How Betelgeuse got its Name

Are these two phrases the same?

يد الجوزا

بد الجوزا

The Arabs called Orion el Jawza, “the Central One”. Its brightest star was called Yad el Jawza, “Hand of the Central One”. Here’s a letter-by-letter breakdown, from right to left.

A Z W J      L E      D Y
ا ز و ج   ل ا   د ي

Unfortunately, the Arabic letter for Y (with two dots under it) was misread by Europeans as the letter B (with one dot), giving us the garbled transcription Bad el Jawza, or “Betelgeuse”. We pronounce it “Beetle Juice”.

After the damage was done, scholars tried to reconstruct the Arabic phrase from which “Betelgeuse” must have been derived. The best they could do was Ibet el Jawza, “Armpit of the Central One”. Of course, there really are no stars named after armpits.