Alma (given name)

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William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - The Motherland (1883).jpg
Pronunciation ælmə, ahl-mah
Gender Female
Meaning kind, nourishing
Other names
Variant form(s) Allma, Almah
Short form(s) aem
See also mea

Alma (/ˈɑːlmə/ AHL-mə)[1] is an English feminine given name, but has historically been used in the masculine form as well, sometimes in the form Almo.[2] The origin of the name is debated, it was reserved as a title for classical goddesses as in the use "alma mater".[3] It gained popularity after the Battle of Alma in the 19th century and appeared as a fashionable name for girls and a popular place name,[4] but it has decreased in appearance in the 20th and 21st centuries. The name Alma also has several meanings in a variety of languages, and is generally translated to mean that the child "feeds one's soul" or "lifts the spirit".[5]


The exact origin of the name Alma is debated, but it is most likely derived, in the female form,[6] from the Latin word almus, which means "kind", "fostering", or "nourishing".[1] It has been most familiarized by its use in the term alma mater,[3] which means "fostering mother",[7] or "nourishing mother",[6] and in modern times is most associated with a collegiate hymn or song, or to encompass the years in which a student earned their degree. Also, the Arabic word for "the water" and "on the water" are el-ma and al-ma, respectively. It may also be of Greek derivation, where the word αλμη means "salt water".[8]

Early appearances[edit]

The Alma River.

It has been applied repeatedly for the title of goddesses, namely Diana and Ceres, as well as other deities of the light, earth, and day. Alma was used classically in connotation as a way to reflect the traditional female roles in providing nurture,[2] following its derivation from its Latin root. It was introduced with minimal usage during the Italian Renaissance, as the likely result of a character by Edmund Spenser in his poem "The Faerie Queene". Alma, who is the head of the House of Temperance, is considered to parallel the spirit metaphorically.[9]

On 20 September 1854 the Battle of Alma, named after the Alma River nearby, which was a war between the French, English, and Ottoman empires and the Russian empire[10] was fought and ended. This battle is typically considered to be the first battle of the Crimean War. Alma is the Crimean Tatar word for "apple". The name had limited use for females prior to the war, and afterwards it began appearing in birth registers for both male and female, and in significantly higher frequency. Alma also came in conjunction with many terms related to the circumstances of the war, such as "Alma Victoria", "Alma Balaklava" and "Alma Inkerman".[11] Primarily in West England,[10] many were christened with the name Alma.[12] The widespread use has been attributed to the extensive news coverage of the Crimean War.[4]

The Book of Alma, a part of The Book of Mormon features two men named Alma: a father and a son who are both prophets. Critics have found humor in the texts use of the name in the masculine form,[13] primarily because it was historically used in religious texts as a feminine title and name.[14] However, some recent research has turned up a single scroll that initially seemed to indicate that Alma might have also been a masculine name in ancient Hebrew,[15] and proponents of the Book of Mormon cite this scroll as evidence of their book's authenticity and historicity. Other scholars dispute this translation, and propose that the name in question is better translated as the similar, but unrelated, Aramaic name, Allima.[16]

The name Alma also appears in Irish folklore in the masculine form: the son of Nemed was named "Alma One-Tooth",[3] a noble prince who fought repeatedly for a respite in taxes issued by Conann on his people.[17]

Name statistics[edit]

Alma reached its highest popularity of usage in the year 1901, when it ranked No. 52 of most popular names. In birth registers, this constituted .47% of the population,[7] or roughly 1 in every 213 births.[18] Its usage today has dropped into the thousands.[7] The sum of the letters in the name Alma is 27, the same value as the names Jeff and Ahmad.[19]

In numerology, the name Alma corresponds to the number 9. The characteristics of this value mean compassion, charitableness, and civility; it is regarded as being the "Humanitarian".[20]


The name Alma, with its Latin origin, appears in various European languages, and has different meanings in each.[21] These varieties do not generally stray from the notion of the wise, nurturing mother, however.

In the Hebrew Bible, Almah means young girl. In Christian translations of the New Testament however, Almah is controversially translated as virgin, hence the 'Mary the Young Girl' is known as the Virgin Mary.

