Kal-El is Superman's Kryptonian name. "Kal" means child and "El" means Star, hence Kal-El literally means "star child", a fitting moniker for someone who was put on a rocket ship bound for Earth. Landing safely in the farming community of Smallville, Kal-El was rescued and raised by the Kents, who named their little boy Clark.

In Kryptonian society, descendence and inheritance favoured the father's side rather than the mother's side.  The names of most - but by no means all - Kryptonian males were duosyllabic, with the first syllable being the given name, the second the surname. Also, most men use hyphenated names, like Jor-El (Superman's father). Kryptonian females were given a special feminine first name which would be followed by her father's name (or, when she got married, her husbands name). Thus Kal-El's mother was Lara Jor-El.

Many of the most revered figures in Kryptonian history were members of the House of El and were, therefore, ancestors of Superman (who is part of 23rd generation of the House of El). Among them were Val-El, who launched his planet's Age of Exploration and discovered islands and continents; Sul-El, who invented Krypton's first telescope and charted many far off stars, including Earth's sun; Tala-El, a great lawyer and statesman who authored Krypton's planet-wide constitution; and Hatu-El, who discovered the nature of electricity, proved that lightning was electrical, and invented Krypton's first electric motor.