the back cover, "All records of Earth have been removed systematically ... On worlds beyond the Foundation's influence, superstition and taboo shroud the subject of their quest. To name Earth is to utter an obscenity!" Jan 6 '14 at 7:59
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    @Fard - Nope, that's not what I'm saying, but you bring up an interesting language point. For whatever reason, earth stays in the lower-case within the idiom "what on earth" or "how on earth." (I don't set these conventions, I just pass them on.) So, most would write: Why on earth is Earth is the third planet from the sun? I have no earthly idea.
    – J.R.
    Jan 19 '16 at 18:37

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