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John Wheeler, WDAY, Published August 09 2013

Weather Talk: Etymology of the ‘waxing,’ ‘waning’ crescent moon

The moon tonight is waxing crescent. “Crescent” describes the shape of the moon but “waxing” is not as well known. The word waxing comes from the Old English word “weaxan,” which meant “to increase.” This word is similar to the Old High German word “wahsan.”

Except in reference to the moon, the word waxing in any form has become almost obsolete. The opposite of waxing is “waning,” which is a word still in common use today. The etymology of waning also goes back to Old English in the form of the word, “wan,” which meant “wanting.”

It turns out the word “crescent” also means “to grow” and has its origins in the Latin verb “crescere,” which meant “to grow.”

It is interesting that we now use crescent for the shape of the moon whether it is waxing or waning.

Here is another little known fact. If the right side of the moon is lit, it is waxing. If the left side is lit, it is waning.


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