Worm, strawberry, harvest and beaver: Each month’s full moon has a name. Here’s how they got them.

Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Full Moon Names for Each Month and What They Mean

Cold, corn, wolf and pink, too
Worm, strawberry, harvest and beaver: Each month’s full moon has a name. Here’s how they got them.

Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Our moon does much more than you might know. Beyond lighting the night sky, the moon also stabilizes climate and sets the tide. It’s the fifth-largest moon among our solar system’s more than 200 and the only other place — outside Earth — that humans have stepped foot. The moon orbits Earth and Earth orbits the sun. Nothing is ever still and everything is constantly moving and shifting and changing, resulting in eight different lunar phases during the year discernible just outside our windows.

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On full-moon days, typically once a month, the moon, Earth and sun are all in approximate alignment. Earth is positioned in the middle. Sunlight brightens the moon’s surface and reflects off its side facing Earth, revealing to us a wholly illuminated lunar disk. 

Historically, North America’s native populations have given names to each month’s full moon. These names, like January’s wolf moon and February’s snow moon, have been passed down for generations and are still used in “The Old Farmer’s Almanac.” 

Moon names differ from tribe to tribe, but the 12 adopted by "The Old Farmer’s Almanac" are, in order from January to December: wolf moon, snow moon, worm moon, pink moon, flower moon, strawberry moon, buck moon, sturgeon moon, corn moon, hunter moon, beaver moon and cold moon.

The wolf moon, according to the Almanac, is named for the wolves that howl exceptionally loud during January. While some moons — like February’s snow moon, May’s flower moon, June’s strawberry moon, September’s corn moon and December’s cold moon — are clearly named after common crops or seasonal weather, others are more elusive. 

Full moons in March are called worm moons, named after the worm waste that resurfaces as the winter soil softens. And April full moons are pink moons, named for the color of an early-arriving spring flower, not the moon’s actual coloring. July’s buck moon is a reference to the animal’s antlers that reach full maturity in July. Sturgeon fish are most easily caught in August, and beavers are commonly trapped in November.

Another well-known moon name — the harvest moon — is not associated with one month. It's a designation given to the full mooon that occurs nearest to the autumn equinox. It typically occurs in September, taking the place of the corn moon, although it occasionally lands in October instead, replacing the hunter’s moon.

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These are not the only interesting names given to full moons. Lest we forget the supermoon, black moon or elusive blue moon. All three, along with some asteroids and a sprinkling of meteor showers, are among the biggest astronomical events worth seeing in 2020.