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Cytherean // is an adjective literally meaning of Cythera (Latin Cytherēa, from the Greek adjective Κυθέρεια Kythereia, from Κύθηρα Kythēra 'Cythera'). Cythera is a small Greek island, southeast of the Peloponnesus, and a legendary birthplace of the goddess Aphrodite (Venus). The word Cytherean was first applied to the goddess and later, due to word taboo, to the planet Venus that had been named after the goddess.
When planetary scientists began to have a need to discuss Venus in detail, an adjective was needed. Based on the principles of Latin names in English, the regular adjectival form of the name is Venerean (or Venerian, either pronounced //). However, these forms have an unfortunate similarity to the related word venereal, as in venereal disease (related to "Venerean" as martial is to "Martian"), and is not generally used by astronomers. The term Venusian is etymologically messy (similar to saying "Earthian" or "Jupiterian"), and a "cleaner" version was desired.
Since Venus has a Greek name, as well as a Roman one, this could be used; however, the adjectival form of Aphrodite, "Aphrodisian" //, was felt to be unfortunately similar to "aphrodisiac", again evoking sex rather than astronomy.
A compromise was reached. In Greek mythology, the goddess Aphrodite was said to have been born from the sea, from which she emerged on a sea shell at the island of Cythera, and as such she was sometimes referred to as Cytherēa. The adjective Cytherean was taken from this name and remained popular in scientific literature for some time. Its perhaps forgotten usage in 18th century erotica did not interfere with this choice.
The term has since fallen out of common use. Venusian /( ) / is the form most frequently used, with others, including Venerean appearing from time to time; the term Cytherean is now mostly found in older scientific papers, but some scientists still stick to the "tasteful" naming. In addition, the word "Cytherean" as an adjective referring to Venus is often found in science fiction of the early and mid 20th century.
- "Cytherean". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
- "Venerean, Venerian". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
- Hanes, Dave. "The Appearance of Venus: Its Importance". Physics P15: The Course Notes, Fall 2012. Archived from the original on January 15, 2013. Retrieved January 1, 2013.
- "aphrodisian". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
- M. Heydari-Malayeri, An Etymological Dictionary of Astronomy and Astrophysics English-French-Persian. Accessed Oct. 7, 2006
- For example, "when you examine her whole naked figure, which she will permit you to do, if you perform the Cytherean Rites like an able priest". Denlinger, Elizabeth Campbell (2002), "The Garment and the Man: Masculine Desire in "Harris's List of Covent-Garden Ladies," 1764–1793", Journal of the History of Sexuality, University of Texas Press, hosted at jstor.org, 11 (3): 379, doi:10.1353/sex.2003.0011, JSTOR 3704587, PMID 17387827, S2CID 29449091
- David W. Hughes. A comparison between terrestrial, Cytherean and lunar impact cratering records". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society Volume 334. August 2002. Page 713