Mary /ˈmɛəˌri/ is a feminine given name, the English form of the name Maria, which was in turn a Latin form of the Greek name Μαρία, María or Μαριάμ, Mariam, found in the Septuagint and New Testament. The latter reflects the original Hebrew pronunciation of the name מרים (Masoretic pronunciation Miryam), as attested by the Septuagint. The vowel "a" in a closed unaccented syllable later became "i", as seen in other names such as "Bil'am" (Balaam) and "Shimshon" (Samson).

The Glorification of Mary by Botticelli. The reverence for Mary, the mother of Jesus, is in large part responsible for the use of the name Mary and its variants.
Name daySeptember 12
Word/nameAramaic and Hebrew via Latin and Greek
Meaning"bitter", "beloved", "rebelliousness", "wished-for child", "marine", "drop of the sea"
Other names
Related namesMaria, Marie, (and variant)


The name may have originated from the Egyptian language; it is likely derivative of the root mr, meaning "love; beloved"[1] (compare mry.t-ymn, "Merit-Amun", i.e. "beloved of Amun").

The name was early etymologized as containing the Hebrew root mr, meaning "bitter" (cf. myrrh), or mry, meaning "rebellious". St. Jerome (writing c. 390), following Eusebius of Caesarea, translates the name as "drop of the sea" (stilla maris in Latin), from the Hebrew מר, mar, 'drop' (cf. Isaiah 40:15)[2] and ים, yam, 'sea'.

This translation was subsequently rendered stella maris ("star of the sea") due to scribal error, whence Our Lady's title Star of the Sea.[1]

Rashi, an 11th-century Jewish commentator on the Bible, wrote that the name was given to the sister of Moses because of the Egyptians' harsh treatment of Jews in Egypt. Rashi wrote that the Israelites lived in Egypt for 210 years, including 86 years of cruel enslavement that began at the time Moses' elder sister was born. Therefore, the girl was called Miriam, because the Egyptians made life bitter (מַר, mar) for her people.[3]


Modern given names derived from Aramaic Maryam are frequent in Christian culture, as well as, due to the Quranic tradition of Mary, extremely frequently given in Islamic cultures.[4]

Possible use of Maria as a Christian given name is recorded for the third century.[5]

The English form Mary arises by adoption of French Marie into Middle English.

Wycliffe's Bible still has Marie, with the modern spelling current from the 16th century, found in the Tyndale Bible (1525), Coverdale Bible (1535) and later translations.

The name Maria was also given in Great Britain, with the traditional pronunciation of /məˈraɪə/ (occasionally reflected in the spelling variant Mariah).[year needed][6]

Mary is still among the top 100 names for baby girls born in Ireland,[7] common amongst Christians there and also popularised amongst Protestants specifically, with regard to Queen Mary II, co-monarch and wife of William III. Mary was the 179th most popular name for girls born in England and Wales in 2007, ranking behind other versions of the name.

In the United States, Mary was consistently the most popular name for girls from 1880 until 1961. It first fell below the top 100 most popular names in 2009. By contrast, the latinate (especially Spanish) form Maria rose into the top 100 in 1944, peaking at rank 31 in the 1970s, but also falling below rank 100 once again in 2012.

The name Mary remains more popular in the Southern United States than elsewhere in the country. Mary was the 15th most popular name for girls born in Alabama in 2007,[8] the 22nd most popular name for girls born in Mississippi in 2007,[8] the 44th most popular name for girls in North Carolina,[8] the 33rd most popular name for girls in South Carolina,[8] and the 26th most popular name for girls in Tennessee.[8]

Mary was still the most common name for women and girls in the United States in the 1990 census.[9]

Mariah had a short-lived burst of popularity after 1990, when singer Mariah Carey first topped the charts, peaking at rank 62 in 1998.[10]

Molly, a pet form, was ranked as the 29th most popular name there and spelling variant Mollie at No. 107; Maria was ranked at No. 93; Maryam was ranked at No. 116 as of 2007.[11]


Biblical figuresEdit


Non-royal aristocratsEdit


See alsoEdit



  1. ^ a b A. Maas, "The Name of Mary", The Catholic Encyclopedia (1912), citing Fr. von Hummelauer (in Exod. et Levit., Paris, 1897, p. 161)
  2. ^ Isaiah 40:15
  3. ^ Rashi. "Commentary on Shir Hashirim (Song of Songs)". p. 2:13. "From the time that Miriam was born, the Egyptians intensified the bondage upon Israel; therefore, she was called Miriam, because they made it bitter (מַר) for them."
  4. ^ Patrick Hanks, Kate Hardcastle and Flavia Hodges (2006). A Dictionary of First Names. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198610602.
  5. ^ See Iain Gardner, Alanna Nobbs and Malcolm Choat, "P. Harr. 107: Is This Another Greek Manichaean Letter?" Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, 131 (2000), pp. 120f. JSTOR 20190663.
  6. ^ Wallace (2004)
  7. ^ Campbell, Mike. "Meaning, origin and history of the name Mary". Behind the Name. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  8. ^ a b c d e OACT. "Popular Baby Names". Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  9. ^ Campbell, Mike. "Popularity for the name Mary". Behind the Name. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  10. ^ Campbell, Mike. "Popular Names in the United States". Behind the Name. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  11. ^ Baby Planners[permanent dead link]

General sourcesEdit

  • Rosenkrantz, Linda and Satran, Pamela Redmond (2005). Beyond Jennifer and Jason, Madison and Montana, Fourth Edition. St. Martin's Paperbacks. ISBN 0-312-94095-5.
  • Todd, Loreto (1998). Celtic Names for Children. Irish American Book Company. ISBN 0-9627855-6-3.
  • Wallace, Carol (2004). The Penguin Classic Baby Name Book. Penguin. ISBN 0-14-200470-7.
  • Wood, Jamie Martinez (2001). ¿Cómo te llamas, Baby? Berkley. ISBN 0-425-17959-1.