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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 and twenty-first centuries.

Please note that only the International Astronomical Union 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

Below is a list of common (and not so common) names for certain stars. Historically, the spellings have varied slightly from source to source and not everyone has agreed on the original meanings, but in 2016, the IAU approved the following names:

NameBayer or Catalogue DesignationMeaningSources
Acamar θ Eri the end of the river [Arabic] A D I K
Achernar α Eri the end of the river [Arabic] A D I K
Acrab β1 Sco the scorpion [Arabic] A I K
Acrux α Cru Aa a (for alpha) + crux A D I K
Acubens α Cnc the claw [Arabic] A D I K
Adhafera ζ Leo the lock of hair [Arabic] A D I K
Adhara ε CMa the virgins [Arabic] A D I K
Adhil ξ And the train of the garment [Arabic] A I K
Ain ε Tau the bull's eye [Arabic] A I K
Albali ε Aqr the lucky star of the swallower [Arabic] A D I K
Albireo β1 Cyg [unknown] A D I K
Alchiba α Crv the tent [Arabic] A D I K
Alcor 80 UMa the black horse, the friendless or solitary one [Arabic] A D I K
Alcyone η Tau one of the Pleiades [Greek] A D I K
Aldebaran α Tau the follower [Arabic] A D I K
Alderamin α Cep the right forearm, the preceding one of the two cubits/forearms [Arabic] A D I K
Alfirk β Cep the flock [Arabic] A D I K
Algedi α2 Cap the kid [Arabic] A D I K
Algenib γ Peg the side [Arabic] A D I K
Algieba γ1 Leo the forehead [Arabic] A D I K
Algol β Per the demon's head [Arabic] A D I K
Algorab δ Crv the raven's wing [Arabic] A D I K
Alhena γ Gem the mark on the neck of a camel [Arabic] A D I K
Alioth ε UMa the black horse [Arabic] A D I K
Alkaid η UMa the leader of the daughters of the bier [Arabic] A D I K
Alkalurops μ1 Boo the club, the shepherd's staff [Greek] A D I K
Alkes α Crt the wine cup [Arabic] A D I K
Almach γ1 And the caracal [Arabic] A D I K
Alnair α Gru the bright one from the fish's tail [Arabic] A I K
Alnasl γ Sgr the point of the arrow [Arabic] A D I K
Alnilam ε Ori the string of pearls [Arabic] A D I K
Alnitak ζ Ori the belt or girdle of Orion [Arabic] A D I K
Alphard α Hya the solitary one [Arabic] A D I K
Alphecca α CrB the broken or fractured one [Arabic] A D I K
Alpheratz α And the horse, the horse's navel, the horse's shoulder [Arabic] A D I K
Alrescha α Psc the cord [Arabic] A D I K
Alshain β Aql the ravishing falcon, the scale beam [Persian] A D I K
Altair α Aql the flying eagle or vulture [Arabic] A D I K
Altais δ Dra the he-goat [Arabic] A D I K
Aludra η CMa the virginity [Arabic] A D I K
Alula Australis ξ UMa the first southern leap of the gazelles [Arabic/Latin] A D I K
Alula Borealis ν UMa the first northern leap of the gazelles [Arabic/Latin] A D I K
Alya θ1 Ser the fat tail of a sheep, the serpent's neck [Arabic] A D I K
Ancha θ Aqr the hip [Latin] A D I K
Ankaa α Phe the fabulous bird [Arabic] I K
Antares α Sco similar to Ares [Greek] A D I K
Arcturus α Boo the bear watcher or guardian [Greek] A D I K
Arkab Posterior β2 Sgr the archer's Achilles tendon [Arabic] A D I K
Arkab Prior β1 Sgr the archer's Achilles tendon [Arabic] A D I K
