Erysichthon was the name first of a son of Cecrops and Aglaurus and, second, of a son of Triopas, king of Dotion in Thessaly. This second Erysichthon dared to invade a grove of Demeter at Dotium, and began cutting down the sacred trees to provide timber for his new banqueting hall. Demeter punished him by making him perpetually hungry, so that he became a street-beggar, eating filth from the ground.

The trouble here is that eryo means both 'to tear' and 'to guard', so his name can mean either 'earth tearer' (with the latter half of his name from chthon, 'earth') or 'earth guardian'. As a beggar he had to 'tear earth' in order to eat and survive, but we are not told how he guarded any land.

Perhaps we can compromise and consider 'ploughman' (one who both 'tears' the earth and guards it). One theory suggests erysibe, 'mildew' as lying behind his name: mildew, after all, devours, and this represents Erysichthon's insatiable hunger.


Erythea was the name of one of the Hesperides. Her name means 'red' (erythros), this obviously referring to the colour of the sun setting in the west.


Erytheïs was another of the Hesperides. Her name, too, means 'red'.


Eryx was a son of Aphrodite and Poseidon (or Butes), who became a king of part of north-west Sicily. His name seems to mean 'heather' (ereice) - compare the Latin botanical name for heather, Erica. Heather was a plant that had a special significance for the Greeks, perhaps because of some medical or magical association.


Eteocles is a name that one would expect to find belonging to a king, since it means 'true glory', from eteos, 'true', 'real' and cleos, 'glory'. And indeed we find that it was the name of a son of Andreus and Euippe who was an early king of Orchomenus in Boeotia, and of a more famous king of Thebes who was the son of Oedipus and Jocasta, The latter's brother was Polynices, and their names indicate clearly who was the 'good' brother and who was the 'bad' one.


Eteoclus has a name that means exactly the same as that of Eteocles, 'true glory'. He was one of the Seven Against Thebes.


Euanthes was the son of Dionysus and Ariadne. His name means 'blooming' or 'flowering', from euanthes, literally 'fine flower'. This is a 'winy' name like those of his brothers: Oenopion, Thoas, Staphylas, Latronis and Tauropolus.


Eubuleus was the by-name, or rather the euphemistic title, of Hades - although sometimes he is said to be a brother of Triptolemus. The name means 'good counsel', 'prudence', from euboulia (eu-, 'good' and boule, 'counsel'). A name like this would be used not to anger the bearer of the real, fearsome name, in fact to avoid even mentioning his real name.


Euippe means 'good mare', referring not so much to the person so named (as a sort of'fine filly') but as a propitious name for one who could possess several horses. One woman so called was the wife of king Pierus, who bore him nine daughters, the Piérides. Another was the daughter of Leucon who married Andreus, son of the river god Peneius.


Eumaeüs, in the Odyssey, was the name of Odysseus' swineherd who had been the swineherd of Odysseus' father Laertes before him. His name is a good, honest one, meaning 'one who strives well', from eu-, 'good' and maiomai, 'to endeavour', 'strive'.


Eumelus was a king of Patrae in Archaea and the father of Antheas. He was also (as another Eumelus) the son of Admetus and Alcestis who became king of Pherae in Thessaly. The name is an agreeable one meaning 'sweet melody' or 'good tune', from eu-, 'good' and melos, 'song', 'melody'.


Eumenides was a euphemistic name used for the Erinyes (the Furies), whose real name was best avoided (compare Eubuleus). It apparently means 'well-minded', 'well-disposed', from eu-, 'good', 'well' and menos, 'spirit'. The name was first given to the avenging ladies by Orestes, the son of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, and is familiar as the title of a play by Aeschylus.


Eumolpus was a son of Poseidon and Chione (or Dysaules and Baubo). It means 'sweetly singing', from eu-, 'good' and molpe, 'song', 'singing'. The name suggests some religious or mystical ceremony, and in fact Eumolpus was associated with the founding of the Eleusinian Mysteries.

