One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1An imagined semblance of a man (or a man's face) in the disc of the (full) moon; (hence) the mythical person suggested by this semblance, supposed to dwell in the moon.
2"no more than the man in the moon" and variants: no more than anyone, not at all.
Middle English. From man + in + the + moon. Inhabitants of the moon were postulated in ancient Greek and Hellenistic Greek texts; for closer analogies to the English phrase, compare German der Mann im Mond, French le visage de la lune, Dutch het mannetje in de maan, and post-classical Latin rusticus in luna; an early and influential attestation of the last from a British source is.
man in the moon/ˌman ɪn ðə ˈmuːn/
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