Yesterday’s Pagan Name of the Month Stella inspired todays Pick of the Week choice — Aster.
Aster is a direct adoption of the Greek astêr “star.”
Not only is it cognate with the Latin stella but also the word for star in most European languages, some of which are, of have been, used as given names, including the Welsh Seren, English Star – and Old English Steorra (which was also used as a name) — German Stern and Russian Zvezda.
In the early seventeenth century, “aster” was adopted into English as an alternative word for star, though this usage has since become obsolete.
The word is best-known now, however, as a flower name. It was first used as such in the early eighteenth century, as an alternative name for starworts, becoming the formal botanical name later for a genus of the daisy family, because of the star-like nature of the flowers. It includes the Michaelmas daisy.
As a given name, there are a couple of examples of Aster known from Antiquity, but it certainly wasn’t common.
In the English-speaking world, Aster is found in the records as early as the seventeenth century, although in many cases this may represent variant spellings of Esther, Hester and Easter (which also got thoroughly muddled), or of the surname Astor.
This surname itself is a variant of Easter — but mostly a different Easter to the festival. It derives from the Old English ēowestere “sheepfold,” or Good and High Easter in Essex, which share the same source. Occasionally, however, it may be from Easter as a medieval girl’s name, which is the adoption of the name of the festival.
There are also a number of rather nice related names:
Asteria — feminine form of the Greek adjective asterios “starry.” Borne by more than one character in Greek mythology, and used for the name of a precious stone by the Romans, possibly an asteriated sapphire
Asterial — an English adjective meaning “star-like” derived from the Greek
Asterias — scientific name of a genus of star-fish
Asteridas — a rare Ancient Greek personal name. The -idas ending was originally used with the sense of “son of,” so Asteridas can be interpreted with the meaning of “son of a star/the stars.”
Asterion – asterios plus the name suffix -ion. The name of two sacred kings of Crete, one of whom was the father of King Minos. The other is often identified with the Minotaur himself, and is used as such in Jorge Luis Borges in his short story “The House of Asterion” (1949). In Antiquity, it was the name of the white campion, which the Greeks used to weave garlands for Hera. It is also an alternative name for the star Chara.
Asterope (“as-TEH-roe-pee”) — one of the Pleiades; her name combines astêr with ôps “face.”
Astoria — an elaboration of the surname Astor (see above), originally used of the famous New York Hotel, the Waldorf Astoria.
Astra — the plural of the Latin astrum, a Latin cognate of the Greek.
Astraea — feminine form of the Greek adjective astraios “starry.” This is the name of Virgo — the “starry maiden.” Astrea is a variant.
Astral — another English adjective meaning “starry” or “relating to the stars,” perhaps best known through mystic and esoteric beliefs such as “astral spirits,”astral body,” “astral plane” and “astral projection.”
Astrantia — the botanical name for the masterwort, coined from astêr or the related Latin astrum.
Astrion — an obsolete English name of a type of precious stone, probably an asteriated sapphire
Astro — generally a prefix, as found in words such as “Astrophysics”; it was used of two investigative missions to Mars in the ’90s.
Astromancer — rare old English word meaning “diviner by the stars.”
Astron — Greek astron “star” — a variant of astêr.
Astronoe (“as-TROH-no-ee”) — Greek form of the name of a Phoenician Goddess — probably Astarte — remodelled to give it meaning in Greek, i.e. astêr plus nous “mind.”
Astrophora — feminine form of the Greek adjective astrophoros “bearing-stars.” Astropher would make an enticing alternative to Christopher…
In 2010, 16 girls were called Aster in the US; and 4 in the UK. It didn’t make it into the official records as a boy’s name at all. But it has been used for boys, and given how little used it still is, there’s no reason not to.
Aster is a rarity — but it’s definitely a magnificent little star…