October 21, 2011
mare (noun)
\MAHR-ay\ Hear it!
What does it mean?
: any of several large dark areas on the surface of the moon or Mars
How do you use it?
Using the telescope, we were able to look carefully at each mare in the face of the man in the moon.
Are you a word wiz?

English speakers adopted "mare" from Latin. What do you think "mare" means in Latin?

"Mare" first made a splash in English in the mid-1800s. But the idea that the dark areas of the moon's surface might be seas goes back at least to the ancient Greek writer Plutarch. Galileo introduced the concept in modern times. He himself never used the Latin word "mare" (meaning "sea") for these areas, but various writers of 17th-century Latin works did. Today we know that these "seas" are actually old lava flows, but we still use "mare" to refer to them. Incidentally, the "mare" that is pronounced \MAIR\ and means "female horse" is unrelated. It is derived from "mearh," the Old English word for "horse."
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