Miriam (given name)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Maryam and Moses painting.jpg
Modern image of Miriam with her infant brother Moses.
Gender female
Word/name Hebrew
Meaning unknown; various
Other names
Nickname(s) Mimi, Miri, Mim
Related names Maria, Mariamne, Mary, Maryam, Mira, Miryam, and Mary

Miriam is an ancient female Hebrew given name (מִרְיָם) that has taken on many other forms in other languages and cultures, including the English name Mary.

Origin and variants[edit]

Its earliest appearance in writing may be in the biblical Book of Exodus, in which the elder sister of Moses is called Miriam.

The origin of the Hebrew: מִרְיָם, Modern Miryam, Tiberian Miryām is not clear. It may mean "wished-for child", "bitter", "rebellious" or "strong waters". Alternatively, bearing in mind that many Levite names are Egyptian, it might be derived from an Egyptian word myr "beloved" or mr "love".[1][2] A more convoluted Christian interpretation of the name's variant form Maryam led[citation needed] to its translation as "drop of the sea" ("Stilla Maris" in Latin), and due to a copying error further to "star of the sea" or "Stella Maris"; alternatively, the same understanding might have been reached directly through association with מאור (ma'or), "star" (see Our Lady, Star of the Sea).

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 two hundred ten years, including eighty-six 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]

Mary, the mother of Jesus, bore a Judeo-Aramaic variant of this name, Maryām (מרים). In the New Testament of the Bible, written in Greek, her name is transformed to Mariam (Μαριάμ) or Maria. Several other women in the New Testament, including Mary Magdalene, are called by the same name.

Because of Mary's great significance to two other world religions, variants of her name are often given to girl children in both Christian and Islamic cultures. In the Quran, Mary's name assumed the Arabic form Maryam (مريم), which has also passed into other languages. The Greek variant Maria passed into Latin and many modern European languages.

Variants of the name include Mary, Myriam, Mirjam, Maria, Mariam, Mira and Miri. In Israel, "Mimi" is a common diminutive.[4]

Notable people named Miriam[edit]

Notable people named Myriam[edit]

Fictional characters[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Behind the Name: Mary
  2. ^ Meaning, origin and etymology of the name Miriam, Abarim Publications
  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. ^ Dan Isaac Slobin, The Crosslinguistic Study of Language Acquisition, p.342