Lucian tells us that Eumolpus was a title adopted by the chief priest of the Eleusinian Mysteries when in office, since he was not supposed to use his own name at this time.


Euneo was a nymph who married Dymas, to whom she bore Hecabe. Her name is a favourable one, meaning 'good intelligence', from eu-, 'good' and noos, 'intelligence'.


Euneiis was the son of Jason and Hypsipyle, queen of Lemnos. His name seems to mean 'of the bed', from eune, 'bed'. Perhaps this is a favourable name for one born of a propitious marriage. (An echo of his name can be seen in the word 'eunuch', which means 'one who guards the bedchamber', from eune and echo, 'to protect'.)


Eunomus was the son of Architeles and the boy cup-bearer of Oeneus. He was accidentally killed, poor fellow, when Heracles boxed his ears. In spite of this, he obviously carried out his duties well, for his name means 'orderly', from eunomes, 'well-ordered'. Compare the fate of Cyathus.


Eupalamus must have been 'good with his hands', as they say - perhaps even an inventor. He was the son of Erechtheus and father of Daedalus (who was similarly gifted). His name derives from eupalamos, 'inventive', from eu-, 'good' and palame, 'palm of the hand', 'hand'.


Euphemus was the son of Poseidon and Europa (daughter of Tityus), who was also one of the Argonauts. His name must be the ultimate in propitious names, since it actually means 'of good omen', from euphemos, a word applied to people who used only words of good omen (or avoided words of bad omen).


Euphorbus was the son of Panthoüs, a Dardanian. His name is one more favourable one, meaning 'good pasture', from euphorbia, 'rich pasture' (with phorbe meaning 'pasture').


Euphrosyne was one of the Graces, and she has an appropriately agreeable name, meaning 'cheery' (euphrosynes).


Europa was the daughter of the Phoenician king Agenor and his wife Telephassa. Her main claim to fame, of course, is that she gave her name to Europe. So what does her name mean? A popular theory is that it means either 'broad-browed', from eurys, 'broad' and ophrys, 'brow', or 'broad face', from eurys and ops, 'face'.

It could also mean 'she of the wide eyes', from eurys and ops, 'eye' or even, at a pinch, 'well watered' or 'fair-flowing', from eu-, 'good', 'well' and rheo, 'to flow'. Maybe the name of her mother (which means 'far-shining') is somehow significant. The actual name of the continent is generally held to mean 'west' (as opposed to Asia which is 'east').

The nineteenth-century French traveller and geographer Jean-Jacques Elisée Reclus wrote: 'Herodotus naively claims that not a single mortal has ever succeeded in discovering the true meaning of this word.' Europa is famous for her ride on the white bull (really Zeus) to Crete, where Zeus made love to her. She bore him three sons: Minos, Rhadamanthys and Sarpedon.


Eurotas was an early king of Laconia, and the father of Sparte. His purely propitious name means 'fair flowing', from euroos (eu-, 'well' and rheo, 'to flow'). This could suggest a rich and easy life or, more precisely, the gift of eloquence.


Euryale is one of the three Gorgons, and the mother of Orion by Poseidon. If we interpret her name as 'wide sea' (eurys, 'wide' and hals, 'sea'), this will accord well with the names of her son and husband.


Euryanassa was the daughter of the river Pactolus. Her name, as befits a riverine offspring, means 'wide-ruling queen', from eurys, 'wide' and anassa, 'queen'.


Eurybatus was the twin of Olus, with both brothers being the two Cercopes who harassed Heracles. His name means 'wide walker', from eurys, 'wide' and baino, 'to walk'. This is not so much a propitious name as a descriptive one, since he roamed abroad doing mischief.

By a happy coincidence, the sense of 'wide' here is almost exactly that of the English word in the slang 'wide boy', where 'wide' (according to the Concise Oxford Dictionary) means 'skilled in sharp practice'. That was Eurybatus exactly.


