Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Greta

Greta is a pet form of Margareta which is a Latinate version of Margaret. Margareta ultimately comes from the Hebrew “margaron” meaning “pearl” so as a short form Greta means “little pearl”. In all of her various linguistic forms, Margaret has become one of the most enduring female names of all time, popularized in the Middle Ages and sustaining strong usage into modern times (like Catherine, Elizabeth and Anna). In medieval times, taking names of popular early saints was common in Europe (particularly France) as a measure of protection for children. St. Margaret was one such saint who lived in the late 3rd and early 4th centuries and was greatly revered in the Middle Ages. Known as Margaret of Antioch or Margaret the Virgin, St. Margaret was born in Antioch (present day Turkey) in the late 3rd century. She was chastised by her father for her Christian beliefs and had the audacity to rebuff a marriage proposal from a powerful Roman governor because this offer came with a demand: renunciation of her faith. She refused. As a result, Margaret was tortured and beheaded. Her legend and cult spread in the Middle Ages which served to popularize her name throughout Europe. According to legend, St. Margaret was swallowed by a dragon but because she had been carrying the cross of Jesus, the dragon spit her out having been irritated by the cross (an ancient form of indigestion perhaps). Margaret is also a name that has spurred several variations, pet forms and nicknames. These include, but are not limited to: Maggie, Madge, Marge, Meg, Megan, Greta, Gretchen, Margot, May, Molly, Peggy, Peg and even Daisy. Greta is primarily considered Swedish and German. The name was mainly popularized in the United States thanks to the iconic actress Greta Garbo (1905-1990). Greta remains heavily used in Sweden, Hungary, Italy and Germany

All About the Baby Name – Greta



Romance is the hallmark of the Six personality. They exude nurturing, loving, and caring energy. Sixes are in love with the idea of love in its idealized form - and with their magnetic personalities, they easily draw people toward them. Like the number Two personality, they seek balance and harmony in their life and the world at large. They are conscientious and service-oriented, and a champion for the underdog. These personalities naturally attract money and are usually surrounded by lovely material objects - but their human relationships are always primary. They thrive in giving back to others rather than being motivated by their own desires. This is when they achieve great things. Sixes are natural teachers, ministers and counselors.



Greta has been around in America since the late 19th century, introduced by German immigrants. The name mostly saw low and/or sporadic usage at the beginning of the 20th century. Then something changed in 1926. Swedish-born actress Greta Garbo first appeared on the American screen that year in a silent film called “Torrent” and immediately audiences across the nation were intrigued. Garbo would go on to become one of the most iconic movie actresses of all time, despite her early retirement and reclusive withdrawal from public life in later years. In the seven years between 1926 and 1932 the magnetic Garbo influenced scores of American parents to name their baby daughters Greta. By the mid-1930s Greta was on her way back down the charts until getting another jolt in the late 1960s (though we’re not sure why) before reversing her course once again. In 1983 Greta fell off the American female naming charts completely, although her hiatus from usage would only last a little more than 15 years before returning once again in 1999. Greta is similar to other Germanic pet forms of Margaret: Gretchen, Grete and Gretal, for instance. Gretchen is the most popular but Greta still has slightly more ethnic currency having been used less. Greta may be experiencing a slight comeback right now, but for the most part the name is currently undervalued and neglected in our opinion. A great choice for old movie buffs, or parents who want to celebrate their Swedish or German heritage. Greta has that rare quality that works perfectly well for any age. It sounds cute and darling for a little girl, and sultry and gorgeous for a grown woman. It’s ethnic, it’s underused, it’s easy to say and easy to spell, and it’s strong and confident. What more can you ask for in a name?

Quick Facts













Little pearl










Cultural References to the Baby Name – Greta

Literary Characters


Greta Ohlsson is a character in Agatha Christie’s 1934 classic Hercule Poirot mystery, Murder on the Orient Express. It was made into a very successful movie in 1974, for which Ingrid Bergman won the Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Greta Ohlsson. Greta is described as a middle-aged Swedish woman who is returning home on vacation from the missionary work she does in Istanbul. She is meek and mild and rather fearful; she is hesitant to put herself forward. But, as with everyone else on that fabled train, Greta has a secret that she is not prone to part with – just yet. In Ingrid Bergman’s capable hands, Greta’s true character comes shining through.

Popular Songs


Just Like Greta
a song by Van Morrison

a song by Widespread Panic

Gotta Get Over Greta
a song by The Nields

Famous People


Greta Garbo (b. Greta Lovisa Gustafsson, actress)
Greta Van Susteren (TV news personality)
Greta Scacchi (actress)

Children of Famous People


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

Historic Figures


Greta Garbo was the Swedish born iconic actress (Greta Lovisa Gustafsson) who was a huge international star in both silents and “talkies”. She was a beautiful and mysterious woman who retired from film at the height of her fame at the age of 37 into a publicized anonymity, declaring (mythically): “I vant to be alone”. And alone she remained, living a quiet life in New York, socializing with friends, entertaining the occasional movie offer, none of which ever made it to completion. A one-time lover of the silent film great, John Gilbert, she never married, had no children and was rumored to have had lesbian relationships. She kept her own counsel about her life and did not welcome curious intrusion into it. Her legacy is on the screen for all to see, and a rich legacy it is. Whether speaking or not, she is luminous and transcendent, a persona for the ages, beautifully packaged into such classics as Camille, Ninotchka and Anna Karenina. In 1999 the American Film Institute named Greta Garbo number five on the list of greatest woman stars of film history – a strong case could be made for giving her first place.