• Question: Why is space called space

    Asked by 464spcn47 to Andrew, Ian, Kathryn, Leah-Nani, Xu on 20 Jun 2018.
    • Photo: Kathryn Burrows

      Kathryn Burrows answered on 20 Jun 2018:

      This is difficult to answer as the word and concept have been around so long I think we do not really know. It is believed the word ‘space’ comes from a latin word ‘spatium’, which when translated back into English means, well, space. The concept of space is the distance between things, considered empty space, it is possible to put something it in because nothing is currently occupying that space. You can have space on a table, or in your notebook, or on the bus. All places where you could put things.

      Space as in Outer Space, as in that place where the stars live, is believed to be largely empty, that is why it got associated with the concept of space. There are things in space, stars and planets and asteroids, but there is so much distance between them that most of Space is simply empty space where you could put more matter but it is not there.

    • Photo: Andrew Margetts-Kelly

      Andrew Margetts-Kelly answered on 20 Jun 2018:

      Because there’s not a lot there 🙂
      I think the earliest use of the word space in the way we use it now was in poetry about 4 hundred years ago. We now associate the word “space” with nothingness, but back then its use referred to the distances between things (it constituted a tangible thing as opposed to nothingness, in the sense that travelling across it would be a journey and so it must be a something). The phrase stuck.