Arneb α Lep the hare [Arabic] A D I K
Ascella ζ Sgr the armpit [Latin] A D I K
Aspidiske ι Car the little shield [Greek] A D I K
Asterope 21 Tau one of the Pleiades [Greek] A I K
Atik ο Per the collarbone of the Pleiades [Arabic] A D I K
Atlas 27 Tau name of the father of the Pleiades [Greek] A D I K
Atria α TrA a (for alpha) + tri(angle) a(ustrale) I K
Avior ε Car [unknown] I S
Azelfafage π1 Cyg the tortoise [Arabic] A I K
Azha η Eri the ostrich's nest [Arabic] A D I K
Baten Kaitos ζ Cet the sea monster's belly [Arabic] A D I K
Beid ο1 Eri the eggs [Arabic] A D I K
Bellatrix γ Ori the female warrior [Latin] A D I K
Betelgeuse α Ori the armpit or hand of Orion [Arabic] A D I K
Biham θ Peg the lucky star of the young beasts [Arabic] A D I K
Botein δ Ari the belly [Arabic] A I K
Canopus α Car [unknown] [Greek] A D I K
Capella α Aur the she-goat [Roman] A D I K
Caph β Cas the stained hand [Arabic] A D I K
Castor α Gem the name of a character in Greek mythology A D I K
Cebalrai β Oph the sheperd's dog [Arabic] A D I K
Celaeno 16 Tau one of the Pleiades [Greek] A D I K
Cervantes μ Ara the writer Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra [Spanish] I
Chalawan 47 UMa the mythological crocodile king [Thai] I
Chara β CVn joy [Greek] A I K
Chertan θ Leo the two small ribs [Arabic] D I K
Copernicus 55 Cnc the Polish astronomer Nicolas Copernicus (Mikolaj Kopernik) [Latin] I
Cor Caroli α2 CVn the heart of Charles [Latin] A D I K
Cursa β Eri the foremost chair or footstool of Orion [Arabic] A D I K
Dabih β1 Cap the lucky star of the slaughterer [Arabic] A D I K
Deneb α Cyg the hen's tail [Arabic] A D I K
Denebola β Leo the lion's tail [Arabic] A D I K
Diphda β Cet the second frog [Arabic] A D I K
Dschubba δ Sco the scorpion's forehead [Arabic] A I K
Dubhe α UMa the bear [Arabic] A D I K
Edasich ι Dra the male hyaena [Arabic] A D I K
Electra 17 Tau one of the Pleiades [Greek] A D I K
Elnath β Tau the butting with the horns [Arabic] A D I K
Eltanin γ Dra the serpent, the serpent's head [Arabic] A D I K
Enif ε Peg the nose [Arabic] A D I K
Errai γ Cep the shepherd [Arabic] A D I K
Fafnir 42 Dra the mythological dwarf who turned into a dragon [Norse] I
Fomalhaut α PsA the mouth of the southern fish [Arabic] A D I K
Furud ζ CMa the solitary ones [Arabic] A D I K
Gacrux γ Cru ga (for gamma) + crux I K
Gienah γ Crv the raven's wing [Arabic] A D I K
Gomeisa β CMi the little bleary-eyed one [Arabic] A D I K
Grumium ξ Dra the serpent's lower jaw [Greek], the snout or muzzle [Latin] A D I K
Hadar β Cen [unknown] A I K
Hamal α Ari the lamb or sheep [Arabic] A D I K
Helvetios 51 Peg the Celtic tribe that lived in Switzerland during the Middle Ages [Latin] I
Homam ζ Peg the lucky star of the hero [Arabic] A D I K
Intercrus HD 81688 between the legs [Latin] I
Izar ε Boo the girdle or loin cloth [Arabic] A D I K
Kaus Australis ε Sgr the southern part of the bow [Arabic/Latin] A D I K
Kaus Borealis λ Sgr the northern part of the bow [Arabic/Latin] A D I K
Kaus Media δ Sgr the middle part of the bow [Arabic/Latin] A D I K
Keid ο2 Eri the egg shells [Arabic] A D I K
Kitalpha α Equ the section of the horse [Arabic] A D I K
Kochab β UMi the star [Arabic/Hebrew] A D I K
