There is a movie called "The Man from Earth" and someone told me that the title is referring to "caveman" because "Earth" meant "cave". I doubt that. I can't find any dictionary supporting that explanation.

All I want to know is whether the statement is true in English: Does the phrase "man from earth" mean "caveman"?

  • 4
    I think it means a man from planet Earth. www.manfromearth.com/index.html
    – JLG
    Jun 4, 2012 at 12:55
  • The link does not seem to include any explanation on the title.
    – Betty
    Jun 4, 2012 at 13:01
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    The main character is an "immortal who has walked the earth for 14,000 years." I guess he would have the right to be identified as closely to Earth as anyone. Also, I think the writers of movie titles want you to think, which you obviously have been. (I wasn't the downvote BTW.)
    – JLG
    Jun 4, 2012 at 13:31
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    This is very close to literary analysis, as it's the title of an artistic work. Titles are often chosen to be deliberately thought-provoking and ambiguous. It could simply be the case that the author wanted many different possibly interpretations. Jun 4, 2012 at 15:38
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about the meaning of a movie title.
    – MrHen
    Oct 14, 2013 at 20:11

6 Answers 6



Although the film does include the eponymous Man as a caveman, the word earth never refers to a cave, even though a fox's earth is its burrow. In this case Earth does refer to the planet, and it's quite normal for the planet's name to be used without the definite article.

I'll leave it to others to explain when one uses "Earth" and "the Earth" (I can't!)

  • 1
    The imdb page does not seem to include any explanation on the title. For other part of the answer, I agree.
    – Betty
    Jun 4, 2012 at 13:02
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    @Betty: It is very rare that any explanation is ever given for any title. If there is one, IMDB is not likely to have it.
    – Mitch
    Jun 4, 2012 at 13:15
  • Just want to say, I have checked the imdb page before I posted the question. :)
    – Betty
    Jun 4, 2012 at 13:21
  • @Mitch Actually the IMDB message boards are often a good source of discussion about such things.
    – d'alar'cop
    Feb 10, 2014 at 14:05

"Here 'earth' means 'cave'.

As far as I know "earth" never means "cave". It is "soil/mud" or "planet Earth", but never anything even remotely resembling "cave".

I doubt that. I can't find any dictionary supporting that explanation.

As far as I can tell, that "someone" is mistaken. Ask him/(her?) to support this statement with something.

Besides, there is no "the" before "Earth"

In this case "Earth" is a name of the planet. You do not use "the" with names. "Mars", "London", "William" are used without "the", so "Earth" is also used without "the" when it means "planet Earth".

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    My print dictionary lists one meaning for earth as: any hole in the ground in which a fox takes refuge. Likewise, meaning #3 in this online dictionary is similar: a hole in the ground where an animal such as a fox lives. Whether or not this is a plausible explanation/interpretation, I guess I'd have to watch the movie, and see where this man lives.
    – J.R.
    Jun 4, 2012 at 13:58
  • @J.R. The movie just says the man comes from the caveman age. It does not show the place he used to live. Speaking of cavemen, I always thought they lived in stone cave. I never thought the caves could be made of earth.
    – Betty
    Jun 4, 2012 at 14:41
  • @J.R.: If there's a connection, it is far from obvious and is quite obscure/rare. Cave is not necessarily small enough to be called "hole", and is not necessarily formed in ground/mud/soil. So unless your fox is big enough to carve caves out of stone, I'd say that while "earth" might refer "fox hole", "fox hole" most likely doesn't refer to "cave".
    – SigTerm
    Jun 5, 2012 at 4:27
  • @SigTerm: I wasn't voting in the debate on what "Earth" means in the title; I was merely answering your statement that As far as I know "earth" never means "cave"... never anything even remotely resembling "cave", and that you couldn't find any dictionary supporting that explanation.
    – J.R.
    Jun 5, 2012 at 9:24
  • @J.R.: My answer says "as far as I know". Which means that although I am not aware of any connection between "earth" and "cave", such connection might exist. I do not claim to know everything about English or any other subject - according to Murphy's law, that'll be unwise.
    – SigTerm
    Jun 5, 2012 at 19:42

You are all missing the point of the title. First of all, the title does not have the article the directly before Earth. It is "The Man from Earth". Nowhere does it say The Earth. I mention this because some people are debating this point in this thread.

