- late 14c., poetic for "the evening star," from Latin Hesperus, from Greek hesperos (aster) "western (star)," from PIE *wes-pero- "evening, night" (see vesper). Hence also Hesperides (1590s), from Greek, "daughters of the West," the nymphs (variously numbered but originally three) who tended the garden with the golden apples. Their name has been mistakenly transferred to the garden itself.
The Hesperides were daughters of Atlas, an enormous giant, who, as the ancients believed, stood upon the western confines of the earth, and supported the heavens on his shoulders. Their mother was Hesperis, a personification of the "region of the West," where the sun continued to shine after he had set on Greece, and where, as travellers told, was an abundance of choice delicious fruits, which could only have been produced by a special divine influence. The Gardens of the Hesperides with the golden apples were believed to exist in some island in the ocean, or, as it was sometimes thought, in the islands on the north or west coast of Africa. They were far-famed in antiquity; for it was there that springs of nectar flowed by the couch of Zeus, and there that the earth displayed the rarest blessings of the gods; it was another Eden. As knowledge increased with regard to western lands, it became necessary to move this paradise farther and farther out into the Western Ocean. [Alexander Murray, "Manual of Mythology," 1888]