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How Did Amethyst Get Its Name?

Updated on March 15, 2018
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April, from Eluna Jewelry designs has been creating and selling jewelry for over ten years. Her work is available on Etsy and her website.

Its all Greek

Amethyst stones have been prized for their beauty for thousands of years. The stones were used as early as 25,000 B.C as beads and amulets. So for a stone with such a long history, where did the name come from? I am here to tell you a little story about the folklore behind the name.


But first lets start with the name itself. Amethyst is derived from the Greek word amethystos, which translates into "not drunk". Greek and Roman societies believed that if someone wore an amethyst, it would prevent them from feeling the effects of drinking too much alcohol.

Amethyst Geode
Amethyst Geode | Source

The Rest of the Story

While it is true that Amethyst is named for the Greek word amethystos, there is a deeper story behind the name. And of course that story will involve a god. Two gods to be exact.

The story begins that Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, was in a drunken wrath one day, because a mortal had thumbed their nose at his wine. Dionysus vowed to take retribution on the mortal, since they insulted him by refusing his wine. And he vowed that he would take that retribution out on the next mortal who crossed his path.

Amethyst, as it happened, was on her way to pay tribute to Diana, the goddess of the hunt, when she crossed Dionysus' path. In a drunken rage, Dionysus send his tigers to kill the beautiful young maiden.

As Dionysus' tigers began to descend upon Amethyst, the young maiden prayed to Diana to be saved from the beasts. Diana, having little time to save the maiden, quickly turned Amethyst into a shining crystal statue, as clear and pure as the maiden herself had been.

Upon seeing the girl transform into the statue, Dionysus began to feel remorse for his actions and he began to weep over the statue of Amethyst. As an offering of remorse, Dionysus poured the wine from his grapes over the statue of Amethyst, staining the stone purple in the process.

And that is the story behind how a purple variety of quartz became known as Amethyst.


....the young maiden prayed to Diana to be saved from the beasts.

Delicate Amethyst Gemstone Necklace by Eluna Jewelry Designs
Delicate Amethyst Gemstone Necklace by Eluna Jewelry Designs | Source

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