Why are "Mother Nature" and "Mother Earth" (and perhaps other similar connotations I am unaware of) feminine personifications? The same question stands for "Father Time" - why masculine?

Any explanation as to the history and/or origin (and/or anything else enlightening) of these phrases would be appreciated, particularly as they pertain to the differing genders.

  • Gender is trending, I see
    – Unrelated
    Commented Dec 21, 2013 at 7:56
  • In French, you have the same genders: la nature, la terre and le temps. Maybe it has something to do with the Norman Invasion. Commented Dec 21, 2013 at 12:57
  • Not Norman invasion, but French influence, maybe (It didn't stop after the Norman invasion) I don't know where the expression was first used, in which country, but we should investigate the medieval literature. Nature has been traditionally a woman during Antiquity also, and "a mother".
    – Quidam
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 17:43

3 Answers 3


In many if not most mythologies, the earth (from which life springs forth) is feminine.

In world parent myths, there was chaos, where male and female are bound together, until separation, the sky is usually male, the earth is usually female.

In Emergence myths, a person springs forth from the womb of mother earth.

Mother Earth mythologies, are very common throughout the world. Pre-Babylonian civilizations recognized Tiamat, mother earth. Turtle Island of the Hopi indians is a female. In Mesopotamia, Ninsun is female; the Aegean had Gaia, and perhaps most importantly for Western Civilization, the Romans had Terra Mater (Mother Earth). Norse poetry refers to the earth as Odin's wife.

Some civilizations have a paternal earth myth, but they are not common.

Cronus, or Kronos was a Titan who overthrew his father by castrating him with a scythe. Chronos is the personification of Time in pre-Socratic philosophy and later literature. Chronos was serpentine, with three heads.

Chronos was confused with, or perhaps consciously identified with, due to the similarity in name, the Titan Cronus already in antiquity, the identification becoming more widespread during the Renaissance, giving rise to the allegory of Father Time wielding the harvesting scythe. - Wikipedia


More likely it stems from Greek Mythology. The Goddess Ge/ Gaia (basis of the root word geo- meaning earth) (Earth) created everything. She even gave birth to her husband Uranus (Sky). and Pontus (Sea) That may explains Mother Nature, Mother Earth. As for Father Time, i do not know.

  • 3
    Perhaps that's Kronos. ;) Commented Dec 21, 2013 at 10:50

We live in a world where there have been gender roles and norms for as far back as we have the ability to analyze. Women are often depicted as related to nature, the bringing of life, nurturers, but also chaotic and uncontrollable. Men, on the other hand are "logical" and "rational", and such are the kinds of words used to describe time. I'm sure its bound up in a more word-specific history, but gender roles and ideas about gender always play a huge role in gendered words and phrases.

  • 2
    Perhaps this is interesting in its own right, but it is not really an answer to the question except in the most broad and sweeping theoretical way.
    – virmaior
    Commented Mar 9, 2014 at 17:50
  • In returning to this answer, I think it answers the question, but provides no references. The other answers provide plenty of references, but don't quite seem to answer the question...
    – Josh
    Commented Oct 22, 2014 at 18:28

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