To the Romans, if I understand right, the word caelum "sky" incorporated everything above the earth: the atmosphere, the space beyond it, and even the thrones of the gods.

But nowadays we divide things up a bit more precisely. There's a difference between "sky" (what we see looking upward), "space" (the void outside our atmosphere), and "heaven" (the metaphysical home of God or gods). I've seen caelum used for the first and the last, but it feels strange to use it for "outer space" as well.

So: if I want to refer specifically to "space", as opposed to "the sky" or "heaven", how would I do that? Vacuum "void", chaos "void, but in Greek", and spatium "[extent of] space" come to mind, but I'd like to follow precedent if there is one.

2 Answers 2


Maybe you could use Spatium Sidereale? Spaceships seem to be Naves Sidereales, so it would make sense. It basically means "Starry Space". In Portuguese we use the expression Espaço Sideral so there is a precedent in romance languages.

The Morgan And Silva Furman University Lexicon states this:

space inane infinitum (Eg. D.L. 46), inane spatium cosmicum (Eg. S.L. 63), spatium cosmicum (Eg. S.L. 81), spatium infinitum (Eg. S.L. 81)


Sperae secundum fratrem J. de Pech'm
The Spheres according to brother John Pecham

This is the title of a one-page summary in BL Arundel 83 f123r There is no direct link; use the page list to get from f117 to f123v. Picture of Spheres.

Pecham draws heavily on Cicero's 'Dream of Scipio.' where the the planets each inhabit their own orbs or rather globus

Novem tibi orbibus vel potius globis connexa sunt omnia, quorum unus est caelestis, extimus, qui reliquos omnes complectitur, summus ipse deus, arcens et continens ceteros, in quo sunt infixi illi qui volvuntur stellarum cursus sempitemi.

Cicero elsewhere calls them sphaerae

habent suam sphaeram stellae inerrantes. L&S

Cicero's astronomy was developed from Plato's Timaeus. Perhaps the spheres come from Babylon via Egypt along with the character of the Seven errantes.

In any case I suggest Sphaerae (1st f. pl.) as a general term covering all the regions between Earth and Empyreon, which is beyond the outer stars.

  • The question was about "the space beyond the world", not the spheres that carry the planets.
    – fdb
    May 30, 2019 at 23:30
  • @Hugh: In "Dream of Scipio": "Beneath this are 7-spheres which have a retrograde movement, opposite to that of the heavens." The implication is, irrespective of relative movements, the spheres (the planets) are to be found in the heavens. Therefore, "outer space", in Latin, is "caelum". Do you agree, I'm not entirely sure about this?
    – tony
    Mar 16, 2020 at 13:33

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