As to the meaning of the title...I believe that it implies that the main character has been around so long, and lived in so many different parts of the world, that he cannot clearly define his existence by a single country, race, or language (i.e. French, German, Spaniard, Arabic, etc). Those countries and customs/languages did not exist 14,000 years ago (which is how old he is). Therefore, the most accurate description of his origins is that he's simply a man that existed on the planet all those years; hence the man from Earth. I think it's a great title.

  • What point are you trying to make in your first paragraph? Is there a nuance dependent on having an article or not? If so, you might want to add this in your answer. I disagree that the title implies the nature of the protagonist (we're all "men (and women) from earth"). Instead, after watching the film one might read additional meaning in the title. In logical terms, "man from earth" doesn't lead me to "ancient, well-traveled being on this planet" (A,WTBotP), but "A,WTBotP" may lead me to "man from earth".
    – Zairja
    Nov 2, 2012 at 16:21
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    Yes, we are all men & women from Earth. But all of us can identify with a cultural or geographical identity. The main character from the movie cannot make such an identification. The only thing he has in common with other humans, is that he's from the same planet as us. Even the DVD coverart for this movie shows the main character standing on top of the planet Earth. To me, this indicates that the creators of the movie were implying that this man was from Earth, but not anywhere in particular.
    – Moe
    Nov 3, 2012 at 1:31

Regarding inclusion of the article "the" before a proper noun (one capitalized outside of the context of a title): this indicates a particular instance of a class or set. Capitalization (outside of a title), indicates a particular class distinct from the set of all possible things of that designation. In the most general case, the uncapitalized form of the noun indicates either all possible things of that designation, or at least, any non-specific thing of that designation. Thus:

"The man from earth" might mean

  • a man composed of soil or dirt (a golem, a metaphor)

  • a man with an association with soil or dirt (a farmer, a sanitation engineer, a man of lower class)

"The man from Earth" might mean

  • a man from the planet Earth in some other context (i.e., on Mars)

  • a man from any version of the planet Earth in a context where multiple Earths may exist (i.e., polycosm, time travel)

"The man from the Earth" might mean

  • a man from the planet Earth in some other context (i.e., on Mars)

  • a man specifically from the familiar version of the planet Earth in a context where multiple Earths may exist (i.e., polycosm, time travel)

  • Good. What about the "burrow" meaning? What are the possible interpretation with and without "the" if "earth" meanings "burrow"?
    – Betty
    Jun 5, 2012 at 4:02

For all those referring to "cavemen" as having lived in caves--stone or otherwise--note that "caveman" is a misnomer. Our Paleolithic ancestors did not live in caves. The artifact and archaeological evidence indicates that they lived in tents/huts/etc. and that caves were used for ritual purposes; thus, the paintings on the cave walls but the lack of anything indicating habitation. "The Man from Earth" is a great movie despite the misuse of the term "caveman." I think the title simply refers to the man (John Oldman) as having been born in a time when the Earth was untainted by "progress" and, therefore, more pristine, etc. (For more on cave art/ritual, look up Chauvet Cave, Lascaux Cave, and the Paleolithic wonder of El Juyo.)

  • There is evidence of humans cooking (fire) and eating (discarded bones) in many caves. So, I would not dismiss the notion of living in caves. It may be true that eventually they lived in tents or huts, but until they developed sufficient technology to weave cloth or cut trees, many could have well lived in caves (particularly in Europe, where they would need to shelter from the climate more than in Africa).
    – Phil Perry
    Jun 16, 2014 at 16:09

I can answer part of your question. The inclusion or omission of the article "the" does not clarify the ambiguity. I might say "The bull dozer is a piece of earth moving equipment" or I might say "Being from Earth, it's hard to imagine living anywhere else."

Have you seen the film? Perhaps the context of it will help.

  • Yes, I have seen the film, and as Andrew Leach says, the film does include the eponymous Man as a caveman, but that does not help clarify the ambiguity.
    – Betty
    Jun 4, 2012 at 12:59
  • Without seeing the film myself, my inclination is to think that "Earth" in the title is the proper noun as in "The Man from planet Earth"
    – TecBrat
    Jun 4, 2012 at 14:52
  • Compare 'The Man Who Fell to Earth'. No 'the' here, but in this case it does mean the planet Earth.
    – Mynamite
    Oct 14, 2013 at 23:24

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