What’s that in the sky? The History of Full Moons’ Names

A full Harvest Moon in the night sky with stars in the background.

By: Hannah Denne

Have you ever heard the wolf cry to the Blue Corn Moon? Well, this time last September, you very well may have!

Titles such as this – as well as this month’s full moon, the Hunter’s Moon, originate from a variety of cultures and reflect their scientific and traditional understandings of the cosmos, which are the building blocks for everything we know about space today! PGS’s employees do phenomenal work to support the creation of products that will get to exit our atmosphere and traverse the vastness of space, and this wouldn’t be possible without the knowledge brought about to us by early astronomers and night-sky-watchers.

To honor this month’s full Hunter’s Moon lunar eclipse – the second of the month! – let’s look back over some North American history to learn about the names we still use for full moons today.

January: Wolf Moon

Understandably, this moon is named for the howling of wolves as noted by the people who observed it. This name is believed to have come from Celtic or Old English settlers to North America. The Anglo-Saxon tradition often calls it the Moon After Yule, since it is the first full moon after the festival of Yule, known in popular culture today as Christmas!


Also known as: Canada Goose Moon (Tlingit), Center Moon (Assiniboine), Cold Moon (Cree), Freeze Up Moon (Algonquin), Frost Exploding Moon (Cree), Great Moon (Cree), Greetings Moon (Western Abenaki), Hard Moon (Dakota), Severe Moon (Dakota), Spirit Moon (Ojibwe)

February: Snow Moon

The Snow Moon is aptly named for the significant snowfall around this time of year in North America. There are a variety of other names by which it is referred, including the Hungry Moon and the Bear Moon. Overall, the understanding of this season of the year is that it is a harsh and unforgiving one – but it marks the beginning of the end of this harsh climate.

Also known as: Bald Eagle Moon (Cree), Bear Moon (Ojibwe), Black Bear Moon (Tlingit), Month of the Bony Moon (Cherokee), Eagle Moon (Cree), Goose Moon (Haida), Groundhog Moon (Algonquin), Hungry Moon (Cherokee), Raccoon Moon (Dakota)

March: Worm Moon

One of the more unusual of the moon names, the origin of the Worm Moon is actually fairly simple. As February’s frost thaws, the worms make their way up out of the earth, signaling the start of a gentler season. This moon is also marked by the return of the crows or the running of maple sap in Native tradition.

Also known as: Crow Comes Back Moon (Northern Ojibwe), Eagle Moon (Cree), Goose Moon (Algonquin, Cree), Snow Crust Moon (Anishinaabe), Sore Eyes Moon (Dakota, Lakota, Assiniboine), Sugar Moon (Ojibwe), Wind Strong Moon (Pueblo)

April: Pink Moon

Regardless of what the groundhog sees back in February, April is a pretty safe bet for the renewing warmth of spring. The Pink Moon refers to the blooming of the North American pink phlox wildflowers, officially signaling the end of the frost once and for all.

Also known as: Breaking Ice Moon (Algonquin), Broken Snowshoe Moon (Anishinaabe), Budding Moon of Plants and Shrubs (Tlingit), Frog Moon (Cree), Moon of the Red Grass Appearing (Oglala), Moon When the Ducks Come Back (Lakota), Moon When the Geese Lay Eggs (Dakota), Moon When the Streams are Again Navigable (Dakota), Sucker Moon (Anishinaabe), Sugar Maker Moon (Western Abenaki)

May: Flower Moon

The Flower Moon is a title given to reference the continued fertility and growth of the season. In Native American tradition, this sentiment was expressed through titles such as Budding Moon and Egg Laying Moon, and Celtic/Old English cultures often called it the Mothers’ Moon.

Bright Moon, Hare Moon, and Grass Moon

Also known as: Mothers’ Moon (Celtic/Old English), Milk Moon (Anglo-Saxon), Budding Moon (Cree), Egg Laying Moon (Cree), Frog Moon (Cree), Leaf Budding Moon (Cree), Planting Moon (Dakota, Lakota), Moon of Shedding Ponies (Oglala)

June: Strawberry Moon

For Native tribes, June’s full moon marked the start of the berry-gathering season. This delicious fruit perfectly symbolizes the abundance of this time in summer.

