Where Do the Names of Greek Islands Come From?

SantoriniMythical heroes, ancient gods and kings, along with geological features, were the origin and inspiration for many names of famous Greek islands.

Santorini (Thira): The name comes from the ancient Spartan Thiran who first colonized the island. It comes from passers crusaders, who during their passing stood for refueling near the Church of St. Irene, which existed on the island.

Corfu (Kerkyra or Korkyra) is related to two powerful water symbols; Poseidon, god of the sea, and Asopos–an important Greek mainland river. According to myth, Poseidon fell in love with the beautiful nymph Korkyra, daughter of Asopus and river nymph Metope, and abducted her. Poseidon brought Korkyra to the unnamed island and, in marital bliss, offered her name to the place–Korkyra gradually evolved to Kerkyra. Together, they had a child they called Phaiax, after whom the inhabitants of the island were named Phaiakes. This term was transliterated via Latin to Phaeacians. Corfu’s nickname is the island of the Phaeacians.

Crete: Crete was the name of one of the nymphs who guarded the golden apples of the Hesperides garden; garden of the gods and according to mythology, the nymph named the island.

Anafi: According to Greek mythology, the Argonauts as they were returning home from Colchis were caught in a storm and begged ancient Greek god Apollo to save them. Apollo responded to their calls and saw and island pop up in front of them; it became their refuge. The locals claim that the island is so named because it has no snakes.

Folegandros: For the origin of the name of Folegandros are two versions. According to the first one, the name comes from the Phoenician word phelekgundari (helekgundari) which means rocky land. In the second version, the island received its name from the mythological first settler, Folegandros, son of King Minos.

Naxos: There are two main theories about the island’s name. The first is the named in honor of Naxos, the ruler of the first settlers of the island; or the name derives from the ancient Greek word naxai, meaning thysai because of the many sacrifices that took place there in honor of the gods.

Skiathos: According to rumors, the name of Skiathos has origins from the word shadow and Athos as well as the island is geographically in the shadow of Agion Oros.

Mykonos: The Island’s name is inspired by the hero Mykonos, a descendant of the legendary king of Delos Anius.

Skyros: The island got its name from the wild rocky territory skiron or skyros which means stone debris.

Leros: The biggest area of Leros is flat with low mountains, thus the island got its name from the ancient Greek word leros which means smooth and flat.

Moreover, the Greek territory is composed of 6,000 islands and islets scattered in the Aegean and Ionian Sea, a truly unique phenomenon of the European continent. Every Greek island is different, each with its own qualities, making it special around the world.


  • Priestess

    The first reference to Folegandros comes from Greek Mythology. According to one of the myths, the island was inhabited for the first time by shepherds coming from western Continental Greece, who came here, looking for grassland for their flocks. Obviously, the shepherds were all men and thus the island was called “Polyandros” (meaning in Greek “with a lot of men”). This ancient name was maintained for a long time and the marines used to call the island “Polykandro”. Anyway, historically, the first settlers of the island seem to have been the Carians who came there from Asia Minor.

    Greek Mythology also informs us that Minoans from Crete, led by Folegandros, one of the sons of king Minos came to the island. It is after him that the island was given its name. As it is evidenced by historic sources, in fact, several Cretans who were persecuted in their homeland, found refuge on the island of Folegandros.

  • Polycrates

    Surprised they failed to mention Lesbos.

  • Antihellenism

    The name of the greek islands all come from those ancient slavs… Aristotle, Alexander, Philip, et al.

    This must be true because according to the rocket scientists in FYROM (and their antihellenic apologists who now play innocent as the Skopians suddenly turn into “ancient Macedonian” to hide their embarassement for recognizing obvious propagandists) ancient Macedonians didn’t self-identify as Greeks and today’s Slavs in FYROM are actually their descendents.

    The irony these antihellenic low lifes have missed (including some that claim to speak for “human rights”) is the Skopians are now effectively claim to be the “real” Greeks.

  • vlahos

    You are either an idiot or an uninformed idiot. Ancient Greece was made up of city states….Macedonia being one of them….go read a book and learn something. MACEDONIA IS GREECE.

  • Haste makes waste

    And you my friend need to read what he wrote once more, you are on the same team. Sometimes its better not to get to excited before posting.

  • DumbAssGreco

    Dumbo. Macedonia was a Kingdom whilst Greece had its separate city states.

    “The Battle of Chaeronea was fought in 338 BC, near the city of Chaeronea in Boeotia, between the forces of Philip II of Macedon and an alliance the Greek city-states including Athens and Thebes. The battle was the culmination of Philip’s campaign in Greece (339–338 BC) and resulted in a decisive victory for the Macedonians.”
    Clearly here it differentiates Greek city States & Macedonia.
    Macedonia clearly is NOT Greece.

  • Doodle dee

    Not surprised they failed to mention TRNC

  • Andreas

    Fame female artist Lesbo lived here 🙂 she was lesbian btw (lesbo=lesbian)

  • Hellenic_Truth

    Lesbians got there name from the island, not the other way around (due to Sappho).
    I believe name derives from a Thessalonian Prince who were the first of Aeolians to migrate to the island.

  • Hellenic_Truth

    And how does this relate to you??
    I guess Sparta didn’t have Kings and Queens amung other Greek City States??
    When he (Alexander III) sacrified animals to the Gods, to which Gods was he sacrificing too??
    When he began his conquest to the East, one of his main reasons for doing so was to avenge the failed invasions of the Persians on the Greek people, and foresore if he didn’t supress this major threat, the Persians would aventually come again.
    But the most obvious point of where creditable world institutions place the Ancient Macedonian History – under Classical Greek History. Enough Said Titozombie Boxhead!