Sciency Words: The Solar System

Sciency Words PHYS copy

Today’s post is part of a special series here on Planet Pailly called Sciency Words. Every Friday, we take a look at a new and interesting scientific term to help us all expand our scientific vocabularies together. Today’s word is:


I previously wrote a Sciency Words post about the Internet, not because that’s a new and interesting scientific term—everyone knows what the Internet is—but because I have a pet peeve about its spelling. Very few people seem to know that the Internet is a proper noun and therefore needs to be capitalized. Every time I see someone write “internet” instead of “Internet,” I die a little inside.

In a similar way, the Solar System is also a proper noun. This can get a little confusing since we do talk about other solar systems, and in that context the term is a common noun describing any star with planets orbiting it. So one possible conversation could go down as:

“Which solar system do you live in?”

“Oh, I don’t live in any old solar system. I live in the Solar System.”

This usage of “solar system” as a common noun bothers me, though. It feels a little like Columbus talking about discovering “another europe.” I’ve noticed more and more that we now use the term “star system” instead, which I think is much clearer.

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