Pterelas was the name under which Procris disguised herself (as a handsome boy) for fear that Pasiphaë might bewitch her for having given Minos a drugged draught to prevent him from impregnating her with reptiles and insects when he was on the point of seducing her. She was the wife of Cephalus, of course, but Artemis made her think that Cephalus was visiting his former love, Eos, when he crept out one night to hunt.

She went after him - and he, with his dog Laelaps and his magic dart (both dog and dart being presents from Minos to Procris), killed her. Haunted by her ghost he plunged into the sea calling on her name of Pterelas, as whom he had loved her most, not realising that all along she had been his wife.

In view of all these rather bizarre incidents (retold in condensed form here), what does the name mean? It appears to relate to the culminating point of the account, where Cephalus dives into the sea, and so to derive from pteron, 'feather', 'wing' and either elasis, 'riding', 'driving' or las, 'stone'.

Cephalus was thus either a 'wing-rider' or a 'feather that fell like a stone'. Yet really, of course, we would expect the name to apply in some way to Procris rather than her husband, particularly as she chose it specially for her disguise.