I don't see why Why is our planet called Earth? is being considered off topic for this site. That it is about the history of a word doesn't make it off topic. Simply because there might be a better SE for it doesn't warrant its closure if it is still on topic (as per the FAQ) here. If that were so, all anime questions on SFF would be closed—they aren't.

FWIW, ELU would most likely close the question as being general reference. LinguisticsSE would spit on it in disdain.

If anything, the question should be migrated to ELU after consultation with one of their mods. Else, IMHO, it is a perfectly suitable resident for HSE.

I should also note that the question has 5 up votes to 4 down.

2 Answers 2


As a regular on the English.SE site, I can tell you that "Where does this English word come from?" is a very common question there, and considered quite on topic.

There are probably no less than 50 regulars over there with OED's (and sometimes more) just waiting for someone to post an etymology question. There are folks there who can make Google ngrams do all sort of crazy things. The etymology tag there currently has more than 1,700 questions under it. If you have a question about the history of an English word, that's the place for you.

I think my answer on Reopening a closed question since it received a valid answer could be used mostly verbatim here:

However, IMHO the closers do have a point that this question could be far better answered on StackOverflow. If there's a question that's really in another SE site's baliwick (particularly a strong non-beta site), a close vote on it doesn't seem all that unreasonable.

Just substitute "English.SE" for "StackOverflow".

  • As in my post, that is irrelevant. If it is on topic here (as per the FAQ), then it is perfectly fine for it to stay here. Else it should be migrated to a better audience; not closed. The questioner can, of course, be pointed to use an SE which will improve his chances of getting a good answer in the future. Re: ELU, if questions are answerable via a link to etymonline, they are closed as general reference. Etymology tag stats are misleading and inconclusive. Apr 24, 2013 at 3:05
  • @coleopterist - Your comment raises another interesting (meta) question...if a question would be routinely closed on another stack as "general reference", should it be closed here for the same reason? In the meantime, we can still try to migrate it if you'd like. But it looks to me like you are arguing for a reopen (a decision I'd prefer not to take from the community while it is theoretically under consideration), and nobody else has flagged it for migration (that I've seen).
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Apr 24, 2013 at 14:48
  • My position is that if it isn't going to be open, it ought to be migrated, not closed. My argument is against closing what is definitely "history" and, as of now, within the FAQ scope of HistorySE. As for the community, there are at least 5 people in our small community who found it interesting enough to up-vote it. (The question has now been edited by the OP.) Apr 24, 2013 at 15:13

The question of the naming of the earth has more to do with language and etymology than with history. Therefore I consider it "off topic" AS FORMULATED.

A question on this site should have historical significance. Here's an example: People used to think that the earth is flat, and now we know that the earth is round. Did the naming of the earth reflect a belief in a "flat" planet, and were there calls to change the name when Columbus "proved" that it is round? How did the name "survive" this discovery? THAT would be a question relating to history.

  • "Etymology is the study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time." This makes the question valid for this site. But I agree that there are better SEs available for the question even though it might be considered too basic for them. If that is correct, then the question ought to be migrated over. If not, then it should, IMHO, be left open. Many of the arguments being made against this question could also be made against others such as What is the origin of rap?. May 24, 2013 at 19:47

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