They are generally thought to be called wisdom teeth because they appear so late – much later than the other teeth, at an age where people are presumably "wiser" than as a child, when the other teeth erupt.
Different terms in other languages
Some languages use a different term for the same teeth, for example:
- Turkish refers directly to the age at which wisdom teeth appear and calls it 20 yaş dişi (20th year tooth).
- In Korean, its name is Sa-rang-nee (사랑니, love teeth) referring to the young age and the pain of the first love.
- In Japanese, its name is Oyashirazu (親知らず), literally meaning "unknown to the parents," from the idea that they erupt after a child has moved away.
- The Indonesian term gigi bungsu for the last teeth a person cuts refers to bungsu, meaning "youngest child", because the teeth erupt so much later than the others, implying that the teeth are "younger" than the rest.
- In Thailand, the wisdom tooth is described fan-khut (ฟันคุด) "huddling tooth" due to its shortage of space.
- In the Netherlands, the wisdom tooth is known as the verstandskies or "far standing tooth" referring to its remote location in the mouth. A second meaning for verstand is also "wisdom".