Full Moon Names and their Meanings

Named Full Moons - Earth's Full Moon - Luna
Named Full Moons - Earth's Full Moon - Luna. NASA

There are typically twelve named full moons every year, according to the Farmer’s Almanac and many sources of folklore. These names are geared toward northern hemisphere dates for historical reasons having to do with northern hemisphere observers. The full moon is one of the phases of the Moon and is marked by a fully lit Moon in the night sky.

January

The first full moon of the year is called the Wolf Moon.

This name comes from the time of year when the weather is cold and snowy and in some places, the wolves run in packs, prowling for food. This is also called the "Moon after Yule" since it occurs after the December holidays. 

February

This month's full moon is called Snow Moon. This name was used because, in much of the north country, this month has the heaviest snowfalls. It has also been called the "Full Hunger Moon" because bad weather kept the hunters out of the fields and that often meant a lack of food for their populations. 

March

Early springtime welcomes the Worm Moon. This name recognizes that March is the month when the ground begins to warm in the northern hemisphere, and the earthworms return to the surface. Sometimes this one is called the "Full Sap" Moon because this is the month when people tap their maple trees to make syrup.

April

The first full month of northern hemisphere spring brings the Pink Moon.

It salutes the return of the ground flowers and mosses and the continued warming weather. This Moon is also called the Full Fish Moon or the Full Sprouting Grass Moon. 

May

Since May is the month when people see more and more flowers coming, its full moon is called Flower Moon. It marks the time when farmers traditionally plant corn, which leads to Corn Planting Moon.

 

June

June is a time of strawberries coming ripe, so this month's full moon, Strawberry Moon, is named in their honor. In Europe, people also called this one the Rose Moon, for the flower that comes into full bloom this month. 

July

This month brings the Buck Moon, named for the time that buck deer start to sprout their new antlers. This is also the time when fishing was best. Some people also called this the Full Thunder Moon for the frequent storms. 

August

Late summer in the northern hemisphere brings the Fruit or Barley Moon. August is universally a time to begin the harvest north of the equator and so this month's full moon commemorates that. It Some people also called this the Full Sturgeon moon, in honor of the fish.  

September

Harvest Moon or Full Corn Moon is one that gets a lot of interest for farmers around the world. In the northern hemisphere, September has always marked the harvest period for some of the most important food grains. If conditions are right, the farmers can work under the light of this moon until well into the night, thus getting more food stored for the winter.  Through most of the year, the Moon rises each day about 50 minutes later than the day before. However, when the September equinox approaches (it occurs around September 22, 23, or 24th each year), the difference in rising times drops to about 25 to 30 minutes.

Farther north, the difference is 10 to 15 minutes. This means that in September, the Full Moon that rises close to the equinox could be rising close to (or even after) sunset. Traditionally, farmers used those extra minutes of sunlight to put more work in on harvesting their crops. Thus, it gained the name "Harvest Moon", and it can occur anytime between September 8 and October 7. Today, with advances in farming, and the use of electric lights, the extra minutes of light aren't as important. Yet, we have kept the name "Harvest Moon" to refer to the full moon that occurs closest to the September equinox. This full moon may be more important to some for religious purposes. (See  Pagan/Wiccan and  Alternative Religions)

October

Hunters Moon or Blood Moon occurs this month. ​It marks the time for hunting the fattened deer, elk, moose, and other animals that can be used for food.

The name harkens back to societies where hunting to stock up food for the winter was important; most notably, in North America, the various native tribes could more easily see animals in the fields and forests after the harvests were brought in and the leaves had fallen from the tree. In some places, this moon marked a special day and night of feasting. 

November

Beaver Moon occurs in this very late autumn month. In the past, when people hunted beaver, November was thought to be the best time for trapping these furry animals. Since the weather turns cold in November, many people often called this a Frosty Moon, too. 

December

Cold or Long Nights Moon comes as winter is ushered in. December marks the time of year when the nights are longest and days are shortest and coldest in the Northern Hemisphere. Sometimes people have called this the Long Night Moon. 

It's important to remember that these names served a useful purpose helping early people, particularly Native Americans and other cultures to survive. The names allowed tribes to keep track of the seasons by giving names to each recurring full moon. Basically, the entire "month" would be named after the full moon occurring that month.

Although there were a few differences between the names used by different tribes, mostly, they were similar. As European settlers moved in, they began to use the names as well. 

Edited and expanded by Carolyn Collins Petersen.