Where the islands’ names come from?

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You probably have heard or visited many islands, but do you know how these islands took their name? Some were named after a local hero or god, while other names have a short story behind. Here is an article on how the most important Greek islands took their name.

Greek Islands

Santorini (Thira)

This official name of Santorini is Thira. This name comes from the ancient Spartan Thiran who first colonized the island. The name Santorini, which is today the most commonly used, was given to the island in the Medieval Ages from a small chapel of Saint Irene that existed there.


Mykonos got its name from the first ruler and a local hero, Mykonos, the son or grandson of god Apollo.


The Greek name of Corfu is Kerkyra. According to the myth, Poseidon fell in love with the beautiful nymph Korkyra, abducted and brought her to this island that was named after her. Gradually, the name Korkyra evolved to Kerkyra. The English name Corfu comes from the Byzantine name of the island, Coryfo, which actually means top because while the vessels were approaching to the island in the Medieval times, the first thing to see was the top of the Old Fortress.


The name of Crete derives either from the nymph Kriti or from the ancient king of the island and son of Zeus, Kritas.


The island of Rhodes took its name from the flower rose (rodon in ancient Greek).


Naxos took its name from the first settler and ruler of the island. Another theory says that the name derives from the ancient Greek word naxai, which means sacrifices because of the many sacrifices that were taking place there to honor the gods.


In ancient Greek, the name Delos means make myself visible. According to the myth, when Leto was pregnant to Artemis and Apollo by Zeus, no place on Earth would let her give birth because afterwards, this place would suffer the wrath of Hera. This is when, by the miracle of Zeus, a new place emerged from the sea so that Leto could give birth on it. This place was the island of Delos, that later became the sacred island of Apollo.


One version says that Ios took its name from the ancient Greek work Ia, which means flowers, due to the abundant flowers that were growing on the island. Another version says that the name comes from the Phoenician word Ion which means rocks, for the rocky landscape.


The name of Folegandros comes from the name of the first settler of the island and son of King Minos of Crete.


Kefalonia took its name from the mythical hero Kefalos, who arrived on the island as a refugee from Athens. Another version says that it was named after the Hellenic tribe Kefallines or Kefallanes.


In the Medieval times, the monasteries of Skiathos were largely dependent from the monasteries of Mount Athos. It is even said that the name of the island comes from the Greek works skia (which means shadow) and Athos, combined meaning the shadow of Mount Athos.


The name of Skopelos literally means obstacle in Greek. It can be said that this rocky island was an obstacle for the ships in the old ages. The ancient name of Skopelos was Peparithos, from the first settler of the island and son of Dionysus and Ariadne.


The island of Lesvos took its name from Lesbus, the first settler, and son of a Lapith, a legendary people of Greek mythology that were residing in Thessaly, mainland Greece.

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