Corfu is mentioned frequently in Greek mythology . The modern Greek name Kerkyra comes from the nymph who was the daughter of the river-god Asopos. Posideon, the god of the sea fell in love with her and made love to her on the island, giving birth to the race of the Phaeacians. The name is also possibly linked to the demonic deity Gorgyra or Gorgo, whose image was found on a pediment of the Archaic Artemis temple. The more recent name Corfu is a corruption of koryphi, which means peak, after the summit on which the Byzantines began building a castle early in the 7th century, and where the main town was later re-established.

The name Kerkyra is only used in Greece; to the rest of the world the island is known as Corfu, though the town is universally called Kérkyra by preference. In The Odyssey , the shipwrecked hero Odysseus is washed ashore with the help of the goddess Athena and awakens to the laughter of princess Nausikaa and her friends washing clothes in a nearby stream (widely thought to be somewhere on the northwest coast, possibly at modern Érmones). They bring him to the Phaeacian Palace and after revealing his identity to King Alkinoös he is given a ship to take him safely back to Ithaka. However during the return trip the Phaeacian ship is turned to stone by Posideon, still enraged because Odysseus’ men had blinded Poseidon’s son the Cylcops, in revenge for the Phaeacians helping Odysseus .