How Did the Planet Pluto Get Its Name?

Following the tradition of naming planets after ancient Roman gods, Pluto derives its name from the Roman god of the underworld. The Lowell Observatory named the planet after receiving the suggestion from 11-year-old Venetia Burney of Oxford, England. Pluto officially received its name on March 24, 1930.

The Lowell Observatory received over 1,000 suggested names for the planet. Burney initially suggested the name to her grandfather, who passed the suggestion along to an astronomer. The astronomer, Herbert Hall Turner, passed the name on to astronomers at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz. The name Pluto was selected unanimously from a short list, which also included the suggested names Minerva and Cronus.

Pluto's moons are named after figures associated with the god Pluto. Charon, the first discovered of Pluto's moons, is named after the boatman of the Roman underworld who ferries the souls of the dead across the river to the underworld. Discovered decades later, the moons Nix and Hydra are named after Charon's mother and the multi-head guardian of the underworld, respectively. Subsequently discovered moons are named after Kerberos, a three-headed dog from Greek mythology, and Styx, the name of the river across which Charon ferries souls to the underworld.

While Pluto is the generally accepted name of the planet, some languages use the name of underworld figures from different traditions. Some East Asian languages call the planet Meiosei. In Hindi the planet is called Yama, while in Maori the planet is referred to as Whiro.