Vulcan was the Roman god of fire, the equivalent of Hephaestus. He gave his name to the volcano, which epitomises the kind of natural, uncontrolled fire that he personified. (He was not associated, for example, with fires that were deliberately lit or kept burning for a special purpose, such as a sacred fire).

His name (in Latin Vulcanus) may derive from a Cretan god of fire called something like Welkhanos, this actually meaning 'god of fire'. It has been suggested that this name in turn may be related to Latin ignis, 'fire', especially as there was an Asian fire god Agni. (The latter, unlike Vulcan, was a god of the sacred fire, and worship was offered at his altar.)