Eurybia was the daughter of Pontus and Gaia. By the Titan Crius she was the mother of Astraeüs, Pallas and Perses. For one born of the sea and the land, her name is highly appropriate, since it means 'wide force', from eurys, 'wide' and bia, 'force', 'might'.


Euryclea was Odysseus' old nurse who recognised him on his eventual return from Troy. Her name means 'wide fame' (eurys, 'wide' and cleos, 'fame'), which is really more appropriate for her famous charge. But perhaps she was destined to bask in his glory.


Eurydamas was an Argonaut, the son of Ctimenus. His name would seem to be simply a favourable one, meaning 'wide tamer', from eurys, 'wide' and damazo, 'to tame'.


Eurydice was the name of more than one mythological female. First there was the famous Dryad who was loved by Orpheus (whose tale came to be told in several operas, plays and films), then there was Eurydice the mother of Danaë, thirdly there was the wife of Creon, and fourthly (and by no means last) there was Eurydice the daughter of Adrastus and wife of Ilus, king of Troy.

The popular name means literally 'wide justice', from eurys, 'wide' and dice, 'right', 'justice', so thus loosely really means 'queen' or 'princess'. In this respect it is more of a 'title' name, like Creusa.


Eurylochus was the leader of the 'recce party' that explored Circe's island when Odysseus and his crew landed there, and generally he was something of an aggressive character. Perhaps this is reflected in his name, which means 'wide ambush', from eurys, 'wide' and lochos, 'ambush'.


Eurylochus was the leader of the 'recce party' that explored Circe's island when Odysseus and his crew landed there, and generally he was something of an aggressive character. Perhaps this is reflected in his name, which means 'wide ambush', from eurys, 'wide' and lochos, 'ambush'.


Eurymachus was the son of Polybus, a nobleman from Ithaca. He was the most favoured of the suitors of Penelope, Odysseus' wife, and was the second to be killed by Odysseus on his return. His name means 'wide fighter', from eurys, 'wide' (yet again) and mache, 'fight', 'battle'. His final battle with Odysseus is described in gory detail by Homer in the Odyssey.


Eurymedon was the giant who led his colossal colleagues in the 'Gigantomachia', the battle of the giants and the gods. His name appropriately means 'wide rule', from eurys, 'wide' and medon, 'rule' (as in Medusa, among other names).


Eurymedusa was the daughter of king Myrmidon who in spite of her name ('being of wide cunning') was seduced by Zeus disguised as an ant. Her name is a combination of eurys, 'wide' and Medusa.


Eurynome was the name of two noted women: the daughter of Oceanus and Tethys who bore the Graces to Zeus, and the daughter of Nisus, king of Megara, who married Glaucus and bore Bellerophon to Poseidon. The name means either 'wide wandering' or 'wide rule', from eurys, 'wide' and nomos, 'district', 'range' or nomao, 'to direct', 'control'. Both senses are ones of good omen.


Euryphaëssa was a Titaness, the mother of Helios, Selene and Eos by Hyperion. Not surprisingly for one who bore such radiant offspring, her name means 'wide shining', from eurys, 'wide' and phaeno, 'to shine'.


Eurypylus was a name borne by several men, including a son of Poseidon who was a king in Libya, a son of Telephus who was a king of Pergamum, a former suitor of Helen from Thessaly, and another son of Poseidon who was another king (on the island of Cos).

With such a wealth of lordly personages we must expect a rather grand meaning for the name, and it is in fact 'wide gates', from eurys, 'wide' and pyle, 'gate'. 'He of the wide gate' is obviously a suitable name for the king of a city.


Eurysaces was a son of Ajax and Tecmessa, and a king of Salamis. His warlike (or defensive) name means 'broad shield', from eurys, 'wide', 'broad' and sacos, 'shield'.


Eurysthenes was a son of Aristodemus, and a twin brother of Procles. His propitious name means 'wide strength', from eurys, 'wide' and sthenos, 'strength'. (Note the possibly even more propitious name of his father, which means 'best of people'.)


