Why We Say ‘I Love You to the Moon and Back’

Why we say "I love you to the moon and back" - SavvyMom

Every night, thousands of parents turn the lights off, turn the nightlights on, turn to their children and say the words, ‘I love you to the moon and back.’ It’s lovely.

But, where did it come from? Who invented that phrase? It’s as if all parents have unanimously agreed (Without me! WAH!) to this unwritten rule to start saying this ubiquitous quote from the minute your baby is placed in your arms, for the rest of your life.

Yes, it most definitely has a better ring to it than, ‘I love you to the backyard and back.’ Or, ‘I love you to the nearest intersection and back.’ Or, ‘I love you to the kitchen, where I’m going to get a snack and back.’

I had never heard this phrase uttered in person before, until I heard my son’s father say it (and text it).

Then, of course, there’s Facebook. On any given day, thousands of adults are wishing their spouses a Happy Birthday or Happy Anniversary and ending their tributes of love with the phrase, ‘I love you to the moon and back.’

Because I had never heard it before I met my son’s father, I wondered where it came from, who started it, why parents just know to say this to their children, and was there a parenting class I missed?

As an avid reader and a great proponent of reading to your children, I’m embarrassed, after doing some research, to discover that I’ve never read Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, the book that originated the phrase. It’s apparently one of the world’s best-loved picture books and an enchanting international bestseller…for decades.

Turns out, it’s quite sweet, and sends chills.

‘I love you up to the moon,’ said Little Nutbrown Hare.

‘Oh, that’s far,’ said Big Nutbrown Hare. ‘That is very far.’ Big Nutbrown Hare settles Little Nutbrown Hare into his bed of leaves.

He leaned over and kissed him goodnight. Then he lay down close by and whispered with a smile, ‘I love you to the moon and back.’

Simple. Yup. Effective. Yup. But, if we’re going to be technical about it (since I do watch The Big Bang Theory and therefore totally consider myself a physicist) what parents are really saying to their offspring is, ‘I love you 768,800 kilometers’. (The distance to the moon and back.)

But, for those of us who suffer from Baby/Mommy Brain, saying, ‘I love you to the moon and back,’ is much easier to remember than saying, ‘I love you 768,800 kilometers!’ which doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

Is it too easy just to say, ‘I love you?’ and then to hear, ‘I love you back?’ Well, yes and no. Adding ‘to the moon and back’ does add that extra that extra more-than-you-can-imagine element, even if every single other parent is using it and it’s really not that unique.

I’m not in any way opposed to it, it’s simple, beautiful, and a way of describing a magical love between parents and their children. Besides, it’s much quicker than the ‘I love you’ routine my daughter and I go through.

Me: I love you.’
DD: ‘I love you more.’
Me: ‘I love you the mostest.’
DD: ‘I love you more than the mostest.’
ME: ‘I love you until infinity.’
DD: ‘I love you until infinity times infinity.’
ME: ‘I love you until infinity times infinity times infinity!’

(You see where this is going…or rather not going.)

Love is not something to be measured. How could you really measure love, especially unconditional love?  But saying, ‘I love you to the moon and back’, even if it’s not original, is at least succinct.

Do you say, ‘I love you to the moon and back’?  Or do you have another more personal way of saying ‘I love you’ to your children? Please share! (And now I’m off to order the book!)



  1. Elizabeth L Bobo on November 16, 2016 at 5:56 am

    I definitely know the line “love you to the moon and back” was in the children’s book but it did not originate there. However, I am not sure where it originated from. My grandmother and my mother said it when I was a young child. I am 40 so that would’ve been before the book came out. It was a very special saying to me but it has been so overly used now, it is just goofy to me.

  2. Pinky on April 11, 2017 at 2:54 am

    I always wondered why use that saying when you can see the moon? It was a long way but had definite measure. A friend of mine who learned she had cancer decided on another saying we could not measure. “I love you forever plus one day.”

  3. Flashy McFlashface on April 14, 2017 at 6:42 pm

    The trouble with loving someone to the moon and back is that when the love leaves the earth’s atmosphere and is in the vacuum of space, all the love is lost when both parties heads swell up and explode. Obviously wearing appropriate space wear would solve this issue but nevertheless you would find it hard to return to earth due to a lack of gravity so just saying i love you and leaving it there is better and much safer for everyone involved.