Kornephoros β Her the club-bearer [Greek] A D I K
Kurhah ξ Cep the white spot on the forehead of a horse [Arabic] A D I K
Lesath υ Sco the spot, the scorpion's sting [Arabic] A D I K
Libertas ξ Aql liberty [Latin] I
Lich PSR B1257+12 the undead creature which controls other undead creatures through magic [Middle English] I
Maasym λ Her the wrist [Arabic] A I K
Maia 20 Tau one of the Pleiades [Greek] A D I K
Marfik λ Oph the elbow [Arabic] A D I K
Markab α Peg the horse's shoulder or saddle [Arabic] A D I K
Matar η Peg [unknown] A D I K
Mebsuta ε Gem the outstreched paw of the lion [Arabic] A D I K
Megrez δ UMa the root of the tail of the greater bear [Arabic] A D I K
Meissa λ Ori the sparkling one [Arabic] A D I K
Mekbuda ζ Gem the folded paw of the lion [Arabic] A D I K
Menkalinan β Aur the shoulder of the rein-holder [Arabic] A D I K
Menkar α Cet the nostrils [Arabic] A D I K
Menkent θ Cen the shoulder of the centaur [Arabic/Latin] I K
Menkib ξ Per the shoulder of the Pleiades [Arabic] A D I K
Merak β UMa the flank of the greater bear [Arabic] A D I K
Merga 38 Boo the hoe or reaping rake [Latin] A I K
Merope 23 Tau one of the Pleiades [Greek] A D I K
Mesarthim γ1 Ari [unknown] A D I K
Miaplacidus β Car the still waters [Arabic/Latin] A D I K
Mimosa β Cru an actor [Latin] I K
Mintaka δ Ori the belt or girdle of Orion [Arabic] A D I K
Mira ο Cet the amazing or wonderful one [Latin] A D I K
Mirach β And the girdle or loin cloth [Arabic] A D I K
Mirfak α Per the elbow of the Pleiades [Arabic] A D I K
Mirzam β CMa the announcer or proclaimer [Arabic] A D I K
Mizar ζ UMa the groin [Arabic] A D I K
Mothallah α Tri the triangle [Arabic] A I K
Muliphein γ CMa [unknown] A I K
Muphrid η Boo the solitary star of the lancer [Arabic] A D I K
Muscida ο UMa the muzzle [Latin] A D I K
Musica 18 Del music [Latin] I
Naos ζ Pup the ship [Greek] A I K
Nashira γ Cap the fortunate one, the lucky star of the verdant fields at the end of summer [Arabic] A D I K
Nekkar β Boo the ox-driver [Arabic] A D I K
Nihal β Lep the camels beginning to quench their thirst [Arabic] A D I K
Nunki σ Sgr the celestial counterpart of the holy city of Eridu [Babylonion] A D I K
Nusakan β CrB the two lines of stars [Arabic] A D I K
Ogma HD 149026 the diety of eloquence, writing and physical strength [Celtic] I
Peacock α Pav the brightest star in the constellation of the peacock [English] I S
Phact α Col the ring dove [Arabic] A D I K
Phecda γ UMa the thigh of the greater bear [Arabic] A D I K
Pherkad γ UMi the two calves [Arabic] A D I K
Pleione 28 Tau the name of the mother of the Pleiades [Greek] A D I K
Polaris α UMi of the pole [Latin] A D I K
Pollux β Gem the name of a character in Greek mythology A D I K
Porrima γ Vir name of a Roman goddess A D I K
Procyon α CMi the one preceeding the dog [Greek] A D I K
Propus η Gem the forward foot [Greek] A D I K
Proxima Centauri α Cen C near [Latin] I
Ran ε Eri the goddess of the sea [Norse] I
Rasalas μ Leo the northern part of the lion's head [Arabic] A D I K
Rasalgethi α1 Her the kneeler's head [Arabic] A D I K
Rasalhague α Oph the head of the serpent collector [Arabic] A D I K
Rastaban β Dra the serpent's head [Arabic] A D I K
Regulus α Leo the little king [Roman] A D I K
