"Here lies Terra, known to antiquity as Earth, the heart of the Imperium of Man..."
— Warhammer 40,000
This is a fairly simple trope. It is simply the habit of calling Earth "Terra" in Sci Fi. The word is adopted from the Latin
word for, well, earth. The word "Terra" is also an Italian, Portuguese, and Catalan word, which makes sense, since all three languages descend from Latin. Therefore, it has the exact same meaning.
The advantages to doing this are simply coolness
, especially when describing a human from Earth. Or just humans in general, in works that insist on naming species by their homeworlds. Terran just sounds more exotic and less condescending
than "Earthling". Another advantage is that it is language-neutral, since it is by far the most common word for the planet — three world languages call this planet Terra or some variant thereofnote
, as do many smaller Romance (i.e. Latin-derived) languages, while English and Germannote
are the only world languages that use variants of "Earth", the latter being spoken almost solely in central Europe. And it provides a convenient standardisation in that Earth is otherwise the only planet in the solar system that is not named for a Roman deity.
This is often accompanied by reference to Earth's sun as "Sol", and the moon as "Luna", to differentiate them from other suns or moons.
Calling Earth "Terra" may be a result of an Earth That Was
Due to the dubious pronunciation and spelling of ancient languages, "Tella" also fits here. SF authors of the 1930s also applied another Latin name at times, "Tellus", which means the same thing.
Anime and Manga
- In Trinity Blood, Methuselahs refer to humans as Terrans. Because, as the original novels reveal, the first Methuselahs were created on Mars.
- Toward the Terra.
- In Outlaw Star, humans are mostly referred to as just that, but some characters refer to them as Terrans. Notably Aisha, and usually with a note of derision.
- In Yamato 2199, the alien Gamilas call Earth Terron which is explained as their rendering of Terra/Terrans. (Apparently they couldn't tell the name of the planet and that of the species apart - they cannot do that for their own planet, either.)
- In Guardians of the Galaxy Quill is exclusively referred to as "Terran," and Earth as "Terra," by most of the alien races, particularly Nova Corps. Though he's also called a "hummie" occasionally by Rocket, so they're at least aware of the word humans use for themselves.
- The government in Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein is the Terran Federation.
- The titular organization in the Terran Trade Authority series by Stewart Cowley.
- The Saga of the Seven Suns series has the Terran Hanseatic League.
- Most of Andre Norton's science fiction stories.
- E. E. “Doc” Smith's stories referred to our planet as both Earth and Terra. He also used the alternate name Tellus.
- Poul Anderson's Technic History stories refer to Terra and the Terran (or sometimes Terrestrial) Empire. Anderson justifies the use in an odd way: once, an alien asked where he comes from replies, "from earth" - but that is what the name of his home planet means if he translates it, so "Terra" is used to distinguish various earths spread throughout the Galaxy.
- An odd inversion is that Edmond Hamilton's Starwolf trilogy always speaks of humans as Earthmen, but the back-cover blurb describes the main character as a Terran.
- Keith Laumer's Retief stories frequently use the abbreviated "Terry" for Terrestrial. There's no sense of it being derogatory, as the Terries use it themselves often enough. Also, Earth's diplomatic corps is known as the Corps Diplomatique Terrestrienne.
- In Sergey Lukyanenko's Line of Delirium trilogy, Earth is renamed Terra and serves as the capital of the Human Empire.
- "Terra" and "Terrans" are used throughout H. Beam Piper's "Terro-Human Future History".
- "Terra" is the most common name for the home planet of Perry Rhodan.
- Earth has become known as "Terra" in S.L. Viehl's Stardoc series.
- In Elliot S. Maggin's Superman novel Last Son of Krypton, Lex Luthor complains when aliens call him an Earthling, because he prefers "Terran". They explain that the translator operates according to the listener's intention, so if Luthor decides he wants to hear "Terran" instead, that's what he'll hear. (It works, at which point he decides to make the translations of his interrogators' names and species terms as insulting to them as possible.)
- In the book of the film for Men In Black, humans are called "terries". (At least by Edgar the bug, so it's likely a derogatory derivative of "terran".)
- In Bob Shaw's Who Goes Here? many of the officers of Earth's military prefer the term "Terra". One enlisted man notes it's often a sign of an idealistic fool who's likely to get his men killed; the ones who say "The Mighty Terra" are particularly bad. Naturally, the protagonist's commanding officer is of this type.
- The Star Trek Mirror Universe has the Terran Empire (until it collapses, at least). The main universe occasionally also refers to our solar system as the Terran System (though it's more frequently known as the Sol system or Sector 001).
- Spock was asked in one Original Series episode if he was "Terran or Vulcan."
- In Star Trek: Enterprise, there is a human supremacist group named "Terra Prime".
- Blake's 7 has a Terran Federation.
- In Stargate SG-1 it was mentioned once that the Ancients called earth Terra, of course, Latin is derived from their language.
- Though most of the time the Goa'uld word, Tau'ri, is used for humans from earth.
- "Tau'ri" (lit. "The First World") is the name for Earth itself. Humans from Earth were originally referred to as "Humans of the Tau'ri," and was eventually shortened to just "Tau-ri" for the sake of brevity.
