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(Un)Common Star Names

What's in a Name?

Stars have many names. Throughout the ages, people have devised numbering or lettering systems to identify stars within a constellation. A given star may have a different designation in every catalogue in which it appears. However, in addition to all of these identifiers, some of the brighter stars have proper names as well; names like Arcturus or Polaris or Rigel or Sirius or Vega. Most of these names have been handed down from antiquity via Arab astronomers but a few have been coined as recently as the twentieth century.

Please note that only the International Astronomical Union (IAU) has the authority to name celestial objects and they do not sell names to the public.

Beware any company that claims to name stars for you. Such names have no official sanction and are not recognised by any scientific body.

Ancient and Modern Names

Listed below is a selection of common (and not so common) names for certain stars. The spellings may vary slightly from source to source and not everyone agrees on the meanings.

NameBayer or Catalogue DesignationAlternate Name(s)MeaningSources
Acamar θ1 Eri the end of the river [Arabic] A D K
Achernar α Eri the end of the river [Arabic] A D K
Acrab β1 Sco Graffias the scorpion [Arabic] A K
Acrux α Cru a (for alpha) + crux A D K
Acubens α Cnc Sertan the claw [Arabic] A D K
Adhafera ζ Leo the lock of hair [Arabic] A D K
Adhara ε CMa the virgins [Arabic] A D K
Adhil ξ And the train of the garment [Arabic] A K
Agena β Cen Hadar unknown A K
Ain ε Tau the bull's eye [Arabic] A K
Albali ε Aqr the lucky star of the swallower [Arabic] A D K
Albireo β1 Cyg unknown A D K
Alchiba α Crv the tent [Arabic] A D K
Alcor 80 UMa the black horse, the friendless or solitary one [Arabic] A D K
Alcyone τ Tau one of the Pleiades [Greek] A D K
Aldebaran α Tau the follower [Arabic] A D K
Alderamin α Cep the right forearm, the preceding one of the two cubits/forearms [Arabic] A D K
Alfirk β Cep the flock [Arabic] A D K
Algedi α Cap the kid [Arabic] A D K
Algenib γ Peg the side [Arabic] A D K
Algenib α Per Mirfak the side [Arabic] A K
Algieba γ1 Leo the forehead [Arabic] A D K
Algol β Per the demon's head [Arabic] A D K
Algorab δ Crv the raven's wing [Arabic] A D K
Alhena γ Gem the mark on the neck of a camel [Arabic] A D K
Alioth ε UMa the black horse [Arabic] A D K
Alkaid η UMa Benetnasch the leader of the daughters of the bier [Arabic] A D K
Alkalurops μ1 Boö the club, the shepherd's staff [Greek] A D K
Alkes α Crt the wine cup [Arabic] A D K
Almach γ1 And the caracal [Arabic] A D K
Almuredin ε Vir Vindemiatrix the one preceeding grape gatherer [Greek/Arabic] A K
Al Na'ir α Gru the bright one from the fish's tail [Arabic] A K
Alnasl γ2 Sgr Nushaba the point of the arrow [Arabic] A D K
Alnilam ε Ori the string of pearls [Arabic] A D K
Alnitak ζ Ori the belt or girdle of Orion [Arabic] A D K
Al Niyat σ Sco the arteries [Arabic] A K
Alphard α Hya the solitary one [Arabic] A D K
Alphecca α CrB Gemma the broken or fractured one [Arabic] A D K
Alpheratz α And Sirrah the horse, the horse's navel, the horse's shoulder [Arabic] A D K
Alrakis μ Dra the trotting camel [Arabic] A D K
Al Rami α Sgr Rukbat the archer [Arabic] A K
Alrescha α Psc the cord [Arabic] A D K
Alshain β Aql the ravishing falcon, the scale beam [Persian] A D K
Altair α Aql the flying eagle or vulture [Arabic] A D K
Altais δ Dra the he-goat [Arabic] A D K
Alterf λ Leo the glance [Arabic] A D K
Aludra η CMa the virginity [Arabic] A D K
Alula Australis ξ UMa the first southern leap of the gazelles [Arabic/Latin] A D K