Rigel β Ori the foot of Orion [Arabic] A D I K
Rigil Kentaurus α Cen A the centaur's foot [Arabic] A D I K
Rotanev β Del (Nicolaus) Venator spelled backwards [Italian] A I K
Ruchbah δ Cas the knee of the lady of the chair [Arabic] A D I K
Rukbat α Sgr the archer's knee [Arabic] A D I K
Sabik η Oph the preceding one, the winner [Arabic] A D I K
Sadachbia γ Aqr the lucky star of the tents [Arabic] A D I K
Sadalbari μ Peg the lucky star of the excelling one [Arabic] A D I K
Sadalmelik α Aqr the lucky star of the king [Arabic] A D I K
Sadalsuud β Aqr the luckiest of the lucky stars [Arabic] A D I K
Sadr γ Cyg the hen's breast [Arabic] A D I K
Saiph κ Ori the giant's sword [Arabic] A D I K
Sargas θ Sco a weapon of the god Marduk [Sumerian] A D I K
Sarin δ Her [unknown] I
Scheat β Peg the shin [Arabic] A D I K
Schedar α Cas the breast [Arabic] A D I K
Seginus γ Boo the corrupted form of the constellation name [Latin] A D I K
Sham α Sge the arrow [Arabic] I K
Shaula λ Sco the scorpion's sting [Arabic] A D I K
Sheliak β Lyr the harp [Arabic], the tortoise [Persian] A D I K
Sheratan β Ari the two signs [Arabic] A D I K
Sirius α CMa the brilliant or scorching one [Greek] A D I K
Situla κ Aqr the bucket, pot [Latin] A I K
Skat δ Aqr the shin [Arabic] A D I K
Spica α Vir the ear of grain [Greek/Roman] A D I K
Sualocin α Del Nicolaus (Venator) spelled backwards [Italian] A I K
Subra ο Leo the mane or shoulder [Arabic] I K
Suhail λ Vel [unknown] [Arabic] A I K
Sulafat γ Lyr the tortoise [Arabic] A D I K
Syrma ι Vir the train of a dress [Greek] A D I K
Talitha ι UMa the third leap of the gazelles [Arabic] A D I K
Tania Australis μ UMa the second southern leap of the gazelles [Arabic/Latin] A D I K
Tania Borealis λ UMa the second northern leap of the gazelles [Arabic/Latin] A D I K
Tarazed γ Aql the ravishing falcon, the scale beam [Persian] A D I K
Taygeta 19 Tau one of the Pleiades [Greek] A D I K
Tegmine ζ1 Cnc the covering or shell [Latin] A I K
Thuban α Dra the serpent, the serpent's head [Arabic] A D I K
Titawin υ And a settlement in northern Morocco I
Tonatiuh HD 104985 the god of the Sun [Aztec] I
Tureis ρ Pup the little shield [Arabic] A I K
Unukalhai α Ser the serpent's neck [Arabic] A D I K
Vega α Lyr the swooping eagle [Arabic] A D I K
Veritate 14 And truth [Latin] I
Vindemiatrix ε Vir the grape gatherer [Greek/Roman] A D I K
Wasat δ Gem the middle [Arabic] W D I K
Wazn β Col the weight [Arabic] A D I K
Wezen δ CMa the weight [Arabic] A I K
Yed Posterior ε Oph the hindmost star in the hand [Arabic/Latin] A D I K
Yed Prior δ Oph the foremost star in the hand [Arabic/Latin] A D I K
Yildun δ UMi the star [Turkish] A I K
Zaniah η Vir the angle [Arabic] A D I K
Zaurak γ Eri the bright star of the boat [Arabic] A D I K
Zavijava β Vir the angle [Arabic] A D I K
Zibal ζ Eri the young of the ostriches [Arabic] A I K
Zosma δ Leo the girdle or loin cloth [Greek] A D I K
Zubenelgenubi α2 Lib the southern claw of the scorpion [Arabic] A D I K
Zubeneschamali β Lib the northern claw of the scorpion [Arabic] A D I K

Alternative Names

Many of the stars which now have IAU-approved names originally had alternative names which were used in times past.

