Why March's Full Moon Is the Worm Moon

By: Valerie Stimac  | 
full worm moon, Empire State Building
A full worm moon rises behind the Empire State Building in New York City, March 18, 2022. Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

There always seems to be something interesting happening with the moon in its different phases, including the upcoming full moon in March. In 2023, the full worm moon will occur on March 7 at 7:42 A.M. E.T. (12:42 GMT). Since that's daylight in the Eastern time zone, you may not want to wait until that moment to view it. In fact, the moon will be visible for several days around March 7.

While the full moon might be the most eye-catching phase of the lunar cycle, there are actually eight moon phases in total: new, waxing crescent, first quarter, waxing gibbous, full, waning gibbous, third quarter and waning crescent (before returning to new moon again). These depend on the position of the moon in relation to Earth and the sun. A full moon occurs when the moon is exactly on the opposite side of Earth from the sun.


You may have heard March's full moon called a worm moon and wondered why full moons even have nicknames. Below you'll learn fascinating facts about the worm moon, the origins of this nickname, plus some other names for it.

How the Worm Moon Got Its Name

Many of the nicknames of each month's full moon (like the cold moon and the hunter's moon) come from natural events that occur during that time of year. While it was long thought that the March full moon took its name from an event which often occurs during this season — earthworms coming up out of the thawing ground at the beginning of spring — it turns out that the worm moon name has a specific origin.

According to the Old Farmer's Almanac, in the 1760s, Captain Jonathan Carver visited the Naudowessie (Dakota) and other Native American tribes; during his travels, he wrote that the name "worm moon" referred to a different sort of "worm" (beetle larvae) which begins to emerge from the thawing bark of trees and other winter hideouts as the snowy season draws to a close.


March's Moon Has Many Names

jet, full moon
A jet flies northbound as the nearly full worm moon rises March 8, 2020, in Washington, D.C. Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post via Getty Images

But there are other nicknames for the March moon. Most are inspired by nature and originate from Native American groups that European explorers encountered while traveling across North America.

Several of the nicknames for the March full moon come from the return or reappearance of certain animals, including the:


  • crow comes back moon or just crow moon (Northern Ojibwe)
  • eagle moon
  • goose moon (Algonquin, Cree)

Others nicknames refer to different natural events, including the:

  • crust moon: correlates with snow cover becoming crusted when it falls by day and freezes at night
  • sore eyes moon (Dakota, Lakota, Assiniboine): highlights the bright sunlight that reflects off melting snow in late winter
  • sugar moon (Ojibwe): marks the time of year when the sap of sugar maple trees starts to flow
  • wind strong moon (Pueblo): refers to the windy days that come at this time of year

The March full moon can have one more nickname, depending on which part of the month it occurs in: If the moon reaches its full phase before the spring equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, it's called the "Lenten moon." If the moon is full after the spring equinox, it's called the "Paschal full moon." These names have Christian origins, as those observing the season of Lent may guess.