The Names of the Solar System's Moons
and Their Meanings

In case you have ever wanted to know the names of the solar system's moons and what they signify...

Mercury Roman name for Hermes, messenger of the gods. The planet revolves so quickly around the sun that it was given the name of the fastest god.

No moons.

Venus Roman name for Aphrodite, goddess of love and sex. I don't know why our sister planet got this name. Maybe because its exceedingly dense clouds shroud it in mystery, and the ancients felt that that appropriately describes women and love.

No moons.

Earth Known in Greek myth as Gaea (thus fun words like "geography"), Terra to the Romans ("terracing"). The word "earth" comes from Middle English, Old English, and eventually Indo-European, making it a very old word, but with no fun story behind it. It just means dirt.

One Moon with many Greek and Roman appelations, few of which are still used today. Some common ones are Luna, Cynthia, Selene, Diana, Hecate... "Moon" again comes from Old English and Indo-European.

Mars Roman name for Ares, god of war. In Greek myth he was a coward and whiner, but was idealized and idolized by the bellicose Romans. The planet acquired the name because of its obviously red hue (blood planet and all that).

Two moons: Deimos (Greek for "fear") and Phobos ("fright"). Named after Ares's sons, who were said to often accompany him in battle. No mother takes responsibility for these dreadful children.

Jupiter Roman name for Zeus, king of the gods. He was quite a player. Most of its many, many moons were names after his lovers.

Io Zeus turned her into a white heifer to hide from Hera, his jealous wife, but was discovered and relentlessly tormented with a gadfly--an ancestor of Heracles.
Europa Seduced by Zeus in the form of a handsome bull, who then carried her off over the sea to Crete. The story is that she eventually populated the country and is where we get "Europe."
Ganymede Handsome young mortal man whom Zeus abducted to serve as his cupbearer, superceding Hebe, his daughter by Hera.
Callisto Another unfortunate lover of Zeus who was transformed by Hera into a bear along with her son. To make up for it, Zeus placed them in the sky to become Ursa Major (Big Dipper) and Ursa Minor (Little Dipper).
Amalthea The goat that fed Zeus as a babe on Crete
Himalia A Cyprian nymph who bore Zeus three sons, including Cronius
Elara Another lover; to hide her from Hera, he placed her under the earth, where she gave birth to the giant Tityas.
Pasiphae Wife of King Minos who was punished for her husband's insult to Poseidon by being forced to fall in love with a bull. With the help of Daedelus, the famous inventor, she contrived a cow costume so she could have relations with the bull. She eventually gave birth to the Minotaur; heaven knows that this has to do with Zeus.
Sinope Abducted by Apollo and became mother of Syrus, for whom the city was named; again no relation to Zeus, but still a mortal lover of a god.
Lysithea Daughter of Oceanus and lover of Zeus.
Carme An obscure lover of Zeus; they produced Britomartis, a Cretan goddess.
Ananke As the goddess of unalterable necessity, she was the mother of the Fates, and with Zeus as the father, also produced Adrasteia, distributor of rewards and punishment.
Leda On the same day, she had sex with her husband and was raped by Zeus in the form of a swan. Eventually she gave birth to Castor, Polydeucus, Clytemnestra, and Helen (as in "of Troy"). One can only assume that since Polydeucus shares his father's immortality, that one of the sisters must as well. And since Clytemnestra's death was well documented at the hands of her son Orestes, that leaves Helen. This is never mentioned in any myth that I know of, but I find it very entertaining.
Metis Her name means "cleverness." Zeus was told that a son from Metis would destroy him, so he swallowed her up to prevent such a possiblity. Not long after, he developed a raging headache and asked Hephesteus to crack open his skull, thus releasing Athena, the goddess of wisdom.
Adrastea Mentioned above as Zeus's and Ananke's daughter, the goddess of unalterable necessity. Known to the Romans as "Nemesis."
Thebe Zeus's daughter by a Boeotian nymph named Iodame; in other stories, a lover of Zeus.
Callirrhoe None of the three Callirrhoe's in Greek myth had anything to do with Zeus. 1. An Oceanid (daughter of Oceanus--there were lots). 2. Wife of Alcmaeon, who acquired a magic robe and necklace as her request, under the pretense of dedicating them at Delphi. When the original owners learned of the ruse, they killed Alcmaeon. Callirrhoe begged the gods to make her two sons into men immediately to avenge their father, which was granted. They killed their father's murderer and dedicated the robe and necklace to Delphi after all. 3. Woman wooed by Coresus, the priest of Bacchus. When she denied him, Bacchus sent madness among her people, which an oracle said could only be lifted if Callirrhoe were sacrifed. Her ex-suitor Coresus was about to do the deed, but turned the knife against himself instead. She was so touched by his act that she killed herself in return, thus making his sacrifice perfectly meaningless. Dolt.
Themisto Not a very pleasant lady; she tried to kill her husband's first wife's children by dressing her own children in white and the victims in black so they could be distinguished in the dark, but the first wife switched the clothes and Themisto ended up killing her own children by mistake.
Iocaste Also known as Jocasta, the mother and eventual wife of Oedipus, who killed herself upon learning her second husband's identity.
Erinome Possibly related to the Erinyes (the Furies), who exacted retribution for particularly evil deeds like patricide.
Harpalyke I don't know of a figure in mythology with this name, but the Greek word means something like "greedy, devouring, alluring, attractive." It could refer to the Harpies, nasty bird-women who punished people, took their souls to the underworld, and were personifications of storms. They also stole and befouled King Phineus's food so that he nearly starved to death, until they were driven away by the Boreads.
Praxidike "She who exacts penalties," a goddess represented with a bare head, to whom the heads of victims were offered.
Megaclite Greek for "much inflicted"??? I don't know.
Taygete Another unfortunate woman whom Zeus took an interest in; she prayed to Artemis to rescue her and was turned her into a doe. Zeus took advantage of her anyway and she gave birth to Lacedaemon.
Autonoe Mother of Acteone, who was turned into a stag and torn apart by his own hounds as punishment for accidentally seeing Artemis nakes. That goddess could be a real bitch sometimes.
Thyone (Originally names Semele, was the lover of Zeus and mother of Dionysus. Hera tricked her into asking Zeus to show himself in his full glory to her, thus burning her up into a small pile of ash. When Dionysus became a god, he retrieved her from the underworld and made her a goddess, renaming her Thyone)

