The origin of the Parthenon's name is from the Greek word "παρθενών" (parthenon), which referred to the "unmarried women's apartments" in a house and in the Parthenon's case seems to have been used at first only for a particular room of the temple; it is debated which room this is and how the room acquired its name. The Liddell-Scott-Jones Greek-English Lexicon states that this room was the western cella of the Parthenon. Jamauri D. Green holds that the parthenon was the room in which the peplos presented to Athena at the Panathenaic Festival was woven by the arrephoroi, a group of four young girls chosen to serve Athena each year. Christopher Pelling asserts that Athena Parthenos may have constituted a discrete cult of Athena, intimately connected with, but not identical to, that of Athena Polias. According to this theory, the name of Parthenon means the "temple of the virgin goddess" and refers to the cult of Athena Parthenos that was associated with the temple. The epithet parthénos (Greek: παρθένος), whose origin is also unclear,meant "maiden, girl", but also "virgin, unmarried woman" and was especially used for Artemis, the goddess of wild animals, the hunt, and vegetation, and for Athena, the goddess of strategy and tactics, handicraft, and practical reason. It has also been suggested that the name of the temple alludes to the maidens (parthenoi), whose supreme sacrifice guaranteed the safety of the city.
The first instance in which Parthenon definitely refers to the entire building is found in the 4th-century BC orator Demosthenes. In 5th-century building accounts, the structure is simply called ho naos ("the temple"). The architects Mnesikles and Callicrates are said to have called the building Hekatompedos ("the hundred footer") in their lost treatise on Athenian architecture, and, in the 4th century and later, the building was referred to as the Hekatompedos or the Hekatompedon as well as the Parthenon; the 1st-century AD writer Plutarch referred to the building as the Hekatompedon Parthenon.