Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Orion

Orion is a name we get from Greek mythology but you might also know it better as the starry constellation. In any case, the two are intertwined. In ancient Greek mythology Orion was a huntsman of gigantic proportions whom Zeus placed in the sky (hence the constellation). There are varying legends of Orion since Greek mythology was essentially a set of oral narratives recounted and passed down for centuries before the written word and organized religion came into play. Therefore, as with many mythological legends, there are varying accounts of Orion. He was generally recognized as a hunter and a hero. Orion was said to be hunting with Artemis (goddess of the hunt) and her mother Leto (a benevolent maternal goddess). Orion offended Leto when he threatened to hunt down and kill every animal and beast on Earth, and so she sent a giant scorpion to sting him in the heel, thus killing him. Upon Orion’s death, Leto asked her former husband Zeus (god of all gods) to place the wayward hunter in the sky among the stars. Zeus complied, but he also placed the scorpion among the constellations to venerate the hero hunter. These two opponents, Orion and the Scorpion, are positioned on opposite sides of the sky. The Scorpion rises as Orion starts to sink into the other side of the sky, and this was seen as Orion running away from his attacker. Located near the equator, the constellation Orion (also called The Hunter) is visible throughout the world (both northern and southern hemispheres). The easiest way to locate the constellation in the night sky is by first indentifying “Orion’s Belt” which is discernible by three bright stars in a row. The brightest star in the night sky, Sirius, is also sometimes called “Orion’s Dog”, the pooch who apparently accompanied Orion on his many hunts. The etymology of the name Orion is uncertain. It comes from the Greek “Ὠρίων” which may have been borrowed from a now-defunct Assyrian-Babylonian language spoken in ancient Mesopotamia. In this case, the name would be derived from “Uru-anna” which means ‘the Light of Heaven.’ See literary references below for more information on Orion.

All About the Baby Name – Orion



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Orion is definitely an exotic name, but it does date back to the 19th century in America. In the late 1800s, Orion was on the charts now and again, but at extremely low levels of popularity that he was barely detectable. By the turn of the 20th century in 1900, the name dropped completely from sight. Orion appeared on the charts again once in the 1970s and once in the 80s, but was never given to more than 100 babies a year making it quite uncommon. Finally, in 1994 this bright constellation reappeared on and stuck to the charts. In the past almost 20 years, Orion has advanced a remarkable 500+ positions on the charts. His popularity is still moderately low, but he’s at the peak of his game right now. American parents are now more than ever embracing these unusual and therefore unique names. Orion is still a rare choice, but it’s embedded in ancient and classical storytelling making him both intellectual and enchanting. We like the “Heaven’s light” etymology best, particularly since your son is the light of your heavens. By conjuring up the mighty Giant-Hunter of mythology, we also see this name as one of strength and courage, keeping the heavens and other constellations safe. The starry Orion is most visible to those of us residing in the Northern Hemisphere in the winter months making it an interesting name choice for winter babies. Or if your baby is born under the sun sign Scorpio, you could use this name to balance things out.

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Cultural References to the Baby Name – Orion

Literary Characters


L’Orione is an opera by Italian composer Francesco Cavalli first performed in Milan, Italy in 1653. The opera’s plot centers on Orion. The goddess Diana (Greek equivalent: Artemis) and her nymphs are preparing for the Festival of Apollo on the island of Delos. They are horrified to see two men, Orion and Filotero, swimming ashore, but divert them away to another section of the island. Orion needs the god Apollo's help to restore his eyesight; however, Cupid is able to do this himself. Having a strong dislike for her brother-god Apollo, Venus (Greek equivalent: Aphrodite) wants to disrupt the festivities and so devises a plan to make Diana fall in love with Orion. As Orion and Filotero sleep to restore their strength before leaving, Cupid fires an arrow at Diana putting Venus’s plan into effect. Although Diana feels guilty about her love for the mortal Orion, Orion is all for it! Apollo, however, is furious that his sister should love a mortal, and he tricks her into killing Orion with her bow as he is swimming in the sea. This rouses the sea god Neptune's (Greek equivalent: Poseidon) anger and he raises a storm to destroy the island and the gods as punishment for killing his son, Orion. Jove (Greek equivalent: Zeus) finally restores peace by placing Orion in the heavens and turning him into a constellation.

As mentioned above, Greek Mythology is a set of narratives passed down orally for centuries before being written down. Also, legends varied geographically and were enhanced by the mythologies of other close-dwelling cultures. As such, there are often several mythological stories for one character. In the opening paragraph above, we gave you once such legend. Herein, we will give you more. In all cases, however, Orion is depicted as a giant, mighty hunter. In one account, he falls in love with Merope, the daughter of Oenopion who ruled the island of Chios. When Oenopion refused his daughter’s hand in marriage, Orion got drunk and violated the girl nonetheless. In angry retaliation, Oenopion blinded Orion and expelled him from the island. This forced the sightless Orion east in search of a cure where he encountered the goddess of the dawn (Eos) who promptly fell in love with the handsome hunter. After having his sight restored, Orion returned to Chios to take vengeance on Oenopion. Unable to find his former nemesis, Orion then joined Artemis and her followers of the hunt. This is where the legends diverge. In one account, Apollo (jealous of his sister’s attention to Orion) asks Gaia (Earth goddess) to send the Scorpion. In another account, Apollo tricks his sister Artemis into killing Orion with her bow by challenging her to hit a distant target (which, unbeknownst to her, was Orion swimming in the seas). Still other versions say Orion chased the Pleiades (known as the Seven Sisters) and that they were all placed as constellations in the sky by the sea god Poseidon along with Sirius, Orion's hunting dog. Finally, in one narrative, Orion is the son of Hyrieus who himself was the son of Poseidon and one of the Pleiads. Hyrieus was visited by the gods Zeus, Poseidon and Hermes and in exchange for his hospitality was granted a wish from the gods. He asked for a son. The gods responded by urinating on a sacrificial bull’s hide and then buried it in the earth. Nine months later, out sprung Orion. As a result of this legend, some etymologists believe the Greek name “Ourion” (of ouron) means ‘urine’ (from a root word meaning ‘to rain, drip’). We hope you have a sense of humor because we’re not making this up. What’s interesting is that most animals urinate to mark and define their territorial boundaries. A similar Greek word “horion” means ‘boundaries, limits’.

Childrens Books


We cannot find any childrens books with the first name Orion

Popular Songs


The Arms of Orion
a song by Prince

Sword of Orion
a song by Vangelis

Orion in the Sky
a song by Shawn Colvin

Orion - The Hunter
a song by Symphony X

a song by The God Awfuls

Famous People


Orion Clemens (younger brother of Mark Twain and first Secretary of the Nevada Territory)
Orion P. Howe (Union drummer boy and Medal of Honor recipient for his participation in the American Civil War)

Children of Famous People


We cannot find any children of famous people with the first name Orion

Historic Figures


We cannot find any historically significant people with the first name Orion