Alula Borealis ν UMa the first northern leap of the gazelles [Arabic/Latin] A D K
Alya θ1 Ser the fat tail of a sheep, the serpent's neck [Arabic] A D K
Ancha θ Aqr the hip [Latin] A D K
Ankaa α Phe Na'ir al Zaurak the fabulous bird [Arabic] K
Antares α Sco similar to Ares [Greek] A D K
Arcturus α Boö the bear watcher or guardian [Greek] A D K
Arkab β Sgr the archer's Achilles tendon [Arabic] A D K
Arneb α Lep the hare [Arabic] A D K
Ascella ζ Sgr the armpit [Latin] A D K
Asellus Australis δ Cnc the southern ass [Roman/Latin] A D K
Asellus Borealis γ Cnc the northern ass [Roman/Latin] A D K
Aspidiske ι Car the little shield [Greek] A D K
Asterope 21-22 Tau Sterope I and Sterope II one of the Pleiades [Greek] A K
Atik ο Per the collarbone of the Pleiades [Arabic]
Also applied to ζ Per
A D K
Atlas 27 Tau name of the father of the Pleiades [Greek] A D K
Atria α Tra a (for alpha) + tri(angle) a(ustrale) K
Avior ε Car unknown H.M.N.A.O.
Azelfafage π1 Cyg the tortoise [Arabic] A K
Azha η Eri the ostrich's nest [Arabic] A D K
Baten Kaitos ζ Ceti the sea monster's belly [Arabic] A D K
Beid ο1 Eri the eggs [Arabic] A D K
Bellatrix γ Ori the female warrior [Latin] A D K
Benetnasch η UMa Alkaid the daughters of the bier [Arabic] A K
Betelgeuse α Ori the armpit or hand of Orion [Arabic] A D K
Biham θ Peg the lucky star of the young beasts [Arabic] A D K
Botein δ Ari the belly [Arabic] A K
Canopus α Car unknown [Greek] A D K
Capella α Aur the she-goat [Roman] A D K
Caph β Cas the stained hand [Arabic] A D K
Castor α Gem name of a character in Greek mythology A D K
Cebalrai β Oph Cheleb the sheperd's dog [Arabic] A D K
Celaeno 16 Tau one of the Pleiades [Greek] A D K
Chara β CVn joy [Greek] A K
Cheleb β Oph Cebalrai the shepherd's dog [Arabic] A
Chertan θ Leo Chort the two small ribs [Arabic] D K
Chort θ Leo Chertan the two small ribs [Arabic] A
Cor Caroli α CVn the heart of Charles [Latin] A D K
Cujam ω Her the club [Latin] A K
Cursa β Eri the foremost chair or footstool of Orion [Arabic] A D K
Dabih β Cap the lucky star of the slaughterer [Arabic] A D K
Deneb α Cyg the hen's tail [Arabic] A D K
Deneb Algedi δ Cap the kid's tail [Arabic] A D K
Deneb Kaitos β Cet Diphda the southern tail of the sea monster [Arabic] A D K
Denebola β Leo the lion's tail [Arabic] A D K
Diphda β Cet Deneb Kaitos the second frog [Arabic] A D K
Dnoces ι UMa Talitha (Edward Higgins White the) second spelled backwards (Apollo 1 astronaut) [English] K
Dschubba δ Sco the scorpion's forehead [Arabic] A K
Dubhe α UMa the bear [Arabic] A D K
Duhr δ Leo Zosma the back of the lion [Arabic] A K
Edasich ι Dra the male hyena [Arabic] A D K
Electra 17 Tau one of the Pleiades [Greek] A D K
Elnath β Tau the butting with the horns [Arabic] A D K
Eltanin γ Dra the serpent, the serpent's head [Arabic] A D K
Enif ε Peg the nose [Arabic] A D K
Errai γ Cep the shepherd [Arabic] A D K
Fomalhaut α PsA the mouth of the southern fish [Arabic] A D K
Furud ζ CMa the solitary ones [Arabic] A D K
Gacrux γ Cru ga (for gamma) + crux K
Garnet Star μ Cep a star with a deep red colour [English] A K
Gemma α CrB Alphecca the gem or jewel [Latin] A K
Giausar λ Dra a technical term for the node's in the Moon's orbit [Persian] A D K
Gienah γ Crv the raven's wing [Arabic] A D K
Gienah ε Cyg the wing [Arabic] A K
Girtab θ Sco Sargas the scorpion [Sumerian] A D K
Gomeisa β CMi the little bleary-eyed one [Arabic] A D K
Graffias β1 Sco Acrab the crab [Greek], the claws [Latin] A D K
Grumium ξ Dra the serpent's lower jaw [Greek], the snout or muzzle [Latin] A D K
Hadar β Cen Agena unknown A K
Hamal α Ari the lamb or sheep [Arabic] A D K
Heka λ Ori Meissa the circlet of hair [Arabic] A K
