English translations of full moon names date back a few hundred years to Native Americans living in what is now the northern and eastern United States. Those tribes kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring full moon.
There were some variations in moon names between groups, but, in general, the same ones were used throughout the Algonquin tribes from New England to Lake Superior. European settlers followed their own customs and created some of their own names.
Since the lunar (“synodic”) month is roughly 29.5 days in length on average, the dates of the full moon and the other moon phases shift from year to year.
Normally, each season contains three full moons. Sometimes, however, four full moons can be squeezed into one season. When that happens, the third full moon was branded a “Blue Moon.” The more common and widely accepted definition of a “Blue Moon” is a second full moon in a single calendar month. During the summer season of 2021, there were four full moons: June 24, July 23, Aug. 22 and Sept. 20. The next Blue Moon will be on Aug. 31, 2023, according to NASA.
Here is a listing of some commonly used full moon names, as well as the dates and times for 2021-2022, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Unless otherwise noted, all times are for the Eastern Time Zone.
November 19: Full Beaver Moon
3:58 a.m. EST (0858 GMT)
Now it is time to set beaver traps before the swamps freeze to ensure a supply of warm winter furs. Another interpretation suggests that the name Beaver Moon comes from the fact that the beavers are now active in their preparation for winter. This is also called the Frosty Moon.
The year’s second lunar eclipse occurs early this morning; a nearly-total eclipse with 97.4% of the moon’s diameter becoming immersed in the Earth’s dark umbra at 4:04 a.m. EST (0904 GMT).
December 18: Full Cold Moon
11:37 p.m. EST (0437 GMT, Dec. 19)
December is usually considered the month that the winter cold begins to fasten its grip in the Northern Hemisphere. This month’s full moon is also called the Long Night Moon, since nights are at their longest and darkest. It’s also known as the Moon before Yule. The term Long Night Moon is a doubly appropriate name because the midwinter night is indeed long and the moon is above the horizon a long time.
The midwinter full moon takes a high trajectory across the sky because it is opposite to the low sun. This is also the smallest full moon of 2021 (a “micromoon,” or minimoon), since the Earth will arrive at apogee, its farthest distance from Earth, on Dec. 17 at a distance of 252,476 miles (406,320 km). The moon will appear some 14% smaller compared to the full moon of May 26.
January 17: Full Wolf Moon
6:51 p.m. EST (2351 GMT)
Amid the zero cold and deep snows of midwinter, wolf packs howled hungrily outside villages. It was also known as the Old Moon or the Moon after Yule. In some tribes this was the Full Snow Moon; most applied that name to the next moon.
February 16: Full Snow Moon
11:59 a.m. EST (1659 GMT)
Usually the heaviest snows fall in this month. Hunting became very difficult, and hence to some tribes this was the Full Hunger Moon.
March 18: Full Worm Moon
3:20 a.m. EDT (0820 GMT)
In this month the ground softens and earthworm casts reappear, inviting the return of robins. Some more northern tribes knew this as the Full Crow Moon, when the cawing of crows signals the end of winter, or the Full Crust Moon because the snow cover becomes crusted from thawing by day and freezing at night. The Full Sap Moon, marking the time of tapping maple trees, is another variation.
April 16: Full Pink Moon
2:57 p.m. EDT (1857 BST)
The grass pink or wild ground phlox is one of the earliest widespread flowers of the spring. Other names for this month were the Full Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon, and — among some tribes on the east coast — the Full Fish Moon, when shad came upstream to spawn.
This is also the Paschal Full Moon; the first full moon after the spring equinox on March 20. The first Sunday following the Paschal Moon is Easter Sunday, which will be observed one day later on Sunday, April 17.
May 16: Full Flower Moon
12:15 a.m. EDT (0415 BST)
Flowers are abundant everywhere by this time of year. It was also known as the Full Corn Planting Moon or the Milk Moon. The moon will also be at perigee, the closest point to Earth in its orbit, about nine hours earlier, at 10 p.m. EDT on May 25, at a distance of 222,023 miles (357,311 kilometers) from Earth.
The moon will undergo a Blood Moon total lunar eclipse at 12:11 a.m. EDT which will be visible in Europe, Africa, and parts of Asia, though the entire eclipse from start to end will be visible from Eastern North America, Central America and South America.
June 14: Full Strawberry Moon
7:52 a.m. EDT (1152 BST)
Known to every Algonquin tribe. Europeans called it the Rose Moon. It will be the closest supermoon of 2021: 226,000 miles (363,712 kilometres) from Earth, appearing around 17% bigger and 30% brighter, according to NASA. Very high ocean tides can be expected from the coincidence of perigee with full moon.
July 13: Full Buck Moon
2:38 p.m. EDT (1830 BST)
When the new antlers of buck deer push out from their foreheads in coatings of velvety fur. It was also often called the Full Thunder Moon, thunderstorms being now most frequent. Sometimes this is also called the Full Hay Moon.
This will be another supermoon that reaches it perigee at 5:08 a.m. EDT.
August 11: Full Sturgeon Moon
9:36 p.m. EDT (0136 Aug 12 BST)
This time of year, this large fish of the Great Lakes and other major bodies of water like Lake Champlain is most readily caught. A few tribes knew it as the Full Red Moon because the moon rises looking reddish through sultry haze. Other variations include the Green Corn Moon or Grain Moon.
September 10: Full Harvest Moon
5:58 a.m. EDT (0958 BST)
Traditionally, the “Harvest Moon” designation goes to the full moon that occurs closest to the autumnal (fall) equinox — which is most often in September. On average, October Harvest Moons come at three-year intervals, although the time frame can be quite variable, and there can be situations where as many as eight years can elapse (the next such example will come between 2020 and 2028).
At the peak of the harvest, farmers can work into the night by the light of this moon. Usually, the full Moon rises an average of 50 minutes later each night, but for the few nights around the Harvest Moon, the moon seems to rise at nearly the same time each night: just 25 to 30 minutes later across the U.S., and only 10 to 20 minutes later for much of Canada and Europe. Corn, pumpkins, squash, beans, and wild rice — indigenous staples in North America — are ready for gathering.
October 9: Full Hunter’s Moon
4:54 p.m. EDT (2054 BST)
With the leaves falling and the deer fattened, it is time to hunt. Since the fields have been reaped, hunters can ride over the stubble, and can more easily see the fox and other animals, which have come out to glean and can be caught for a thanksgiving banquet after the harvest.