Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Alma

Alma is a female given name with quite an interesting story. In 1854, during the Crimean Wars, the combined British-French army won an important victory against Russian troops on the banks of the Alma River in Crimea (which is located on the northern Black Sea and attached to the Ukraine). This event was known as the Battle of Alma as the Anglo-French forces sought to obstruct Russia’s attempt to position themselves strategically in the Black Sea. The Ottoman Empire was in serious decline at this point, and Russia saw an opportunity to exploit this fact to their advantage. France and England, however, fearing an imbalance of European military power, declared war on Russia and joined the Turks. The River Alma’s name is said to come from the Crimean Tatar (Turkic) word for "apple". Alma became a popular girl’s name in the UK as a result of the extensive news coverage describing the Battle of Alma (it was also used as a masculine name, sometimes in the form of Almo). Even a popular folk ballad was written to celebrate the mêlée called “The Heights of Alma”. Aside from this warfare connection, Alma has other etymologies. For instance, the title “alma mater” (nourishing mother) was given to Roman goddesses, from “almus” (nourishing) and “mater” (mother); the British started using the title in the early 18th century to describe where one went to university. Also, Alma is a name favored among Spanish speakers since it’s the Spanish vocabulary word for “soul” (also from the Latin “almus” meaning “nourishing”). Lastly, Alma is the name of a character in Edmund Spenser’s great epic Middle English poem “The Faerie Queene” (1590): “For she was faire, as faire mote euer bee, / And in the flowre now of her freshest age; / Yet full of grace and goodly modestee, / That euen heauen reioyced her sweete face to see” (Book II, canto ix). The character of Alma represents the soul/spirit who presides over the House of Temperance because, as Spenser says, “Of all Gods workes, which do this world adorne, / There is no one more faire and excellent, / Then is mans body both for powre and forme, / Whiles it is kept in sober gouernment.” From this perspective, Alma could be considered a name for teetotalers! In summary, Alma is a multifaceted name which has been in use since the late Middle Ages, first inspired by Spenser and then inspired by the Battle of Alma (which did even more to popularize this name among English-speakers). The Spanish embrace the name in honor of the beautiful baby girls that lift their spirits and “nourish” their “souls”. Alma is currently most popular in the Scandinavian nations of Denmark, Sweden and Norway. It’s also a Top 100 in Spain and Catalonia. Not only that, but Alma is a female name favored by Croatians and Philippinos, as well. We’d say this simple, unassuming and “soulful” name is quite the cosmopolitan gal. Who would have thunk?

All About the Baby Name – Alma



The number Nine personality represents the completion or ending of the cycle, and a need for perfection. This is the personality that moves from "self" to a greater understanding and compassion for the human condition and the world order. They want to make the world a better place. Nines are capable of great spiritual and humanitarian achievements. They are courageous and fearless, able to fight great battles on behalf of worthy causes. These personalities will not tolerate injustice. They are compassionate people with a strong sensitivity to others. They are able to both educate and inspire. Friendships and relationships are the lifeblood to the Nine, and they place a high value on love and affection. Nines are often exceptionally gifted artistically, and they have a keen imagination and enterprising mind.



Alma was a Top 100 favorite girl’s name from the late 1880s all the way up through 1928. The highest ranking this name achieved on the American female naming charts in the 20th century was position #52 in 1901. In other words, Alma was a “turn-of-the-century” favorite. Fast-forward to the 21st century and you'll find Alma far from her former glory days. From the 1930s onward, Alma experienced a slow and steady decline on the charts. It appeared as if she was leveling off around the middle of the charts in the 70s, 80s and 90s but has since taken a turn for the worse as we’ve crossed the threshold into the 21st century. Her drops in popularity have become more pronounced since 2001 and now she’s dangerously close to retreating off the charts completely. Needless to say, Alma is not one of the darlings of the early 20th century that’s enjoying a comeback today (like Sophia, Olivia and Emma for instance). For most parents today, Alma is considered too grandmotherly for their tastes (like Gladys or Myrtle). Or perhaps parents don’t like the associations with modern literary characters Alma Del Mar from “Brokeback Mountain” (the forlorn wife of a gay man) or Alma Coin from “The Hunger Games” trilogy (the power-mongering President of District 13). Regardless of anyone else's opinion, we have the final word on Alma: this girl’s got “soul”.

Quick Facts













Apple; The soul, nourishing










Cultural References to the Baby Name – Alma

Literary Characters


Alma Mereminski Moritz and Alma Singer are two characters in Nicole Krauss’ 2005 novel, The History of Love: A Novel. Alma M. is a young Jewish woman involved with Leo Gursky in pre World War II Poland. She is sent by her father to the United States to escape the encroachment of Nazi Germany, and within her she takes her and Leo’s unborn child. After living through the horrors of the war, Leo immigrates to America, only to find that Alma has married, thinking him lost. Leo retreats, worshipping his son from afar, who grows up to be a famous author. Sixty years into the present, young Alma Singer, a fourteen-year old girl whose father has just died and whose mother is lost in depression, finds her own fate interwoven with that of the old man Leo’s. The impact of the two Almas upon Leo and the undeniable binding power of love, whether lost or regained, make for a riveting experience.

Alma is a rather minor character in Edmund Spenser’s epic allegorical (but incomplete) poem, The Faerie Queen, first published in 1590, with a second part published in 1596, and written in honor of Queen Elizabeth I. Alma appears in Book II as the head of the House of Temperance, and represents the life of the spirit. The knights Arthur, Guyon and Palmer drive off a band of “idle shades” who are attacking Alma’s castle, and are invited in to dine with her as a result. She gives them the royal tour, as well as entrée to her library, where they are introduced to the virtues of the contemplative life as well as to the history and lineage of Britain, extolling the forbears of Spenser’s queen, Elizabeth. In the morning, Guyon and Palmer go on further adventures, while Arthur is set upon by more shadowy figures of sins, including the two hags, Impotence and Impatience (what a pairing!). Arthur manages to fight them off, they kill themselves, and Arthur returns to the castle to be tended to by Alma. Poor Alma is pretty busy for a minor character – we’re thinking it will be sometime before she answers that palace door again.

Childrens Books


We cannot find any childrens books with the first name Alma

Popular Songs


El Alma al Aire
a song by Alejandro Sanz

Palabras del Alma
a song by Marc Anthony

Alma Matters
a song by Morrissey

Alma Adentro
a song by Linda Ronstadt

The Heights of Alma
a song by Donovan

Famous People


Alma Mahler (European socialite)
Alma Reville (wife of Alfred Hitchcock)
Alma Gluck (American opera singer)

Children of Famous People


We cannot find any children of famous people with the first name Alma

Historic Figures


We cannot find any historically significant people with the first name Alma