- Played with and finally averted in the original Battlestar Galactica- "Terra" turns out not to be Earth, but rather a splinter group from the Thirteenth Tribe that colonized Earth.
- Aliens very rarely refer to humans originating from Earth as "Tellurians" in Doctor Who
- The BattleTech universe had the Terran Hegemony. The planet is mostly referred to as Terra, as well.
- Renegade Legion has an imperial government known as the Terran Overlord Government.
- Holy Terra is the homeworld of the Imperium of Man in the Warhammer 40,000 universe.
- The use of the Latin word is particularly appropriate, as 40k has a translation convention of using Latin (or debased Latin-like words) to represent "High Gothic" - the archaic administrative and religious language of the Imperium of Man. That said, even when characters are using the more colloquial "Low Gothic" (represented by English) they still tend to call the human homeworld "Terra". The term probably filtered down into Low Gothic from High Gothic, given that to the vast majority of Imperial citizens Terra is a near-mythical place of superlative religious significance, referred to mainly in hymns and prayers.
- The Starfire universe has the Terran Federation.
- The Terran Confederation in Traveller
- Terrans are alternately called "Solomani"(men from the sun) and that is the preferred rendering in the Third Imperium era which is the default time of the Gurps line.
- Inverted in Manhunter, the long out-of-print sourcebook for Rifts (and the only officially-sanctioned Rifts book not published by Palladium Books). The book has Earth as well as Terra, the later is a new homeworld founded by Humans after Earth was rendered nearly uninhabitable.
- In X3 Terran Conflict, the humans in the Sol system are referred to as "Terrans", but the planet is still called Earth, as is their government (the Earth State).
- Happens partially in Star Control, where instead of the Sun and the Moon we have Sol and Luna. Earth is named Earth and the humans Earthlings and not Terrans, however.
- The Galactic Terran Aliance from FreeSpace. Earth is still Earth, however.
- In the sequel, two sides use Terran in their name: the Galactic Terran-Vasudan Alliance (composed of humans and Vasudans) and the Neo-Terran Front (composed of anti-Vasudan human radicals, with a vision of 'Neo-Terra' as an utopia for humans).
- In Starcraft, humans are called Terrans, but strangely, the planet is still called Earth every single time it's mentioned.
- And they're referred to as humans instead of terrans reasonably often.
- Starcraft is actually a weird case of this, as the terrans are the humans not associated with earth. The people from earth still call themselves humans.
- The French translation uses untranslated "Terran" for the Terran confederacy (and later empire) of the Koprulu sector, and translated "Terriens" for the United Earth Directory forces.
- Wing Commander has the Terran Confederation, with "Terrans" occasionally being used by non-human races to refer to the speciess originating from Sol III. The Expanded Universe makes it clear that the Confederation is centered on Terra/Earth, but includes members from other species, such as the Firekkans.
- In the Unrealverse, the Skaarj call humans Terrans.
- PlanetSide has the Terran Republic.
- The main race in the sequel to Galactic Civilizations is the Terran Alliance.
- That is the default name, though. You can call it what you wish.
- Rock 'n Roll Racing refers to Snake Sanders' home planet (very blatantly Earth-like) as Terra.
- In Final Fantasy, the setting is usually called "Gaia" (Greek for Earth) but in Final Fantasy IX the plot's impetus is an invasion by another planet known as Terra.
- The Battle Opera Gunmech universe has the Terran Alliance.
- Used in Crash Nitro Kart. Earth and Terra are separate planets, and one of the inhabitants of Terra believes Earth to be a copy of it.
- In Mass Effect, the Star of Terra is one of the Systems Alliance's highest military decorations. If you picked the War Hero background, Shepard was awarded it after the Skyllian Blitz.
- Conquest Frontier Wars has humans called Terrans, but Earth is still Earth.
- The leader of the planet-themed Stardroids in Mega Man V is named "Terra", however in the Japanese version he's simply known as "Earth".
- Subverted in Earth And Beyond. Earth is still called Earth, although humans who live on its surface (and those who owe allegiance to Earth) are called Terrans.
- Subverted in Star Citizen. There's a planet called Terra, but it's actually a major colony that happens to look extremely similar to Earth. Earth itself remains and is still the political, economical and military core of the titular United Empire of Earth(UEE).
- All beings that can trace their lineage back to Earth in Orion's Arm are referred to as 'Terragen', and the region of space they inhabit is, obviously, called the Terragen Sphere. Note that most terragens were not actually born/created on Earth, and are hence not Terrans proper - they're just all, ultimately, descended from or created by Terrans.
- Escape From Terra, obviously. And many of the planet's inhabitants are referred to as "Terries".
- Battle for Terra is a subversion. Terra here is an alien planet named so by the humans fleeing the destroyed Earth. Its real name is unknown.
- The baseline humans are referred as "Terrans" in Exo Squad to distinguish them from Neosapiens and get around the small fact that both races are human, regardless of the fact that they don't call Earth "Terra", or that many humans are natives of Venus or the moons of the outer planets.
- One of Perry Rhodan's authors, Willi Voltz, used the word in a political context. He was heard addressing his readers as "Terrans" and explaining that he wanted to have this understood as a honorific of people whose mindset was advanced enough that they would identify themselves as members of the human species as a whole and not of an ethnic or national community.