Saturn Roman name for Cronos, father of Zeus and most of the pantheon. Knowing that one of his children would eventually kill him, he swallowed them each at birth. Zeus was spirited away by his mother, who gave her husband a stone in his place. When Zues was grown, he killed his father and freed his siblings from Daddy's gut. For some reason, many of Saturn's moons are named for non-Classical myth characters. Apparnetly, Chronos didn't have nearly as many naughty stories from which names could be drawn as his son Zeus.

Titan Children of Gaea and Uranus, Titans were the masters of the earth before the pantheon gods were born. Chronos was a Titan, and his son Zeus defeated him and his siblings with the help of his own siblings, thus becoming the king of the gods.
Rhea A Titan, sister and wife of Cronos.
Iapetus Another son of Uranus and Gaea, he and his wife produced Atlas, Menoetius, Prometheus, and Epimetheus
Dione A Titaness; in some stories, she is the mother of Aphrodite by Zeus
Tethys Mother of Rhea, personification of the fertile ocean. She and her brother Oceanus produced 3000 children, who became the rivers, lakes, springs, etc. of the world.
Enceladus One of the hundred-armed Giants (children of Uranus and Gaea) defeated by Zeus and his siblings.
Mimas Another giant, this one killed by Heracles.
Hyperion A Titan who sired Helios (sun), Selene (moon), and Eos (dawn)
Prometheus Son of Iapetus, his name means "forethought." He endlessly took the side of mortal humans against the gods, giving them the divine fire, showing them how to trick the gods into accepting an inferior sacrifice, etc. In punishment, Zeus chained him to a rock, where his liver was eaten out by an eagle every day until Heracles killed the bird and freed him.
Pandora Means "all-gifted." To keep mortal humans from getting too uppity, Zeus devised a woman, perfect in all ways except for insatiable curiosity, and gave her a box with instruction never to open it. Of course she did, and thus unleased all the world's evils, like hunger, sorrow, greed, etc. She finally slammed the box closed, successfully saving Hope, the only thing that makes all these trials bearable.
Pheobe Titaness who became the mother of Leto (mother of the divine twins Artemis and Apollo, both of whom took on the appellation at times: Artemis Phoebe and Apollo Pheobus)
Janus The two-faced Roman god of transitions: bridges, doors, coming-of-age, beginnings and endings. We get the word January from him.

Epimetheus Brother of Prometheus, his name means "afterthought." The unfortunate husband of Pandora, whom he married despite his wiser brother's warnings.

Helene An Amazon warrior who was fated to meet Achilles in battle. After she wounded him, he plunged a sword into her breast and fell in love with her at the same time. Achilles is an idiot like that.
Telesto A sea nymph, daughter of Oceanus and Tethys.
Calypso A sea nymph who took a liking to Odysseus on his way home to Icatha. She kept him on her little island for 7 years before Zeus forced her to release him.
Atlas Son of a Titan, was punished for fighting against Zeus by being forced to carry the world on his shoulders.
Pan Half-goat son of Hermes (Mercury) who plays pipes and is tricksy. His bellow was known to strike unreasoning fear in men's hearts. We get words like "panic" and "pandemonium" from him.
Ymir Norse progenitor of giants and humans. The gods killed him for producing evil giants and used his body to create heaven and earth. In death, his body created dwarves.
Tarvos A bull-god from Gaul
Thrym King of the frost giants in Norse mythology, his name means "uproar." He rules Jotunheim.
Skadi Another frost Giantess, she was the Norse personification of winter. To appease her for her father's murder, the gods allowed her to choose one of them for a husband, but only by looking at their feet.
Mundilfari A Norse Giant who angered the gods by naming his beautiful children Mani (moon) and Sol (sun); the children were then forced to guide the chariots of their namesakes.
Albiorix Means "king of the world," and is another name for the ancient Gallic god Teutates. He was god of war, fertility, and wealth (pretty much everything there is to be god of), and approved to human sacrifices. Equivilent to Mars/Ares.
Suttung A Norse Giant who stole the mead of poetry from the dwarves that made it from Kvasir's blood, and hid it in a mountain. Odin heard his boasting and managed to get it all for himself.