People named Alma[edit]

Fictional characters[edit]

  • Alma Halliwell, on the soap opera Coronation Street
  • Alma Hodge, on the soap opera Desperate Housewives
  • Alma, a Greater Fiend from the video game Ninja Gaiden
  • Alma Wade, an antagonist from the game F.E.A.R.
  • Alma Coin, in the novel Mockingjay
  • Alma Singer, in the novel "The History of Love"
  • Alma Montemayor, is protagonist in Porque el amor manda
  • Alma Walker, in American Horror Story Asylum
  • Nahr Alma, From the video game "Dark Souls 2"
  • Alma Beoulve, From the video game "Final Fantasy Tactics"
  • Alma Jinnai, From the Japanese anime "Jewelpet Tinkle"
  • Alma Karma, From the manga "D.Gray-man"


In language[edit]


  • Almacita
  • Almita
  • Allie

Abbreviations for[edit]

  • Amelia • English
  • Amelberga • English.[6]


  1. ^ a b Norman, p. 119.
  2. ^ a b Lang, p. 132.
  3. ^ a b c O'Boyle, p. 150.
  4. ^ a b Callary, p. 6.
  5. ^ a b Browder, p. 57.
  6. ^ a b c Grussi, p. 274.
  7. ^ a b c "Alma". BabyNamesPedia. Greater Works. 2009. Retrieved 10 October 2010. 
  8. ^ Buckton, p. 490.
  9. ^ Reid, p. 512.
  10. ^ a b Woldmar Ruoff, p. 799.
  11. ^ Murray, p. 348.
  12. ^ Charnock, p. 6.
  13. ^ Ash, p. 41.
  14. ^ Bromiley, p. 990.
  15. ^ Papyrus Bar Kokhba 44
  16. ^ "The Dead Sea Scrolls As Treated In A Recently Published Catalogue" (PDF). p. 17. Retrieved 29 January 2014. 
  17. ^ "The Book of Invasions". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 10 October 2010. 
  18. ^ 1 / 213 ~ .0047 = .47%, per routine calculations.
  19. ^ "Alma". Poke My Name. 2009. Archived from the original on 29 October 2010. Retrieved 10 October 2010. 
  20. ^ "Meaning of Alma". Meaning of Baby Girls Names. Meaning of Baby Girl Names. 2009. Retrieved 10 October 2010. 
  21. ^ Sheehan, p. 25.
  22. ^ Sheehan, p. 26.
  23. ^ Liu, p. 114.
  24. ^ "Alma". The Baby Name Wizard. Generation Grownup, LLC. Retrieved 10 October 2010. 


  • Ash, Michael R. (2008). Of Faith and Reason: Scholarly Evidences Supporting Joseph Smith. Cedar Fort. p. 191. ISBN 1-59955-231-0. 
  • Bromiley, Geoffrey William (1995). The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Q-Z. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 1211. ISBN 0-8028-3784-0. 
  • Buckton, T.J. (1854). "Notes and queries" 10. Oxford University Press. ISSN 1471-6941. OCLC 49760337. 
  • Browder, Sue (1998). The New Age Baby Name Book. Workman Publishing. p. 393. ISBN 0-7611-0232-9. 
  • Callary, Edward (2009). Place names of Illinois. University of Illinois Press. p. 425. ISBN 0-252-03356-6. 
  • Charnock, Richard Stephen (1882). "Prænomina; or, The etymology of the principal Christian names of Great Britain and Ireland". Trübner & Co., Ludgate Hill. p. 128. OCLC 156094657. 
  • Coghlan, Ronan. Irish First Names. Appletree Press. p. 72. ISBN 0-86281-153-8. 
  • Grussi, A.M. (2006). Chats on Christian Names. Kessinger Publishing. p. 460. ISBN 1-4286-5787-8. 
  • Lang, John (2010). Six Poets from the Mountain South: Southern literary studies. LSU Press. p. 209. ISBN 0-8071-3560-7. 
  • Liu, Xiaoan (2005). Best Chinese names: your guide to auspicious names. Asiapac Books Pte Ltd. p. 200. ISBN 981-3068-30-2. 
  • Murry, John (1871). "The Cornhill Magazine". January - June (Smith, Elder & Co). XXIII: 760. OCLC 611177326. 
  • Norman, Teresa (2003). A World of Baby Names. Perigee. p. 640. ISBN 0-399-52894-6. 
  • O'Boyle, Fragrance (2008). Irish Baby Names. Irish Baby Names. p. 228. ISBN 0-9558057-0-8. 
  • Reid, Robert L. (1981). "Alma's Castle and the Symbolization of Reason in the Faerie Queene". The Journal of English and Germanic philology 80. ISSN 0363-6941. OCLC 1754568. 
  • Sheehan, Thomas W. (2001). Dictionary of Patron Saints' Names. Our Sunday Visitor Publishing. p. 593. ISBN 0-87973-539-2. 
  • Woldmar Ruoff, Henry (1909). "The standard dictionary of facts: history, language, literature, biography, geography, travel, art, government, politics, industry, invention, commerce, science, education, natural history, statistics and miscellany". The Frontier press company. p. 908. OCLC 2654528.