Here is a list of phases that we distinguish in English (taken from here):

  • Full Moon
  • Waning Gibbous Moon
  • Last Quarter Moon
  • Waning Crescent Moon
  • New Moon
  • Waxing Crescent Moon
  • First Quarter Moon
  • Waxing Gibbous Moon

Does Latin distinguish the same phases of the moon? If so, I'd love a comprehensive list of words (and examples!) that Romans (or later astronomers) would use.

2 Answers 2


This question makes me recall my childhood. I see two approaches to an answer: 1. there is a complete list from a XVII century author, and 2. a compilation of classical and post-classical names by L&S.

1. Complete list (late Latin)

According to the Harmonia Macrocosmica by Andreas Cellarius (XVII century,) the phases are:

  • πŸŒ‘ New Moon: Novilunium (Soli coniuncta),
  • πŸŒ’ Crescent: Cornicularis (in aspectu sextili),
  • πŸŒ“ Quarter: Dimidiata (in aspectu quadrato),
  • πŸŒ” Gibbous: In orbem insinuata (in aspectu trino vel trigono) and
  • πŸŒ• Full: Plenilunium (Soli opposita)

The intermediate ones, in turn, may be crescens (πŸŒ“ waxing) and decrescens (πŸŒ— waning; remember Carmina Burana/O Fortuna?) He even goes to name the phase for every single day of the lunar cicle (larger image here.) Note that in English crescent refers to the shape (πŸŒ’), while in Latin crescens means growing (i.e. waxing)

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2. Older uses:

Novilunium and plenilunium are postclassical, and according to L&S, classical names were luna nova and luna plena.

Luna entry in L&S lists crescens and decrescens, as well as instances of dimidiata (by Cato,) extrema and prima (by Varro) and specific days as counted from the last New Moon (e.g. quinta decima luna, Columella, Res Rustica, 2, 10),

  • 1
    This is exactly was I was looking for! ...though I'm a little disappointed that "gibbous" has such a clunky equivalent (in orbem insinuata).
    – brianpck
    Mar 7, 2018 at 21:48

I should think that all of these have names in Latin. From my reading I recall only a passage in Pliny, Nat. 16.190, where he says that the time of conjunction (true new moon) has three names: coitus, dies interlunii and dies silentis lunae.

inter omnes vero convenit utilissime in coitu eius sterni, quem diem alii interlunii, alii silentis lunae appellant.

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