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Why is the Moon called that? Here’s the official guide to every traditional full Moon name of the year from The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Learn the special meaning behind the names—from January’s Wolf Moon to December’s Cold Moon.
Where Do Moon Names Come From?
Historically, names for the full or new Moons were used to track the seasons. Today, we think of Moon names as “nicknames” for the Moon.
The Moon names we use in The Old Farmer’s Almanac come from Native American, Colonial American, or other traditional North American sources passed down through generations. For example, the name of January’s Wolf Moon is not a traditional Native American name; it is thought to have English origins and was brought to North America by European settlers.
Note that for Native American names, each Moon name was traditionally applied to the entire lunar month in which it occurred, the month starting either with the new Moon or full Moon. Also, the lunar month’s name might vary each year or between bands or other groups within the same nation.
Some names listed here may reflect usage at one time in history but may no longer be used by a designated group today. Many of the names listed here are English interpretations of the words used in Native American languages. They are only roughly aligned here with the months of the Gregorian calendar; you’ll notice that some names are repeated in multiple months.
Click on the linked names below for our monthly Full Moon Guides, and see our Full Moon Calendar to find out the date of the next full Moon!
The howling of wolves was often heard at this time of year. Many sources state that wolves howled due to hunger. Rather, wolves use howls to define territory, locate pack members, reinforce social bonds, and gather for hunting.
• Canada Goose Moon (Tlingit) • Center Moon (Assiniboine) • Cold Moon (Cree) • Freeze Up Moon (Algonquin) • Frost Exploding Moon (Cree) • Great Moon (Cree) • Greetings Moon (Western Abenaki) • Hard Moon (Dakota) • Severe Moon (Dakota) • Spirit Moon (Ojibwe)
Traditionally thought to be named after the earthworms of warming spring soil. Alternatively, in the late 1700s, Jonathan Carver wrote that this Moon actually refers to a different sort of “worm”—larvae—which emerge from the bark of trees and other winter hideouts around this time.
This full Moon heralded the appearance of the “moss pink,” or wild ground phlox—one of the first spring wildflowers.
• Breaking Ice Moon (Algonquin) • Broken Snowshoe Moon (Anishinaabe) • Budding Moon of Plants and Shrubs (Tlingit) • Frog Moon (Cree) • Moon of the Red Grass Appearing (Oglala) • Moon When the Ducks Come Back (Lakota) • Moon When the Geese Lay Eggs (Dakota) • Moon When the Streams are Again Navigable (Dakota) • Sucker Moon (Anishinaabe) • Sugar Maker Moon (Western Abenaki)
This is the month when the winter cold fastens its grip, and the nights become long and dark.
• Drift Clearing Moon (Cree) • Frost Exploding Trees Moon (Cree) • Hoar Frost Moon (Cree) • Little Spirit Moon (Anishinaabe) • Long Night Moon (Mohican) • Mid-winter Moon (Lakota, Northern Ojibwe) • Moon of the Popping Trees (Oglala) • Moon When the Deer Shed Their Antlers (Dakota) • Snow Moon (Haida, Cherokee) • Winter Maker Moon (Western Abenaki)
*According to one tradition, which the Old Farmer’s Almanac honors, the Harvest Moon is always the full Moon that occurs closest to the September equinox. Most years, it falls in September; every three years, it falls in October. (Astronomical seasons do not match up with the lunar month.) If the Harvest Moon occurs in October, the September full Moon is usually called the Corn Moon instead. Similarly, the Hunter’s Moon always follows the Harvest Moon. (Note that these last two conditions are not according to Native American tradition.)
Why Native Americans Named the Moons
The early Native Americans did not record time using the Julian or Gregorian calendar months. Many tribes kept track of time by observing the seasons and lunar months, although there was much variability. For some tribes, the year contained 4 seasons and started at a particular season, such as spring or fall. Others counted 5 seasons to a year. Some tribes defined a year as 12 Moons, while others assigned it 13. Certain tribes that used the lunar calendar added an extra Moon every few years to keep it in sync with the seasons.
Each tribe that did name the full or new Moons (and/or lunar months) had its own naming preferences. Some would use 12 names for the year, while others might use 5, 6, or 7; certain names might change the next year. A Moon name used by one tribe might differ from one used by another tribe for the same time period or be the same name but represent a different time period. The name was often a description relating to a particular activity/event that usually occurred in their location.
Colonial Americans adopted some of the Native American Moon names and applied them to their own calendar system (primarily Julian and, later, Gregorian); they also brought their own traditions from Europe. Since the Gregorian calendar is the system that many in North America use today, that is how we have presented the list of Moon names as a frame of reference.
Moon Name Reference Sources
If you want to learn more, below are credible reference sources for these Full Moon Names—from Native American organizations to early American historical references.
The following Moon names came into popular use more recently and do not refer to any specific month’s Moon:
Blue Moon: Occasionally, two full Moons occur within the same calendar month. The first full Moon goes by the name normally assigned to that month’s full Moon, but the second full Moon is commonly called a Blue Moon. Blue Moons occur about every 2½ years. Another definition for “Blue Moon” is the third full Moon in a series of four full Moons occurring in a single astronomical season.
Black Moon: The term “Black Moon” has a few definitions. Most commonly, it refers to the second new Moon occurring within a single calendar month; by this definition, a Black Moon can never occur in February. It has also been used to refer to a month in which there is no full Moon; this can only occur in February because the calendar month has fewer days (28 or 29 days) than the lunar month (about 29.5 days).
Supermoon: A full Moon is said to be a “Supermoon” when it is at the point in its orbit closest to Earth. In astronomy, the terms “perigee syzygy” or “perigee full Moon” are typically used instead of “Supermoon.” Learn more about Supermoons.
Blood Moon: The term “Blood Moon” is used when there is a complete lunar eclipse. The moon isn’t actually “bloody,” but it appears orange or coppery like a penny.