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Today we have a three words that are often confused or used interchangeably: meteor, meteoroid and meteorite.  The word meteor comes directly from the Ancient Greek word ta meteora which meant a celestial phenomenon.  Today a meteor is the visible manifestation of that celestial phenomenon as it enters the earth’s atmosphere.  Meteor came into use in Early Modern English in the 15th century.  Meteorite was coined in 1824 by adding -ite from the French suffix based on the Latin suffix -ita meaning connected to or belonging to to denote the remains of meteors recovered on the ground.  The word meteoroid was coined in 1865 by adding the -oid suffix from the Ancient Greek word eidos meaning shape or form to denote a celestial body smaller than an asteroid yet still visible from Earth. 

Don’t forget to check out my weekly blog with NPR’s Science Friday:

http://www.talkingscience.org/category/parent/science-dad/

Esquel Meteorite on display at Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottowa, Canada.  Image courtesy M. Rehemtulla for the QUOI Media Group

Orionid Meteor courtesy Mila Zinkova under CC 3.0.

2008 TC-3 meteoroid courtesy and copyright 2008 EUMETSAT

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