“I Love You To The Moon And Back”: Origin Behind The Phrase

By Margaret Wack

Updated February 24, 2020

Reviewer Aaron Horn

What Does "I Love You To The Moon And Back" Really Mean?

"I love you to the moon and back" is a common phrase used to express strong affection for another person. People often use this phrase when speaking to romantic partners as well as close friends and family members. This phrase rests on the extreme distance between the Earth and the moon, emphasizing that their love is even greater than these outsized distances. Loving someone "to the moon and back" refers to a strong, lasting love.

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While the phrase is commonly used to express extreme love, some writers have pointed out that the moon isn't actually all that far from the Earth, relatively speaking. After all, there are only a few hundred thousand miles between the Earth and the moon. You probably travel that distance several times over in a lifetime, so loving someone "to the moon and back" isn't necessarily a literal guarantee. Instead, expressing love for someone using this idiom is metaphorical rather than literal, and suggests that love is even bigger and more impressive than mere Earthly emotions.

"I love you to the moon and back" can be used to refer to both platonic and romantic feelings of love. A mother might use the phrase to express affection for a child, and two people in love could use it to refer to their romantic attraction and commitment to one another. The phrase is colloquial and idiomatic and usually used in informal settings.

The Origin Of "I Love You To The Moon And Back"

There are several different origin stories for this popular phrase. The idiom has been in common use for at least a few decades, with writers citing its appearance on television and in popular culture. Similar phrases include idioms like "I love you to pieces," "I love you to infinity and beyond," "I love you this much," and "I'll love you forever and ever."

Another partial origin story for the phrase may be in the popular children's book Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney. Published in 2008, Guess How Much I Love You is a modern children's classic that tells the story of two plush rabbits, a father, and child. In the book, Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare trade boast about how much they love one another. Little Nutbrown Hare insists that he loves his father as high as he can jump and as far as he can reach. Big Nutbrown Hare, however, insists that he loves his child even more. He eventually tells his son that he loves him "to the moon and back," reassuring him that he loves him so much that it can't be contained. While the book might not be the first place in which the phrase appeared, it certainly helped to popularize it in the twenty-first century!

The phrase "I love you to the moon and back" has become an increasingly popular saying, and has spawned many additional children's books, including even a book titled I Love You to the Moon and Back, which details the story of a bear and a cub going on an adventure together. These books and stories that are based on the popular saying detail the power and expanse of love, whether referring to a parent's love for a child, the love between two romantic partners, or the love between friends and family.

How We Express Love

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People can express love in a variety of different fashions, and some people are more expressive than others. While many people use common idioms and metaphors like "I love you to the moon and back" to express their love, others express their love through actions, affirmations, and other behaviors. Psychologists and social scientists often use the Five Love Languages to describe and categorize the different ways in which people express love. These love languages include gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, and physical touch.

Giving And Receiving Gifts

Some people express and prefer to receive love primarily through the exchange of gifts. If you have a friend, family member, or loved one who always presents you with gifts on birthdays and holidays, and enjoys selecting, wrapping, and gifting presents as an expression of love, you're probably familiar with gift-giving as a language of love. Whether they gift extravagant presents or modest, heart-felt items, people who express love in this way enjoy putting a lot of thought and effort into the things they give to others. They may place a special emphasis on holidays, birthdays, and other special events.

Quality Time

People who express their love through quality time enjoy spending time together with the people they love, whether completing activities together or simply existing side by side. These people may like to participate in shared activities like sports, walking, hiking, playing games, watching TV, cooking, or other leisure activities. They may also enjoy simply spending time with people they love while doing separate activities, like reading side-by-side or pursuing different interests in the same room. People who enjoy quality time may find it especially important to block out time each day to spend with the people they love.

Words Of Affirmation

Those who express their love by words of affirmation enjoy verbally communicating their love and appreciation for the people they care for. They may also enjoy receiving words of affirmation themselves. People who enjoy exchanging words of affirmation often use phrases similar to "I love you to the moon and back" to express their love. They may enjoy telling people they love them, verbally expressing how they care for and appreciate other people, and telling people how important or talented they are. People who enjoy receiving words of affirmation may crave verbal expressions of love and praise and may want their partners to communicate to them in words how they feel.

Acts Of Service

People who express their love through acts of service enjoy doing tasks, errands, and jobs for the people that are important to them. This can be as simple as washing the dishes, feeding a pet, taking a car in to get service, or running an errand. It can also involve cooking, cleaning, and taking care of children and other loved ones. Those who express their love through acts of service often enjoy expressing their emotions through their actions and may find expressing love through other physical or verbal methods more difficult. They enjoy playing a quiet and encouraging role in others lives and make sure that their loved ones know that they love and support them through their everyday actions and habits.

Physical Touch

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Those who express their love through physical touch enjoy being physically close to those they love. This may include holding hands, cuddling, and romantic physical intimacy. People who express their love in this way often enjoy expressing their love without words, instead of relying on nonverbal acts of love to get their message across. They may also enjoy physical activities like sports, walking, and hiking with those they love.

Love And Metaphor

When people express their love in words, they often rely on metaphorical and idiomatic language to get their point across. These phrases often use larger-than-life language to illustrate the magnitude of the love being expressed. Words used to describe love often reach towards infinities of space and time to describe how the extreme emotions of love can seem to transcend space and time. Whether you're comparing your love to a celestial body, a huge number, a great distance, or an impossible feat, metaphors describing love often use this outsized language to convey strong, intense emotion.

Metaphors and similes describing love can also include stories, allegories, symbolism, and other literary devices. While you can always tell someone that you love them in plain language, literary devices allow you to set your declarations of love apart from the crowd, emphasizing how your love is potentially different or stronger than other people. These metaphors are then frequently incorporated into the parlance of the culture as a whole, and often turn into stock phrases whose origins are lost to time. Stock phrases, while sometimes stripped of their original origin and meaning, can often be just as useful when attempting to express strong feelings of love.

Are you struggling with navigating romantic relationships and looking for healthy ways to express love? It can be difficult to convey feelings of love to another person, whether you're uncertain about what you're feeling, or are overwhelmed by strong and unexpected emotions. If you're not used to verbally communicating your feelings, it can be even more difficult to get your point across. Luckily, there are a variety of services that can help you navigate the challenges inherent in relationships. Whether you're looking for professional counseling or need someone to talk to, BetterHelp offers a diverse selection of online therapy services that can provide you the help you need to manage relationships and your mental health. Get in touch with us today to learn more!


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