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There are not a huge number of symbolic names in Star Wars, but there are some. The most obvious is "Endor," which shares the name with the forest where King Saul went to consult with a witch. "Hoth" may be another example. (See below).

To a German speaker, "Alderaan" also seems to have a straightforward etymology. "Alder" means "eagle" in German, and the eagle has strong connotations of freedom in America. For a long time, I figured that this was all there was to the name "Alderaan." However I recently noticed that "Alderangriff" (meaning "eagle attack") was the code name used by the Nazis for the beginning of the Battle of Britain, the largest air battle in history, in which the Luftwaffe's goal was to devastate Britain entirely from the air. This sound not dissimilar to the was that the planet Alderaan was destroyed from space. There is also evidence of other Nazi-inspired planetary names in the original Star Wars films; Hermann Hoth was a German general, best known for commanding Operation Winter Storm ("Unternehmen Wintergewitter") during the Battle of Stalingrad.

Especially to somebody who does not speak German, it might seem natural to split "Alderangriff" as "Alderan-Griff," rather than the correct "Alder-Angriff." I don't know anything about the German language skills of George Lucas or the people on his production staff. So is there any information about how exactly the name "Alderaan" was selected for Leia's home planet?

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    In English the planet's name is spelled "Alderaan." Is it spelled differently in German materials? – ApproachingDarknessFish Apr 10 '18 at 23:46
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    There were a lot of raans around, and the planet was named after them. – Matt Gutting Apr 10 '18 at 23:56
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    I always imagined it was a misspelling of the real star Aldebaran. – Daniel Roseman Apr 11 '18 at 0:33
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    It's worth noting that through the various script revisions before the 1977 release, Alderaan was the galactic capital; Leia was from Organa Major; and the planet that got blown up was Utupau, Ophuchi, or Aquilae - so linking the fact the planet was blown up with a Luftwaffe plan for aerial bombardment as inspiration doesn't quite work – HorusKol Apr 11 '18 at 4:26
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    Adler , not "Alder" is German for Eagle – Clint Eastwood Apr 11 '18 at 14:35
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I could not find references about this planet's name on Wikipedia and on Wookieepedia, so I don't have a final word about it.

About the German influence

Your premise that there could be an influence from the German language does not seem to be correct: Eagle translates in German with Adler, not Alder, and consequently the name of the war operation was Adlerangriff, not Alderangriff (wikipedia).

Also, like you correctly pointed out, this is a composed word, made of "Adler (Eagle) + Angriff (Attack)", so even the supposed root Adleran is not existent in German.

They might sound similar on a certain way, but if you consider the correct spelling, it seems unlikely that this could be a direct reference.


In-universe possible explanation

According to Wikipedia,

The capital town of Aldera, known for its university, was built on a small island in the center of a caldera.

So at least from an in-universe point of view, it seems that the city of Aldera was named after its geographical location inside a Caldera, and probably the planet was named after the city itself.


Inspiration from real star names and other astronomical terms

A pretty large share of star's proper names come from Arabic language, and that the Al- prefix that many of them share simply means The in that language. So you end in having a lot of stars whose names start with Al- and share the same exotic Arabic sound, here are some examples:

Aldebaran - Alderamin - Alnitak - Alnilam - Altair - Alpheratz, just to name some of the most known ones.

It is possible that the name Alderaan was entirely invented, and that it was chosen because it sounded like a real star without referencing anything in particular.

My personal opinion is that this planet's name was based on the real star Aldebaran, the reddish main star of the Taurus constellation; it is one of the brightest star as visible from Earth, and was very known and recognizable since ancient times.

Another possible source from real astronomy might come from Al-Dhira' (also spelled Alderaan, Al-Dhirá'án, Aldryan), an asterism composed of the two pairs of stars α and β Canis Minoris (Procyon and Gomeisa) and α and β Geminorum (Castor and Pollux).

Despite this name being more closely resemblant to Star Wars' Planet than Aldebaran, this asterism is far less known and has a much less relevance in astronomy and history of astronomy, so it is possible that this is just a coincidence.

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    You might also want to note that there is a star called Alderaan. – Valorum Apr 11 '18 at 12:39
  • Thank you, I was not aware of this. If you are referencing to this, to be precise it is not exactly a single star but an asterims (basically an "unofficial" constellation) – Sekhemty Apr 11 '18 at 12:47
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    Wouldn't it make more sense for the city to be named after the planet than the other way around? – Rogue Jedi Apr 11 '18 at 13:58
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    Not necessarily, many states took their names from their capital city, the main example being the Roman Empire. – Sekhemty Apr 11 '18 at 14:02

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