Tau Ceti, the Bayer designation for this star, was established in 1603 as part of the Uranometria, a star catalogue produced by German celestial cartographer Johann Bayer. It has the proper name Durre Menthor, which comes from the Arabic Al Durr' Al-Manthūur (الدرر المنثور), meaning The Scattered Pearls (of the Broken Necklace). In the catalogue of stars in the Calendarium of Al Achsasi al Mouakket, written at Cairo about 1650, this star was designated Thālith al Naʽāmāt (تالت ألنعامة - taalit al naʽāmāt), which was translated into Latin as Tertia Struthionum, meaning the third ostrich. This star, along with η Cet (Deneb Algenubi), θ Cet (Thanih Al Naamat), ζ Cet (Baten Kaitos), and υ Cet, were Al Naʽāmāt (ألنعامة), the Hen Ostriches.
In Chinese, the "Square Celestial Granary" (Chinese: 天倉; pinyin: Tiān Cāng) refers to an asterism consisting of τ Ceti, ι Ceti, η Ceti, ζ Ceti, θ Ceti and 57 Ceti. Consequently, τ Ceti itself is known as the "Fifth Star of Square Celestial Granary" (Chinese: 天倉五; pinyin: Tiān Cāng wǔ).
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