Moonstruck Names: Lunar names from Callisto to Cressida to Io

November 27, 2012 Linda Rosenkrantz

When we think of 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 what about the names of actual moons, of some of the many satellites rotating around the planets?  Luckily for us namebodies, many of their names were taken from ancient Greek mythological figures (several after lovers of Zeus)–particularly those around Jupiter and Saturn— while the names of Uranus’s twenty-seven moons have a decidedly Shakespearean bent.

Here, the Nameberry Picks of the best lunar names:

Atlasa moon of SaturnThe son of a Titan in ancient myth, Atlas is a name that projects strength—after all he did carry the world on his shoulders.  It’s more usable as a middle than a first, though actress Anne Heche did pick it for her son in 2009..

Callistoa moon of Jupiter and the most heavily cratered body in the Solar System, 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.

Cordeliaa moon of Uranus—A lovely Shakespearean choice, Cordelia was the youngest and most sympathetic of the daughters of King Lear.  Cordelia is rapidly becoming a Nameberry fave.

Cressidaa moon of Uranus—In Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida, based on a Chaucer poem, she was a Trojan woman madly in love with prince Troilus.  Her name today sounds fresh, crisp, and creative.

Elaraa moon of JupiterElara was yet another lover of Zeus who—serves her right—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 one more 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 personality 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 night provide an fresher alternative to Marissa, Melissa or Alyssa.

Oberona moon of Uranus—In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Oberon is King of the Fairies.  With O-names au courant 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—and we all know what happened when she opened the forbidden box, thereby 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 forgiving of 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 out of the Top 1000 list for a decade, we think Portia deserves more attention.  Just don’t spell it Porsche.

Rosalinda moon of Uranus. Rosalind is the principal 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.

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

So, are you over the moon (sorry!) about any of these names?


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