How did the Greek Islands get their names? Well, most from ancient history and mythology, but there are islands which got their names for completely different reasons.

Did you know that Naxos was the legendary ruler of the first settlers on the homonymous island?  The same qualifies with Paros for Paros, Thassos for Thassos, Zante for Zante and Kefalos for Kefalonia.

Crete was the name of one of the nymphs of Hesperides who guarded the golden apples that granted immortality in the garden of the gods, in the country of Atlas. The fact that ancient history played a role in the names of the Greek islands does not make much of an impression. Interestingly enough, however, there are island names whose stories go beyond one mythical- figure.


Mykonos – The Young Ruler and Hero

The name of Mykonos, known from ancient coins and inscriptions, was attributed by tradition to the eponymous young hero and first ruler of Mykonos, Mykonos, a descendant of Anius, the mythical king of Delos and son of Apollo and Rhoeo.


Santorini – Also known as Thira

The name of the island “Thira” comes from the ancient Spartan, Theras, who first colonized the island. The name "Santorini", however, comes from the passing Frankish Crusaders who stopped for supplies near the church of Agia Irini (Saint Irene) which existed on the island.


Anafi - To bring to Light

Anafi has maintained its name unchanged since ancient times and even from ancient mythology. According to which, the Argonauts, returning to their homeland from Colchis, fell into a storm and drifted in the open sea. Shipwrecked at sea, they begged the god Apollo to save them. Apollo, responding to their calls, shed light upon the island in the form of lightning. They saw the island appear from the sea ahead of them where they then managed to cast anchor. There the Argonauts erected an altar in honor of Apollo “Aigletes” (the radiant) and named the island Anafi (from the verb "to bring to light").


Ikaria - From Icarus

There are several theories about the origin of the name of the island. One of these refers to the Phoenician root "car" and the people of Caria, Asia Minor. According to Greek mythology, however, the island is called Ikaria from the myth of the legendary Icarus, son of the master craftsman Daedalus, the creator of the Labyrinth.  Icarus and his father tried to escape from Crete by means of wings that his father had constructed from feathers and wax. Icarus, ignoring his father's warnings, flew too close to the sun, upon which the wax in his wings melted and he fell into the sea, thus, giving his name to the Icarian Sea.


Rhodes – The Rose

Since ancient times the association of the name with the homonymous flower has dominated, sacred to the god Helios. That is why the coins of Rhodes depicted from one part the head of Helios and the other a rose.


Corfu - Korkyra or Peak

According to many scholars, the name Corfu (Kerkyra) is attributed to the nymph Korkyra, daughter of Asopus and the river nymph Metope. The god Poseidon, who loved the beautiful girl, brought her to the island and gave it her name. Many scholars believe that the myth of the nymph of Korkyra is etymologically connected with the word "peak" from the acropolis located opposite the current capital.


Kythira – For Aphrodite

Kythira has changed names several times. The occasional rulers of the island gave it various names. In the Middle Ages, it was called Kythouria and Tserigo or Tsirigo, names given by the Venetian sailors. It was also once called Finikounda because it was a colony of the Phoenicians. The name "Kythira" was given for Aphrodite, the patroness of the island in ancient times.  Aphrodite was called Kythira or Kythereia, from the verb "keftho", which means "hide the love in the abdomen."


Lesvos – The Patron God

According to mythology the first inhabitants on the island of Lesvos were the Pelasgians. The island’s name, however, comes from Lesbos, the patron god of the island. The term Lesbian, which is actually the place of origin describing a native or inhabitant of Lesvos, is connected to lesbian love since Sappho (the Lesbian, from her place of origin) was a lyric poet from Lesvos who proclaimed her love for girls.


Mykonos, Santorini, Corfu, Rhodes, Kefalonia, Zakynthos; from one end of the Mediterranean Sea to the other, the Greek islands are the perfect holiday destination. Discover the top Greek Islands, and have the best holidays of your life.