Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Maia

Maia is a name borne from Greco-Roman mythologies. For the Greeks, Maia was one of the seven daughters of Atlas known as the Pleiades who were companions to Artemis, the goddess of the hunt and wilderness. According to mythology, Maia, the eldest of the seven Pleiades, was also the most beautiful – so beautiful she captured the eye of Zeus. Yet also timid and shy, Maia preferred to avoid the company of other gods so when she was impregnated by Zeus she retreated to her grotto on Mt. Cyllene and secretly gave birth to Hermes (the messenger god). The infant crawled away in the middle of the night and stole his half-brother’s (Apollo) cattle. When Apollo told Maia about the theft, she refused to believe him siding with her son Hermes instead. Zeus, however, believed Apollo. The matter was resolved when Apollo accepted the gift of the lyre (which Hermes had created out of a tortoise shell) in exchange for the cattle. The lyre, of course, became an object of great value for Apollo, the god of music and the arts. Maia’s name comes from the Greek μαῖα meaning “midwife” which was essentially a title of respect for an older woman (a “good nursing mother”). It was Maia who raised Arcas, the illegitimate child of Zeus and Callisto, after Zeus’s jealous wife Hera turned Callisto into a bear (the starry constellation). The Greek Olympic gods transformed Maia and her sisters (the Pleiades) into seven bright stars in the night sky in order to protect the nymphs from the advances of Orion. In Roman mythology, Maia was looked upon as an earth goddess and the wife of Vulcan (god of fire); Maia’s name is associated with the Latin “maius” meaning “she who is great”. Many sacrifices were made in her name during the springtime month of May. The ancient Romans paid tribute to Maia in many ways, not the least of which was naming the fifth calendar month after her. In Olde English, the fifth month of the calendar year was originally called “þrimilce” (to indicate the month when a cow could be milked three times a day). By the Middle Ages the word was replaced with the Latin “Maius” via the Old French “Mai” which is how the English finally replaced þrimilce with May (after Maia). Aside from the obvious mythological connection, Maia is also the Basque name for Mary. We would definitely put Maia in our “Cosmopolitan Cool” category. Just look at all the different countries that use the name Maia on a regular basis: New Zealand, Canada, Australia, France, the Faroe Islands, Norway, Sweden, Catalonia, Georgia and Malta. That’s a lot of cross-cultural appeal if you ask us!

All About the Baby Name – Maia

Personality

OF THE GIRL NAME MAIA

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.

Popularity

OF THE GIRL NAME MAIA

This ancient mythological name is actually quite new to the American female naming charts. First appearing in 1996, the name saw immediate advancements up the charts by 1998. From this point on, Maia seems to be parking herself on the charts at levels of mild moderation (i.e., about 400 baby girls per year receive this mythological moniker). The name is used sparingly enough to keep her in the category of original names, but there are a couple off-shoots like Maya, Miah and Miya. Maia is our favorite most classical rendition of the name, and Mae is an obvious nickname. Peaceful, soothing, feminine and pretty, Maia is an all around excellent choice. Maia was known in several mythological variations: the great one, the good mother, the earth mother and the midwife. Quite by coincidence, or perhaps borrowed by the Greeks, Maia was the name of Egyptian King Tutankhamun’s wet-nurse and foster mother (circa 14th century B.C.!). We know this because her tomb was discovered in 1996 by a French archeologist. As the namesake for the month of May, Maia also gives us a sense of renewal and growth. She is also a starry constellation, the third brightest of her seven sister stars in the night sky. And if this isn’t enough, Maia is the name given to Hans Christian Andersen’s delightful little Thumbelina fairytale character after she meets and marries her prince. Do you think it was by accident Andersen chose the name Maia? We think not. Maia becomes Thumbelina’s name after she transforms into her true self and her differences (i.e., her tiny stature; her “grotesque” size) are no longer emphasized. Just as Zeus immediately fell in love with the goddess Maia, so too does the prince with Thumbelina.

Quick Facts

ON MAIA

GENDER:

Girl

ORIGIN:

Greek

NUMBER OF SYLLABLES:

2

RANKING POPULARITY:

639

PRONUNCIATION:

MY-ah; MAY-ah

SIMPLE MEANING:

Great one; Good mother

Characteristics

OF MAIA

Humanitarian

Community-minded

Family-oriented

Loving

Affectionate

Compassionate

Sensitive

Cultural References to the Baby Name – Maia

Literary Characters

OF THE BABY NAME MAIA

Thumbelina is the tiny girl of Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales; her story was one of a few published in 1835 in Fairy Tales Told for Children. Thumbelina is a girl in miniature, born of a barley seed and bedded in a walnut shell. Naturally, she is a magical creature in a slightly hostile world. Her heartthrob is the fairy flower prince, Cornelius, but as is often the way with fairy princes, they aren’t always there when you need them. Thumbelina is kidnapped by a toad who wishes to marry her, and he is joined in that desire by a beetle and a mole – hardly apt companions for our lovely girl. After many an adventure and mishap, Thumbelina is reunited with her prince. At their marriage, she is graced with a pair of wings in order to fly from flower to flower with him, and she receives a new name: Maia. And they live happily ever after, or so we presume – life has to be easier among the flowers than on a lily pad!

Popular Songs

ON MAIA

We cannot find any popular or well-known songs with the name of Maia


Famous People

NAMED MAIA

Maia Chiburdanidze (Georgian chess grandmaster)
Maia Shibutani (figure skater)
Maia (Columbian singer)
Maia Brewton (actress)
Maia Campbell (actress)
Maia Wojciechowska (author)

Children of Famous People

NAMED MAIA

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

Historic Figures

WITH THE NAME MAIA

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