Homam ζ Peg the lucky star of the hero [Arabic] A D K
Izar ε Boö Pulcherrima the girdle or loin cloth [Arabic] A D K
Kaus Australis ε Sgr the southern part of the bow [Arabic/Latin] A D K
Kaus Borealis λ Sgr the northern part of the bow [Arabic/Latin] A D K
Kaus Media δ Sgr the middle part of the bow [Arabic/Latin] A D K
Keid ο2 Eri the egg shells [Arabic] A D K
Kitalpha α Equ the section of the horse [Arabic] A D K
Kochab β UMi the star [Arabic/Hebrew] A D K
Kornephoros β Her the club-bearer [Greek] A D K
Kurhah ξ Cep the white spot on the forehead of a horse [Arabic] A D K
Lesath υ Sco the spot, the scorpion's sting [Arabic] A D K
Maasym λ Her the wrist [Arabic] A K
Maia 20 Tau one of the Pleiades [Greek] A D K
Marfik κ Her Marsik the elbow [Arabic] A K
Marfik λ Oph the elbow [Arabic] A D K
Markab α Peg the horse's shoulder or saddle [Arabic] A D K
Markab κ Vel the ship [Arabic] A K
Marsik κ Her Marfik the elbow [Arabic] A K
Matar η Peg unknown A D K
Mebsuta ε Gem the outstreched paw of the lion [Arabic] A D K
Megrez δ UMa the root of the tail of the greater bear [Arabic] A D K
Meissa λ Ori Heka the sparkling one [Arabic] A D K
Mekbuda ζ Gem the folded paw of the lion [Arabic] A D K
Menkab α Cet Menkar the nostrils [Arabic] A
Menkalinan β Aur the shoulder of the rein-holder [Arabic] A D K
Menkar α Cet Menkab the nostrils [Arabic] A D K
Menkent θ Cen the shoulder of the centaur [Arabic/Latin] K
Menkib ξ Per the shoulder of the Pleiades [Arabic] A D K
Merak β UMa the flank of the greater bear [Arabic] A D K
Merope 23 Tau one of the Pleiades [Greek] A D K
Mesarthim γ2 Ari unknown A D K
Miaplacidus β Car the still waters [Arabic/Latin] A D K
Mimosa β Cru an actor [Latin] K
Mintaka δ Ori the belt or girdle of Orion [Arabic] A D K
Mira ο Cet the amazing or wonderful one [Latin] A D K
Mirach β And the girdle or loin cloth [Arabic] A D K
Mirfak α Per Algenib the elbow of the Pleiades [Arabic] A D K
Mirzam β CMa the announcer or proclaimer [Arabic] A D K
Mizar ζ UMa the groin [Arabic] A D K
Mothallah α Tri the triangle [Arabic] A K
Muhlifain γ Cen unknown K
Muliphen γ CMa unknown A K
Muphrid η Boö the solitary star of the lancer [Arabic] A D K
Muscida ο UMa the muzzle [Latin] A D K
Na'ir al Zaurak α Phe Ankaa the bright one in the boat [Arabic] A K
Naos ζ Pup the ship [Greek] A K
Nashira γ Cap the fortunate one, the lucky star of the verdant fields at the end of summer [Arabic] A D K
Navi ε Cas (Virgil) Ivan ('Gus' Grissom) spelled backwards (Apollo 1 astronaut) [English] K
Nekkar β Boö the ox-driver [Arabic] A D K
Nihal β Lep the camels beginning to quench their thirst [Arabic] A D K
Nunki σ Sgr the celestial counterpart of the holy city of Eridu [Babylonion] A D K
Nusakan β CrB the two lines of stars [Arabic] A D K
Nushaba γ2 Sgr Alnasl the point of the arrow [Arabic] A K
Peacock α Pav the brightest star in the constellation of the peacock [English] H.M.N.A.O.
Phact α Col the ring dove [Arabic] A D K
Phad γ UMa Phecda the thigh of the greater bear [Arabic] A
Phecda γ UMa Phad the thigh of the greater bear [Arabic] A D K
Pherkad γ UMi the two calves [Arabic] A D K
Pleione 28 Tau name of the mother of the Pleiades [Greek] A D K
Polaris α UMi of the pole [Latin] A D K
Pollux β Gem name of a character in Greek mythology A D K
Porrima γ Vir name of a Roman goddess A D K
Procyon α CMi the one preceeding the dog [Greek] A D K
Propus η Gem Tejat Prior the forward foot [Greek] A D K
Pulcherrima ε Boö Izar the most beautiful [Latin] A K
Rasalas μ Leo the northern part of the lion's head [Arabic] A D K
Rasalgethi α1 Her the kneeler's head [Arabic] A D K
Rasalhague α Oph the head of the serpent collector [Arabic] A D K
