Alma (given name)

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William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - The Motherland (1883).jpg
Pronunciationælmə, ahl-mah
Meaningkind, nourishing,
Other names
Variant form(s)Allma, Almah
Short form(s)aem
See alsomea

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]

In the Book of Mormon, a collection of fifteen books first published in 1830 that is regarded as scripture by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Alma is given as the name of two characters—a father and his son. The characters are marked by a love for and service of God and appear in the Book of Mosiah and in the Book of Alma.

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.[13]

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.[14] Its usage today has dropped into the thousands.[7]

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".[15]


The name Alma, with its Latin origin, appears in various European languages, and has different meanings in each.[16] These varieties do not generally stray from the notion of the wise, nurturing mother, however.

In the Hebrew Bible, Almah means maiden - a young girl or a young woman. In the Septuagint, the word is often rendered as parthenos ('virgin'), most famously in Isaiah 7:14, which is quoted in Matthew 1:23 as a prophecy about Jesus being born of the Virgin Mary.




  • Alma Richards (1890–1963), American Latter-day Saint high jumper
  • Alma Sonne (1884–1977), American Latter-day Saint general authority
  • Alma O. Taylor (1882–1947), American Latter-day Saint missionary and translator

Fictional characters[edit]


In language[edit]


  • Almacita
  • Almachka (In Hungarian, Almácska)
  • Almita
  • Allie
  • Almalito
  • Almi
  • Almeezy
  • Almizle
  • Ali[19]
  • Alloom (In Arabic)
  • Allooma (In Arabic)
  • Al
  • Lama

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. ^ "The Book of Invasions". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 10 October 2010.
  14. ^ 1 / 213 ~ .0047 = .47%, per routine calculations.
  15. ^ "Meaning of Alma". Meaning of Baby Girls Names. Meaning of Baby Girl Names. 2009. Retrieved 10 October 2010.
  16. ^ Sheehan, p. 25.
  17. ^ Sheehan, p. 26.
  18. ^ Liu, p. 114.
  19. ^ "Alma". The Baby Name Wizard. Generation Grownup, LLC. Retrieved 10 October 2010.


  • 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. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  • Browder, Sue (1998). The New Age Baby Name Book. Workman Publishing. pp. 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: 128. OCLC 156094657. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  • 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 (January–June 1871). The Cornhill Magazine. Smith, Elder & Co. XXIII: 760. OCLC 611177326. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  • Norman, Teresa (2003). A World of Baby Names. Perigee. pp. 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: 908. OCLC 2654528. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)