  4. William on May 15, 2017 at 1:14 am

    This saying is stupid and for multiple reasons, one it’s way over used. Two: So technically people are saying they love you 477,710 miles (the distance to the moon and back). You think that’s a lot, but in terms of a car, it’s not really. A car gets an average of 12,000 miles a year. Saying someone loves you 477,710 miles is like saying someone loves you for 40 years.

  5. Julie on June 26, 2017 at 3:07 am

    I find it an annoying meaning platitude

  6. Cindi on July 28, 2017 at 11:21 pm

    My routine with my little guy (my great nephew) goes like this:
    him: I love you,
    me: I love you more,
    him: I love you most,
    me: I love you infinity time infinity,
    him: I love you beyond heaven! He came up with the this one out of the blue when he was 8 years old and took me by surprise. I can’t express how it made and still makes me feel every time he says it or how much love I feel for him. From the first time I held him in my arms I knew he was special, different then any other child I have ever know and trust me I know a lot of children in my family (cousins, nieces, nephews and all of their children)

    • Heather Dixon on July 29, 2017 at 8:27 am

      That is so sweet!! 🙂

  7. Michelle Brabson on August 11, 2017 at 7:30 am

    That was a regular part of the bedtime routing with my daughter when she was little. Now that she is about to start college, we are both having “To the moon and back” tattooed over our hearts.

  8. Shane Veneziano on August 30, 2017 at 5:32 am

    Great article, but please check the dialogue you wrote between you & your daughter as there is an unfortunate spelling error

    • Heather Dixon on August 30, 2017 at 9:50 am

      Thanks Shane! Fixed!

  9. Selina on September 17, 2017 at 4:41 pm

    Very beautiful and easy to say but difficult to prove

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  10. Edrian Abad on September 21, 2017 at 7:47 pm

    I think real meaning does not impose to the distance, but rather how much is added. Distance is twice ‘to the moon and back’ copared ‘to the moon’. Thus Big Nutbrown Hare means “I love you twice”. Twice the love of what Little Nutbrown Hare gave.

  11. tabitha on December 6, 2017 at 9:03 am

    i say i love you too the moon and back to my mom and she says i love you to then i say i love you more than she says i doubt it so im like well i do love you more than any one has loved you my sister says the same thing

  12. Brandy on January 17, 2018 at 4:10 am

    I Love You To The Moon And Back Alice!

    I Love You To The Moon And Back Alice! When I was a kid I in the 50’s, I would sit on the couch with my Dad every Saturday night and watch Jackie Gleason and The Honeymooners. To my recollection, that’s where this saying came from originally. Reruns still are shown on TV Land.

  13. Angela Rexario on August 28, 2018 at 2:19 pm

    moon is always attracting humans. It is always a medium to express love. Know more about full moon on http://123nextfullmoon.com/mid-autumn-festival-2018/

  14. Beth on November 18, 2018 at 3:59 pm

    I love you to the moon and back did Not start with the book you mentioned. There was a movie, and a play a few years prior to the book you speak about. Plus I’ve heard of it even years before this website I posted below because I’d say it to my 4 kids that were born between 1984-1994 so your information is incorrect


  15. Bob on December 29, 2018 at 8:03 pm

    I love you with all of my heart!

  16. Gracie on September 7, 2019 at 3:10 pm

    My dad and I have a habit of saying “I love you to the” place we can actually go “and back” and then one upping each other or one downing each other because we know the other person means it because we will actually go that far.

  17. Jane on November 12, 2019 at 7:06 am

    I’ve said I love you to the moon and back since my daughter was born in 1996 and I had never read the book. Or heard of it until recently. So I’m intrigued how its origin is only based on the book.

  18. Yolande Bergeron on March 7, 2020 at 3:15 pm

    Bonjour Rebecca
    SAYING: I love you.
    ANSEWR:I love you more.
    The ansewr for me sounds more of an insult than a lots of love.
    May be because I am french
    Different folks different stroke – I guess.

  19. Sandy on January 24, 2021 at 7:15 am

    So after reading all the remarks some nice some just mean and some just not worth even mentioning your question about I love you’d and WHAT DO YOU SAY was only answered a few times and made me realize people really can take something sweet and turn it into something hateful. I think that love is measured differently in every one and no matter what you say, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you express your love to them and always remind them that you do, that’s what’s important. So instead of all the haters hating on your comments they should respond with what you asked or not at all. My expression to my boys and my grand babies comes from my heart and I tell tell always, I Love you more than every grain of sand there is in the world. They say that’s a lot and I tell them it’s because my love for you is immeasurable!

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