Mary (name)

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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.
Pronunciation /mɛər/
Gender female
Word/name Aramaic and Hebrew via Latin and Greek
Meaning "bitter", "beloved," "rebelliousness," "wished-for child", "marine"
Other names
Related names Mari, Maria, María, Marija, Marya, Mariya, Mariah, Marie, Maryam, Maryām, Mariam, Marold, Marian, Miriam, Myriam, Miryam, Myria, Miria, Mirja, Marion, Muire, Marye, Marya, Mayra, Mayre, Moira, Moyre, Mae, Marnie, Mollie, Molly, Minnie, Polly.

Mary is a feminine given name, the English form of the name Maria, which was in turn a Latin form of the Greek names Μαριάμ, or Mariam, and Μαρία, or Maria, found in the New Testament. Both New Testament names were forms of the Hebrew name מִרְיָם or Miryam.[1]


The usual meaning given by various sources for the name is the Hebrew מרר m-r-r meaning "bitterness" (cf. myrrh). Other meanings suggested include "rebelliousness" (מרי m-r-y), or "wished-for child" or "Our Lady" (ש"ע מריה Sha Mrih) or "beloved lady", referring to the Christian reverence for the Virgin Mary. The Web site Behind the Name notes that the name could also be a name of Egyptian origin, perhaps from the word elements mry, meaning "beloved" or mr, meaning "love".[1] However, surviving Greek papyrus from ancient only attests the Christian usage of this name, as opposed to Jewish, only from the middle of the third century AD onwards.[2]

The name was also considered in the Middle Ages to be connected to the sea and the word mare, as in the term Stella Maris, or "star of the sea," an appellation for the Virgin Mary.[3]


The name has been widely used due to its associations with the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus Christ, and with Saint Mary Magdalene, who was called an apostle to the Apostles.

It was viewed as too holy a name for use in Celtic communities until toward the end of the 15th century, though other forms of the name were used.[4]

The name María, in combination with other names or with titles of the Virgin Mary, has been the most popular in Spanish-speaking countries, much as Marie was popular in combination with other names in French-speaking countries and Mary was popular in combination with other names in English-speaking countries. Maria or Marie is also occasionally used as a middle name for boys in Catholic families as a sign that the child is under the protection of the Virgin Mary.

Though Mary and Marie were the most common forms of the name in English-speaking countries, the name Maria was also in use in England, where it was often given the aristocratic pronunciation of /məˈrə/ prior to the 20th century and inspired the alternate spelling Mariah.[5]

Mariam or Maryām (مريم), an Arabic form, has been a popular name in predominantly Muslim countries due to the respect given to Mary, mother of Jesus, in Islam. Muslim parents want their daughters to be like Mary in her "chastity and demureness," according to a 2006 article.[6]

Miriam, a Hebrew form of the name, has remained well-used among Jews because of the Biblical prophetess Miriam, sister of Moses. The name of Jesus' mother and of the other Marys mentioned in the New Testament was derived from this origin; as the Talmud and other Jewish sources show, it was a common female name in the Jewish society of the First Century, as it remains up to the present. "Miriam" is also in use worldwide among Christians.

Mary was the most popular name for girls in the United States until the 1960s and is still ranked in the top 100 names for girls, though it ranks behind other forms of the name.

Maria was the 54th most popular name for girls born in the United States in 2007; Mariah was the 92nd most popular name for girls born there in 2007 and Mary was the 93rd most popular name for American girls in 2007. Short form Molly was the 97th most popular name for American girls.[7]

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,[9] the 44th most popular name for girls in North Carolina,[10] the 33rd most popular name for girls in South Carolina,[11] and the 26th most popular name for girls in Tennessee.[12]

Mary was the most common name for women and girls in the United States in the 1990 census.[13] It is also still among the top 100 names for baby girls born in Ireland,[1] 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.

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.[14]

People with this given name[edit]



  • Rosenkrantz, Linda and Satran, Pamela Redmond (2005). Beyond Jennifer and Jason, Madison and Montana. St. Martin's Paperbacks, Fourth Edition. 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