Triptolemus was a young Attic man chosen by Demeter to be the medium through which her gift of the plough and agriculture (which he is said to have invented) could be passed to men. The easiest way to interpret his name is to make him a 'triple warrior', from tri-, and ptolemos, the Epic form of polemus, 'war' (compare the name of Neoptolemus, who was a 'young warrior').

This would suggest he was originally some kind of war god on the lines of Ares. Or perhaps he was a 'threefold ploughman', from tri- and poleuo, 'to plough'. This accords well with his agricultural speciality and his association with Demeter.