What Is a Snow Moon? The Meanings Behind the Names of February's Full Moon

Later this month, a full moon will grace the skies above the Earth.

The full moon in February is popularly referred to using several names, including "Snow," "Storm" and "Hunger."

According to The Old Farmer's Almanac (OFA), the names that are used for the full moons in the U.S. today come from a variety of places, including Native, colonial and European sources.

Often, names that originally derived from Native American groups were later adopted by European colonizers.

Traditionally, these names applied to the entire lunar month in which they occurred, rather than just the full moon itself.

The "Snow" moon moniker originates from Native American tribes in the northeast of what is now the U.S.—a region that typically experiences high snowfall during this month.

While January is usually the coldest month of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, February tends to be the snowiest month in the U.S.

Captain Jonathan Carver, who had visited the Naudowessie people in the 1760s, wrote that the name they used for the full moon in February was the Snow Moon because "more snow commonly falls during this month than any other in the winter."

Native American tribes in this region also referred to the February full moon as the Storm Moon due to the typically harsh weather conditions seen during the month.

Other common names for this full moon include the Hunger Moon, the Bony Moon, and the Little Famine Moon, which all derive from the fact that poor weather conditions would have made hunting difficult.

Early European colonists also had their own name—the Trapper's Moon—which refers to winter being the best time for trapping beaver, fox and mink, according to the Farmers' Almanac (not to be confused with The Old Farmer's Almanac.)

There are several other Native American names for the February full moon that have some connection to animals, according to the OFA.

For example, the Cree traditionally referred to it as the Bald Eagle Moon or Eagle Moon. Meanwhile, the Ojibwe called it the Bear Moon, because this time of year is when bear cubs are born.

The Dakota named it the Raccoon Moon, while some Algonquin peoples called it the Groundhog Moon.

The February full moon will reach peak illumination at 3:17 a.m. ET on February 27, although it will appear full to most people for around three days centered on this time.

Full moon above New York City
A full moon rising above New York City on January 28, 2021 as seen from Hoboken, New Jersey. Gary Hershorn/Getty Images