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Moonstruck Names: Lunar names from Calypso to Cressida

Moonstruck Names: Lunar names from Calypso to Cressida

When we think of names that mean 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, 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, a selection of our favorite moon names:

Atlas (a moon of Saturn)

The 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 been rising rapidly up the charts in the US since the early 2010s and is currently Number 149.

Callisto (a moon of Jupiter)

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.

Calypso (a moon of Saturn)

Calypso 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.

Cordelia (a moon of Uranus)

A lovely Shakespearean choice, Cordelia was the youngest and most sympathetic of the daughters of King Lear. Cordelia is a Nameberry fave, ranking Number 39 on our internal charts but outside the national Top 1000.

Cressida (a 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.

Elara (a moon of Jupiter)

Elara 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 El–starting girls’ names.

Io (a moon of Jupiter)

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.

Larissa (a moon of Neptune)

In classical mythology, Larissa was a nymph who was loved by Mercury. In the modern world, it’s a delicate, underused choice that night provide a fresher alternative to Marissa, Melissa or Alyssa.

Oberon (a 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.

Pandora (a moon of Saturn)

In 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. Panda is a cute nickname from the animal kingdom.

Portia (a 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 more than three decades, we think Portia deserves more attention. 

Rosalind (a 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 is on the cusp of a comeback, following in the footsteps of other Rose elaborations such as Rosemary and Rosalie.

Thalassa (a moon of Neptune)

Thalassa is the ancient personification of the sea, particularly the Mediterranean. It would make a highly original, yet accessible and delicate choice. Possible nicknames include Tess and Tally.

About the Author

Linda Rosenkrantz

Linda Rosenkrantz is the co-founder of Nameberry, and co-author with Pamela Redmond of the ten baby naming books acknowledged to have revolutionized American baby naming. You can follow her personally at InstagramTwitter and Facebook. She is also the author of the highly acclaimed New York Review Books Classics novel Talk and a number of other books.