Meaning and Origin of the Name Mary

By: Cleveland Kent Evans

English form of Hebrew Miriam, meaning unknown; "beloved" or "child we wished for" are possibilities. Mary is the most popular name for girls in European history because it is revered as the name of the mother of Jesus, the Virgin Mary. In England, two ruling Queens have been named Mary. Mary I, also known as Bloody Mary, was the first daughter of Henry VIII. Mary II deposed her father, James II, in the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688 and ruled with her husband, William III. The College of William and Mary in Virginia, the second oldest college in the United States, is named after them.

Mary Shelley, wife of poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, created the most popular monster in the history of literature in her novel Frankenstein. A magical English nanny named Mary Poppins, played by Julie Andrews in the popular movie, is a favorite in children's literature. Mary was the number-one name in the United States until 1948, but has steadily waned in popularity. In England and Wales, Mary hasn't been among the top 100 names since 1970.


Famous names: Mary J. Blige (R&B singer), Mary Cassatt (artist), Mary Tyler Moore (actress), Mary Wollstonecraft (political philosopher)

Nicknames: Mame, Mamie, Mar, Mare, Mayme, Moll, Mollie, Molly, Poll, Polly

Other spelling: Mari

Variations of Mary: Maara (Finnish), Mair (Welsh), Maire (Irish Gaelic), Mairi (Scots Gaelic), Malia (Hawaiian), Malkin, Manette (French), Manica (Slovenian), Manon (French), Marella, Marelle, Maretta, Marette, Maria (Italian, Latin, and Spanish), Mariam (Arabic), Marica, Marie (French), Mariel, Mariella (Italian), Marietta, Mariette, Marika, Marinka, Marion (French), Mariquita (Spanish), Mariska (Slavic), Marita (Spanish), Marite, Marya, Maryam (Arabic), Maryse (French), Masha (Russian), Maura, Maureen (Irish), May, Mears (Irish), Minnie (Scottish), Miren (Basque), Miriam, Moira (Irish), Moire (Scots Gaelic), Moya (Irish), Muire (Gaelic)

See more Irish names.