Rastaban β Dra the serpent's head [Arabic] A D K
Regor γ Vel Roger (Bruce Chaffe) spelled backwards (Apollo 1 astronaut) [English] K
Regulus α Leo the little king [Roman] A D K
Rigel β Ori the foot of Orion [Arabic] A D K
Rigil Kentaurus α Cen the centaur's foot [Arabic] A D K
Rotanev β Del (Nicolaus) Venator spelled backwards [Italian] A K
Ruchba ω2 Cyg the hen's knee [Arabic] A
Ruchbah δ Cas the knee of the lady of the chair [Arabic] A D K
Rukbat α Sgr Al Rami the archer's knee [Arabic] A D K
Sabik η Oph the preceding one, the winner [Arabic] A D K
Sadalachbia γ Aqr the lucky star of the tents [Arabic] A D K
Sadalbari μ Peg the lucky star of the excelling one [Arabic] A D K
Sadalmelik α Aqr the lucky star of the king [Arabic] A D K
Sadalsuud β Aqr the luckiest of the lucky stars [Arabic] A D K
Sadatoni ζ Aur unknown [Arabic] D
Sadr γ Cyg the hen's breast [Arabic] A D K
Saiph κ Ori the giant's sword [Arabic] A D K
Sargas θ Sco Girtab a weapon of the god Marduk [Sumerian] A D K
Scheat β Peg the shin [Arabic] A D K
Schedar α Cas the breast [Arabic] A D K
Seginus γ Boö corrupted form of the constellation name [Latin] A D K
Sertan α Cnc Acubens the crab [Arabic] A K
Shaula λ Sco the scorpion's sting [Arabic] A D K
Sheliak β Lyr the harp [Arabic], the tortoise [Persian] A D K
Sheratan β Ari the two signs [Arabic] A D K
Sirius α CMa the brilliant or scorching one [Greek] A D K
Sirrah α And Alpheratz the horse's navel [Arabic] A K
Situla κ Aqr the bucket, pot or water jar [Latin] A K
Skat δ Aqr the shin [Arabic] A D K
Spica α Vir the ear of grain [Greek/Roman] A D K
Sterope I 21 Tau Asterope one of the Pleiades [Greek] A D K
Sterope II 22 Tau Asterope one of the Pleiades [Greek] A D K
Sualocin α Del Nicolaus (Venator) spelled backwards [Italian] A K
Subra ο Leo the mane or shoulder [Arabic] K
Suhail λ Vel unknown [Arabic] A K
Sulafat γ Lyr the tortoise [Arabic] A D K
Syrma ι Vir the train of a dress [Greek] A D K
Talitha ι UMa Dnoces the third leap of the gazelles [Arabic] A D K
Tania Australis μ UMa the second southern leap of the gazelles [Arabic/Latin] A D K
Tania Borealis λ UMa the second northern leap of the gazelles [Arabic/Latin] A D K
Tarazed γ Aql the ravishing falcon, the scale beam [Persian] A D K
Taygeta 19 Tau one of the Pleiades [Greek] A D K
Tegmine ζ1 Cnc the covering or shell [Latin] A K
Tejat Posterior μ Gem unknown A K
Tejat Prior η Gem Propus unknown A K
Thuban α Dra the serpent, the serpent's head [Arabic] A D K
Unukalhai α Ser the serpent's neck [Arabic] A D K
Vega α Lyr the swooping eagle [Arabic] A D K
Vindemiatrix ε Vir Almuredin the grape gatherer [Greek/Roman] A D K
Wasat δ Gem the middle [Arabic] W D K
Wazn β Col the weight [Arabic] A D K
Wezen δ CMa the weight [Arabic] A K
Yed Posterior ε Oph the hindmost star in the hand [Arabic/Latin] A D K
Yed Prior δ Oph the foremost star in the hand [Arabic/Latin] A D K
Yildun δ UMi the star [Turkish] A K
Zaniah η Vir the angle [Arabic] A D K
Zaurak γ Eri the bright star of the boat [Arabic] A D K
Zavijava β Vir the angle [Arabic] A D K
Zosma δ Leo Duhr the girdle or loin cloth [Greek] A D K
Zubenelgenubi α2 Lib the southern claw of the scorpion [Arabic] A D K
Zubeneschamali β Lib the northern claw of the scorpion [Arabic] A D K

Sources

A Richard Hinkley Allen Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning 1963 Dover Publications, Inc.
D George A. Davis, Jr Pronunications, Derivations, and Meanings of a Selected List of Star Names 1971 Sky Publishing Corporation
K Paul Kunitzsch
and Tim Smart
A Dictionary of Modern Star Names (Second Revised Edition) 2006 New Track Media LLC (Sky Publishing)