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Happy Lunar New Year: Moonstruck names

January 25, 2017 Linda Rosenkrantz
baby names moon

By Linda Rosenkrantz

We’re approaching the Lunar New Year, otherwise known as the Chinese New Year, the most important holiday in the Chinese calendar. Based on the ancient Chinese lunar calendar, it falls each year on the second new moon after winter solstice—this year that’s January 28th.

Thus begins the Year of the Rooster, which some may find appropriate, but since there aren’t many baby names associated with that particular male bird, let’s commemorate the lunar aspect instead.

When we consider names related to the moon our first thoughts would probably be Luna, or the Zappa-esque Moon, or one of the ancient goddesses of the moon—Phoebe, Artemis, Diana, or Selene.

But how about the names of actual moons, of some of the many satellites rotating around the planets? Many of their names were taken from ancient Greek mythological figures (several of them lovers of Zeus)–particularly those around Jupiter and Saturn–while the names of Uranus’s twenty-seven moons have a decidedly Shakespearean bent.

Here are some of the best:

Atlasa moon of SaturnThe son of a Titan in ancient myth, Atlas is a name that projects super strength—though it’s no longer considered too powerful for a mortal baby boy. One of the fastest-rising names in recent years, Atlas entered the Top 500 last year, and is 108 on Nameberry, chosen for their sons by Anne Heche in 2009 and Edward Norton in 2013.

Callistoa moon of Jupiter, discovered by Galileo in 1610. In Greek mythology, Callisto was a nymph transformed by Hera into a bear, and then by Zeus into the Big Dipper. To the modern ear, though, Callisto sounds decidedly masculine (and Callista female), and completely usable at that, with its O-ending and the nickname Cal.

Calypsoa moon of SaturnCalypso was the nymph who seduced Odysseus and kept him on her island for seven years. In addition to its mythological tie, Calypso also evokes the appealing sound of the rhythmic West Indian music, and is a character in the Percy Jackson series.

Cordeliaa moon of Uranus—A lovely Shakespearean choice, Cordelia was the youngest and most sympathetic of the daughters of King Lear, and the name later also got a push from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Cordelia is a Nameberry fave (#106) and reentered the US Top 1000 in 2014 after a long absence.

Cressidaa moon of Uranus—In Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida, based on a Chaucer poem, Cressida is a Trojan woman madly in love with prince Troilus. Her name today sounds fresh, crisp, and creative, and is likely to climb via the Hunger Games character.

Elaraa moon of JupiterElara was yet another lover of Zeus, one who gave birth to a giant. Lovely and lilting but rarely used, Elara would be an interesting addition to the multitude of Elstarting girls’ names.

Ioa moon of Jupitera sulphurous moon, dotted with hundreds of volcanoes. In Greek mythology Io was still another mistress of Zeus whom he had to hide from his wife Hera—this one he turned into a white heifer. Pronounced eye-oh, this is one of the shortest names in the book, but manages to pack a lot of punch into its mere two letters.

Larissaa moon of NeptuneIn classical mythology, Larissa was a nymph who was loved by Mercury. In the modern world, it’s a delicate, underused choice that might provide a fresher alternative to the more familiar issa names. No longer ranking on the popularity list, it was a Top 500 name in the 1980s and 90s.

Oberona moon of Uranus—In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Oberon is King of the Fairies. With O-names so hot for boys, this is definitely one of the more unusual ones to consider, as is the similarly pronounced Auberon. Either could get you to the attractive nickname Bron.

Pandoraa moon of SaturnIn Greek myth, Zeus created a woman perfect in every way, except for her insatiable curiosity—we know what happened when she opened a forbidden box, unleashing the world’s evils. Sometimes heard among upper-class Brits, Pandora has been shunned here, but with names like Dora and Theodora making a comeback, some bold namers might be more open to Pandora.

Portiaa moon of Uranus—Portia played two Shakespearean roles: as the brilliant, independent-minded lawyer heroine of The Merchant of Venice and as the wife of Brutus in Julius Caesar. Completely off the Top 1000 list for a decade, we think Portia deserves more attention. Just don’t spell it Porsche. It’s currently associated with actress Portia de Rossi (born Amanda), and a character on True Blood.

Rosalinda moon of Uranus. Rosalind is the main female character in As You Like It, and one of Shakespeare’s most charming and best-loved heroines. Rosalind, like other Rose elaborations such as Rosemary and Rosalie, are on the cusp of a comeback—it’s now reached #274 on Nameberry.

ThalassaA moon of NeptuneThalassa is the ancient personification of the sea, particularly the Mediterranean. It would make a highly original, yet accessible and delicate choice.

Thebe—A moon of JupiterThebe was Zeus’s daughter with a nymph named Iodame. Could she possibly be a successor to Phoebe?

Do you have a favorite moon-related name?


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