NameBayer or Catalogue DesignationApproved NameMeaningSources
Adib α Dra Thuban the hyaenas [Arabic] A K
Agena β Cen Hadar a (for alpha) + genu (knee) [Greek/Latin] A K
Algenib α Per Mirfak the side [Arabic] A K
Almuredin ε Vir Vindemiatrix the one preceeding grape gatherer [Greek/Arabic] A K
Al Na'ir α Gru Alnair the bright one from the fish's tail [Arabic] A K
Al Niyat σ Sco the arteries [Arabic] A K
Alrakis μ Dra the trotting camel [Arabic] A D K
Al Rami α Sgr Rukbat the archer [Arabic] A K
Alrucaba α UMi Polaris the knee [Arabic] A K
Alterf λ Leo the glance [Arabic] A D K
Alwaid β Dra Rastaban the mother camels [Arabic] A K
Arided α Cyg Deneb the follower [Arabic] A 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
Atik ζ Per the collarbone of the Pleiades [Arabic] D K
Azimech α Vir Spica the unarmed simāk [Arabic] A K
Benetnasch η UMa Alkaid the daughters of the bier [Arabic] A K
Bungula α Cen Rigil Kentaurus b (for beta) + ungula (hoof) [Greek/Latin] A K
Cheleb β Oph Cebalrai the shepherd's dog [Arabic] A
Coxa θ Leo Chertan in the hip [Latin] K
Cujam ω Her the club [Latin] A K
Dalim θ1 Eri Acamar the ostrich [Arabic] A 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
Dnoces ι UMa Talitha (Edward Higgins White the) second spelled backwards (Apollo 1 astronaut) [English] K
Duhr δ Leo Zosma the back of the lion [Arabic] A 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 ε Cyg the wing [Arabic] A K
Girtab θ Sco Sargas the scorpion [Sumerian] A D K
Graffias β Sco Acrab the crab [Greek], the claws [Latin] A D K
Heka λ Ori Meissa the circlet of hair [Arabic] A K
Markeb κ Vel the ship [Arabic] A K
Marsik κ Her Marfik the elbow [Arabic] A K
Menkab α Cet Menkar the nostrils [Arabic] A
Muhlifain γ Cen [unknown] K
Na'ir al Zaurak α Phe Ankaa the bright one in the boat [Arabic] A K
Navi ε Cas (Virgil) Ivan ('Gus' Grissom) spelled backwards (Apollo 1 astronaut) [English] K
Nushaba γ Sgr Alnasl the point of the arrow [Arabic] A K
Phad γ UMa Phecda the thigh of the greater bear [Arabic] A
Pulcherrima ε Boo Izar the most beautiful [Latin] A K
Regor γ Vel Roger (Bruce Chaffe) spelled backwards (Apollo 1 astronaut) [English] K
Ruchba ω2 Cyg the hen's knee [Arabic] A
Rutilicus β Her Kornephoros the armpit [Latin] A K
Sadatoni ζ Aur [unknown] D
Sertan α Cnc Acubens the crab [Arabic] A K
Sirrah α And Alpheratz the horse's navel [Arabic] A 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
Suhel α Car Canopus [unknown] [Arabic] A K
Tejat Posterior μ Gem [unknown] A K
Tejat Prior η Gem Propus [unknown] A 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
I IAU Division C Working Group on Star Names Bulletin of the IAU Working Group on Star Names (Number 2) 2016 International Astronomical Union
K Paul Kunitzsch
and Tim Smart
A Dictionary of Modern Star Names (Second Revised Edition) 2006 New Track Media LLC (Sky Publishing)
S Donald H. Sadler A Personal History of H.M. Nautical Almanac Office, 30 October 1930-18 February 1972 [unpublished]