Also known as: Berries Ripen Moon (Haida), Birth Moon (Tlingit), Blooming Moon (Anishinaabe), Egg Laying Moon (Cree), Hatching Moon (Cree), Green Corn Moon (Cherokee), Hot Moon, Hoer Moon (Western Abenaki), Mead Moon (Celtic), Horse Moon(Celtic),  Dyan Moon(Celtic), Rose Moon (Celtic)

July: Buck Moon

While the stars and moons follow their cycles, mammals on earth move through cyclical change as well. July’s Buck Moon is named for the time of year in which bucks’ antlers begin to emerge.

Also known as: Berry Moon (Anishinaabe), Feather Moulting Moon (Cree), Halfway Summer Moon (Anishinaabe), Month of the Ripe Corn Moon (Cherokee), Moon When the Chokecherries are Ripe (Dakota), Raspberry Moon (Algonquin, Ojibwe), Salmon Moon (Tlingit), Thunder Moon (Western Abenaki)

August: Sturgeon Moon

In the Great Lakes region, this full moon was considered an auspicious time for catching sturgeon, which was considered a critical resource by some Native tribes. As the summer stretches on, such resources are available in abundance, making this time a peaceful one for many cultures.

Also known as: Black Cherries Moon (Assiniboine), Corn Moon (Algonquin, Ojibwe), Flying Up Moon (Cree), Mountain Shadows Moon (Tlingit), Ricing Moon (Anishinaabe)

September OR October: Harvest Moon

Both September and October have alternative names for their full moons – whichever one falls closest to the autumnal equinox earns the title of Harvest Moon! In 2023, September claimed the prize.

September: Harvest Moon/Blue Corn Moon

September was a time for Native tribes to begin harvesting corn, a prosperous event middling the space between summer and fall. Regardless of proximity to the equinox, this was a time marked by a very literal reaping of all the harvests sown in summer.

Also known as: Autumn Moon (Cree), Child Moon (Tlingit), Corn Harvest Moon (Dakota), Corn Maker Moon (Western Abenaki), Falling Leaves Moon (Ojibwe), Harvest Moon, Leaves Turning Moon (Anishinaabe), Mating Moon (Cree), Moon of Brown Leaves (Lakota), Moon When the Rice is Laid Up to Dry (Dakota), Rutting Moon (Cree), Yellow Leaf Moon (Assiniboine)

October: Hunter’s Moon/Harvest Moon

In preparation for the cold, October was the season to begin hunting and preserving meats and other resources. Native Americans sometimes referred to this as Full Moon After Fall, speaking to the brevity of this milder season.

Also known as: Drying Rice Moon (Dakota), Falling Leaves Moon (Anishinaabe), Freezing Moon (Ojibwe), Ice Moon (Haida), Migrating Moon (Cree)

November: Beaver Moon

Both beavers and humans alike begin fortifying their homes and collecting food to prepare for winter in November. This moon is named for the beaver’s distinctive and charming style of bundling up.

Also known as: Deer Rutting Moon (Dakota, Lakota), Digging/Scratching Moon (Tlingit), Freezing Moon (Anishinaabe), Frost Moon (Cree, Assiniboine), Whitefish Moon (Algonquin)

December: Cold Moon

Finally, as the freeze sets in across North America, we approach the Cold Moon. This is sometimes referred to as the Long Night Moon in reference to the December solstice, the longest night of the year. Regardless of the cold and dark nights, however, this season has been marked in many cultures by celebratory festivals and the warmth of community amidst the cold of the season.

Also known as: Drift Clearing Moon (Cree), Frost Exploding Trees Moon (Cree), Hoar Frost Moon (Cree), Little Spirit Moon (Anishinaabe), Long Night Moon (Mohican), Mid-winter Moon (Lakota, Northern Ojibwe), Moon of the Popping Trees (Oglala), Moon When the Deer Shed Their Antlers (Dakota), Snow Moon (Haida, Cherokee), Winter Maker Moon (Western Abenaki)

All information pulled from Time and Date or Almanac.com.

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