Eurystheus was a son of Sthenelus and Nicippe (or maybe Menippe), and he was the bitterest enemy of Heracles, who was enslaved to him while he carried out his Twelve Labours. A man to be reckoned with, therefore, as his name tells us, for it means 'widely powerful', for the same words as Eurysthenes. Note the echo of 'power' in his father's name.


Eurytion means 'widely honoured', from eurys, 'wide' and tio, 'to esteem', 'honour'. This is a suitable interpretation for the several people who bore the name, including a Centaur (who admittedly led a riot at the wedding of Pirithoüs and Hippodamia), a herdsman of the monster Geryon, and the son of Actor and Demonassa.

If we are not too happy about the Centaur, then we can try another meaning for him, from eu-, 'good' and rhytor, 'drawer', meaning a good archer. However, even here it must be said that there was some doubt as to whether Centaurs actually used bows and arrows, although eastern artists represented them as archers.


Eurytus was a grandson of Apollo and the son of Melas. He became a king of Dechalia (possibly this was in Thessaly) and was himself the father of Iphitus.

Eurytus was also the name of a giant who was struck down by Dionysus in the battle of the giants against the gods. It was, too, the name of one of the Moliones, a son of Actor and Molione.

We can take our choice here, deriving the name from eu-, 'good' and rheo, 'to flow' (thus 'fair-flowing', like Eurotas), or from eryo, 'to keep guard', so 'holding fast', or even, like the Centaur Eurytion, from eu-, 'good' and rhytor, 'drawer', so 'good archer'.

This last interpretation would certainly suit the grandson of Apollo, who himself was described by Aristophanes as rhytor toxon, 'drawer of bows', in his play Thesmophoriazusae (approximating to 'Women Celebrating the Festival of Demeter the Law-Giver').


Euterpe was the Muse of flute-playing, with her name meaning sweetly and simply 'delightful', from eu-, 'well' and terpo, 'to delight'.


Euthymus, in spite of cosmetic associations, has a name that means 'well-disposed', 'cheerful', from eu-, 'well' and thymos, 'soul', 'spirit'. He was the son of the god of the river Caecinus, and a famous boxer.


Evadne was the daughter of Poseidon and the nymph Pitane. Her name may be pre-Greek or it may be related to euanthe and so mean 'fair-flowering', from eu-, 'well' and anthos, 'flower'. It has a certain currency as a modern first name.


Evander was originally the name of Pan, meaning 'good man', from eu-, 'good' and aner, andros, 'man'. We can perhaps interpret the name more loosely to mean 'one who is good for men'.


Evenus was the son of Ares by Demonice, a mortal woman. He became the father of Marpessa. There was another Evenus who was the son of Selepus. He became king of Lyrnessus, near Troy. The name is fitting for a king or for one in authority since it means 'reining well' (no pun intended), from eu-, 'good' and henia, 'rein'.


Fates, otherwise Parcae, was the Roman title of the three female deities who supervised fate rather than determining it. Their names were Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos, and they were the daughters of Nyx. The Latin word Fata is a plural that is probably an adaptation of the singular word fatum, meaning 'that which is spoken'.

In the course of time, however, the neuter plural noun fata became a feminine singular (not in classical Latin), and this is now seen in the Italian fata and French, 'fairy'. The Greeks called the Fates Moirai.


Fauna was the wife or daughter (or even sister) of Faunus, which was the Roman name of Pan. She is often equated with Bona Dea. Her name, like that of Faunus, means 'she who favours' (quae favet). Her name and that of Flora are now traditionally combined ('fauna and flora') to denote the animal and plant life of a region.


Faunus, usually equated with the Greek Pan, was in Roman mythology the son of Picus and the grandson of Saturn. He is also associated or identified with Evander. His name is usually interpreted to mean 'he who favours' (qui favet). Linguistically, the names of Faunus and Pan seem to be related.