Uranus the god of the sky; the first son of Gaea, as well as her husband. They produced the Titans, the Giants, and other pre-pantheon gods and creatures. All of Uranus's moons are named for Shakespeare characters, which is too bad, because there were plenty of Titans and monsters associated with him that could have been used.

Cordelia Youngest, most loving daughter of King Lear. (King Lear)
Ophelia Beloved of Hamlet, went crazy and killed herself. (Hamlet)
Bianca Sweet, perfect sister of Kate (Taming of the Shrew)
Cressida Trojan woman who betrayed her father and people for her love Troilus. He was disgusted with her falseness and cast her away (Troilus and Cressida)
Desdemona Othello's wife, whom he killed in a jealous rage. (Othello)
Juliet Fell in love with Romeo, her family's enemy, married him in secret, then killed herself when she saw that he had killed himself. Idiots. (Romeo and Juliet)
Portia Either the rich heiress in Merchant of Venice, or Brutus's wife in Julius Caesar.
Rosalind (As You Like It)
Belinda From Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock. What, did they run out of Shakespeare characters so soon??
Puck Mischievious sprite, sidekick of Oberon, King of the Fairies. He does all Oberon's naughty work, like making mortals fall in love with each other and turning men's heads into donkeys'. (Misummer Night's Dream)
Miranda Daughter of Prospero, a magician/Duke stranded on a distant island. She falls in love with the first human male she sees who isn't her father. (The Tempest)
Ariel A sprite enslaved to Prospero and supposedly happy about it. Propsero rescued him from a tree trunk, where Sycorax (local evil witch) had trapped him. (The Tempest)
Umbriel "A dusky, melencholy sprite" from Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock.

Titania Queen of the Fairies, estranged wife of Oberon. Falls in love with a donkey-headed man due to Puck's trickeries. (Misummer Night's Dream)

Oberon King of the Fairies, husband of Titania. He's mad at her because he wants the beautiful little Indian prince for HIS entourage and she won't give him up. (Misummer Night's Dream)
Caliban A malevolent, resentful creature, also enslaved by Prospero. Son of Sycorax, Evil Witch(tm). (The Tempest)
Sycorax The evil witch herself. Defeated by Prospero on his arrival. (The Tempest)
Prospero A magician/Duke of Milan who was stranded on a remote island and took the place over. (The Tempest)
Setebos Evil god worshipped by evil witch Sycorax. (The Tempest)
Stephano Drunken butler from the recently ship-wrecked ship, friend of Triculo and comedic relief (The Tempest)
Triculo Jester, friend of Stephano and comedic relief (The Tempest)

Neptune Roman name for Poseidon, god of the sea and earthquakes, brother to Zeus (Jupiter) and Hades (Pluto). The planet probably got the name because it's blue.

Triton Son of Posedion and his wife Amphitrite; rides the waves on horses and sea monsters, calming or riling the sea by how gently or violently he sounds his conch-shell horn.
Nereid The fifty daughters of Nereus, their name has come to be a generic term for any nymph from the Mediterranean sea
Naiad Generic term for any river nymph
Thalassa Also known as Tethys, her names means "the sea," and she is a personification of it, specifically the Mediterranean.
Despina Daughter of Poseidon and Demeter, she was so intensely worshipped in some parts of the world, her importance obscured her mother's.
Galatea A Nereid, loved by a Sicilian shepherd named Acis. Polyphemus (the Cyclopes blinded by Odysseus) also loved her and killed Acis in jealousy. Galatea used his blood to create the Acis river in Sicily.
Larissa Daughter of Pelasgus, a king of Argos.
Proteus Son of either Oceanus or Poseidon, this god fortold the future to anyone who could catch him. He would rapidly change shapes, trying to escape, but if he couldn't, he would resume his normal form as "Old Man of the Sea," and grant their request.

Pluto Roman name for Hades, god of the Underworld, land of the dead. Probably because this planet is so freaking cold, just like Hades (the land of the dead, not the god, though he wasn't too warm himself).

Charon The ferryman of the dead. He would carry dead souls across the river Acheron for an obolus (coin), which is why bodies were buried with such a coin under their tongues.