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You’ve probably heard the idiomatic expression, “once in a blue moon,” on several occasions. It means, “hardly,” or on very rare occasions. For example:

I only see him once in every blue moon.

I go there once in a blue moon.

But have you ever wondered what is the origin or etymology of this idiomatic expression? A blue moon is the name of two full moons which happen in the same month. Usually, each month only has one full moon, but on rare occasions, say every two or three years, an extra full moon appears making two full moons in one month. For example, the blue moon phenomenon occurred in the month of August in the year 2023. That is, a full moon occurred twice in this month. The second occurrence of a full moon in the same month is referred to as the blue moon.

Photo of the blue moon taken over Guyana, South America on the night Wednesday, 30th of August, 2023

The adjective “blue” before the noun “moon” doesn’t refer to the color of the moon at all. When the full moon appears a second time in the same month, it isn’t blue but the usual color. The word “blue” is used to describe, in this case, a rare and unusual happening.

Photo of the blue moon photographed from New York on the night of Wednesday, 30th of August, 2023

The blue moon rarely happens. That is, two full moons in the same month rarely happens. It only happens once every 2 or 3 years, or should I say, “once in a blue moon”?

Photo of the blue moon photographed from Guyana on the night of Wednesday, 30th of August, 2023.
Photo of blue moon taken from Guyana on the night of Wednesday, 30th of August, 2023.

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