Where does I love you to the moon and back come from?
It’s not exactly clear when the hyperbolic expression emerged, but a character delivers a form of it in Tom Topor’s 1979 play Nuts: “When I was a little girl, I used to say to her, ‘I love you to the moon and down again and around the world and back again.’ And she used to say to me, ‘I love you to the sun and down again and around the stars and back again.’”
The phrase, which uses the celestial feat and distance to heighten and dramatize the extent of love, may have been boosted by space exploration and the moon landing in the 1960s. An official NASA document, for instance, used the phrase to the moon and back when describing a program in 1969, and the specific phrase has a smattering of instances across the decades prior.
Whatever its precise origins, the saying spread in the 1990–2000s, as evidenced by its use in popular culture. In 1992, the band Spectrum released a song titled “(I Love You) To the Moon and Back.” The theme of a parent’s love for their child is also reflected in the 1994 picture book Guess How Much I Love You? In the book, a small hare tells his father “I love you right up to the moon,” and the father replies “I love you right up to the moon - and back.”
The composer John Adams had a chorus of children repeat “I love you to the moon and back,” in a piece he wrote in response to the 9/11 terrorist attack. In 2003, linguists used I love you to the moon and back as an example of one of the many uses of the preposition to, which indicates that the phrase was in common conversational use by that point.
The first uses of love you to the moon and back on Twitter appear in the fall of 2008. Early examples include expressions of affection both between parents and children, but also between romantic partners. By the 2010s, love you to the moon and back was prevalent enough that it spawned sarcastic or tongue-in-cheek commentary about the finite distance expressed (suggesting the phrase refers to a finite love as well). Nonetheless, people have continued to use the expression or variations on it, in earnest. In 2014, Dolly Parton released a song “From Here to the Moon and Back” with the lyric “From here to the moon and back, who else in this world will love you like that?”. The following year, Amelia Wepworth wrote a children’s book titled I Love You to the Moon and Back about a bear and cub.
Who uses I love you to the moon and back?
I love you to the moon and back is said between parents and children, romantic partners, friends, and even to pets. It is frequently used on social media. It has been used on social media by a number of celebrities including Jessica Biel to her husband Justin Timberlake, Brooklyn Beckham to his girlfriend Chloe Moretz, Romeo Beckham to his mother Victoria, and Courtney Love to her daughter Frances Bean Cobain. The expression has also been engraved on jewelry and printed on home decorations.
A less common variant is I love you to the stars and back, which a 2017 Filipino romantic comedy took as its title. Some users will further intensify the phrase by swapping out moon for celestial bodies even further away (e.g., I love you to Alpha Centauri and back).
On the side, there’s a little moon. My mom and I always said, ‘Love you to the moon and back.’
Mirela Rahneva quoted by Josh Clipperton, TSN, February, 2018
if someone ever says that they love you to the moon and back remember that the moon is only .0000002% of the way to the nearest galaxy & reevaluate that relationship my friend
@TrumanDome, February, 2018
HAPPY BIRTHDAY YESY I LOVE YOU SO SO MUCH!!! 💫✨ YOU ARE THTE CUTEST PERSON EVER AND IM SO BLESSED TO HAVE YOU AS MY BEST FRIEND !!! I love you to the moon and back bitch 😚💘
@mayalunadubach, February, 2018