Hermes is the name of the Greek god of commerce and trade, known as the trickster god and the protector of thieves, travelers, and athletes, as well as a messenger of the gods and the god of boundaries. He guided the souls of the dead to the underworld. The son of Zeus and Maia, one of the Pleiades, the day after his birth when he was just an infant, Hermes stole his half-brother Apollo’s cattle. When Apollo tracked him down, Hermes gave him a lyre he had just invented from the shell of a tortoise as an apology. He is the father of Autolycus, the Prince of Thieves, and the great-grandfather of the hero Odysseus. Although the etymology of the name has been linked to Greek herma meaning “cairn, pile of stones, boundary marker” it could also be related to Proto-European *ser “to bind, put together”; or it could be related to an older word of non-European origin.
Hermes is also a surname, either derived from the name of the Greek god or it could be a Germanic matronynic surname from the given name Ermens, a short form of either Ermelendis (derived from Germanic elements ermen “whole, universal” and linde “soft, tender”) or Ermgart (likely a short form of Ermengarde, also a Germanic name from Germanic ermen “whole, universal” and garde “enclosure”). As a French surname, it could have arisen as a topographic name for someone who lived in a deserted spot or a patch of barren land from Greek eremia “desert, desolate, lonely uninhabited” and the local suffix –ès.
Origin: Ancient Greek, Proto-European, Ancient Germanic
- Hermès (French)
- Ermes (Italian)
- Ermete (Italian)
- Ermis (Modern Greek)
- Hermione (Ancient Greek)
- Hermia (English)