The Meanings of the Names of the 10 Highest Mountains on Every Continent

Mountains have been a source of wonder, adventure, hardship, and livelihood since the dawn of humanity. They are given epic names that command awe and respect, such as Aconcagua (“sentinel of stone”) and and Mawenzi (“the crumpled, jagged, broken one”). The highest mountain on Earth is Mount Everest in the Himalayas of Asia, soaring into the sky at 29,035 feet. Everest’s English name comes from Sir George Everest, a British surveyor and geographer who served as surveyor general of India from 1830 to 1843. He objected to the naming honors, having never seen or explored Everest himself. The Nepali people call it Sagarmatha, which means “forehead of the sky.” Tibetan natives call it Chomolungma, meaning “goddess mother of mountains.”

The highest mountain by elevation in the Milky Way puts Mount Everest to shame. Olympus Mons is a very large shield volcano on the planet Mars, reaching 69,841 feet! “Olympus Mons” is Latin for “Mount Olympus,” home of the gods in Greek mythology. Even more grand is Rheasilvia on the asteroid Vesta, the tallest known mountain in the solar system. It rises up 14 miles (73,920 feet) from the center of a colossal crater. Rheasilvia is named after Rhea Silvia, a mythological Vestal virgin and mother of the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus.

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