Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Mary

Mary comes to the English language via the Latin Maria by way of the French form Marie. Ultimately, all of these names are derived from the Hebrew Miriam (Miryam), which is believed to have been an Egyptian name originally, derived from the element “mry” meaning ‘beloved’. There are other unproven theories as to the name’s etymology, including ‘rebelliousness’ and ‘wished for child’. One of the most commonly accepted meanings for the name (drop of the sea) comes from the Latin “stilla maris” which was later altered to “stella maris” meaning ‘star of the sea’. This was developed by St. Jerome in the 4th century in reference to the Virgin Mary; St. Jerome was Roman citizen considered a foremost “Doctor of the Church” and theologian. Mary is most associated as the mother of Jesus, but Mary Magdalene was another important New Testament character (the French created Madeline to differentiate this Mary from the Virgin Mother). In the Christian church (particularly with Catholics), no other woman is venerated more than Mary – so much so that her name was considered too holy for use during some periods of history. However, by the Middle Ages, Mary was extremely common throughout Europe and actively used within all socio-economic levels of society. In England, the name has been in use since the 12th century. By the 16th century, Mary was the most common name in England and gave birth to a few pet forms (Moll, Molly, May). Marie (French) and Maria (Latin) are also readily used among English speakers. Like John as her male counterpart, you’d be hard pressed to find a female name more successful throughout English history as Mary.

All About the Baby Name – Mary

Personality

OF THE GIRL NAME MARY

The Three energy is powerful and enthusiastic. These personalities are cheerful, full of self-expression, and often quite emotional. They have an artistic flair and "gift-of-gab" that makes them natural entertainers. Their joyfulness bubbles over, and their infectious exuberance draws a crowd. The Three personality is like a child - forever young and full of delight. They are charming, witty, and generally happy people. The Three personality lives in the "now" and has a spontaneous nature. Threes seem to live with a bright and seemingly unbreakable aura that attracts others to them. In turn, they are deeply loyal and loving to their friends and family. Luck also has a tendency to favor number Threes.

Popularity

OF THE GIRL NAME MARY

The United States government only began tracking naming trends since 1880. In that year, Mary was the #1 name in America. Furthermore, from 1880 all the way through 1946, the name kept hold of that honor. In 1947, Linda usurped Mary for the coveted top spot which she retained until 1953 when Mary once again became the #1 most commonly used girl’s name. In 1962, Mary once again lost the highest position, this time to Lisa. Mary would never again regain the #1 spot on the U.S. popularity charts through today. She held onto a position on the Top 10 until 1972 and finally fell off the Top 100 list in 2009. But what a ride Mary has enjoyed for so long! Today, many parents consider this name old-fashioned, commonplace and perhaps a little dull. Almost everyone would agree, however, that Mary is a timeless name. It’s both sweet and pretty and goes well in combination with several other names such as: Mary Katherine, Mary Elizabeth, Mary Kate, Mary Lou, Mary Jane, and Mary Louise. Mary, Marie and Maria are also names too important within Christianity to venture too far down the list. Like Catherine, Anne, Elizabeth or Emily – Mary is a beautiful choice loaded with interesting namesakes, religious importance, and/or a certain genteel timelessness. Traditional? Yes. But ‘beloved’ in so many ways. There is just Something About Mary.

Quick Facts

ON MARY

GENDER:

Girl

ORIGIN:

English

NUMBER OF SYLLABLES:

2

RANKING POPULARITY:

121

PRONUNCIATION:

MER-ee or MAIR-ee

SIMPLE MEANING:

Beloved, Drop of the sea, Star of the sea

Characteristics

OF MARY

Communicative

Creative

Optimistic

Popular

Social

Dramatic

Happy

Cultural References to the Baby Name – Mary

Literary Characters

OF THE BABY NAME MARY

Mary Frances or “Francie” as she’s called is the sensitive and imaginative young protagonist in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, the 1943 novel by Betty Smith, which was also made into a movie in 1945. The book traces her coming of age as the daughter of an Irish-American family living in near poverty in Brooklyn in the early 20th century. Their life is hardscrabble, tenuously held together by the mother’s fierce determination to make life better for her children and the father’s dreamy, alcohol-fueled, well-meaning benevolence. Mother is a janitress; Father is an occasional singing waiter. Their daughter, like the tenacious tree that grows and thrives in the cement of the squalid street, is able to rise above all of the obstructions life sets before her. She never becomes bitter or cynical about her plight, rather, she chooses to see the wonder of common, everyday delights, and she perseveres on her path with calm and proud certainty. She observes, she learns, and most importantly, she loves.

Aimee is the titular character of the book "Aimee" by Mary Beth Miller. Aimee's dead, and everyone believes that her best friend helped her commit suicide. After Aimee dies, after the trial, after the move to the new town, she's completely alone-paralyzed by he loneliness, guilt and anger at everyone's suppression of the truth. Isolated, she writes in her journal, and gradually lets readers into her world. A world where parents don't listen, therapists don't help, and best friends betray you. In the end, she realizes that while she never could have saved Aimee, she might be able to save herself.

Mary Ingalls is the older sister of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the author of the classic “Little House” series of books about a close knit family’s struggles and successes in the American Midwest of the 19th century. In the very popular television adaptation of the 1970s, Mary Ingalls was portrayed by Melissa Sue Anderson. Mary became blind at the age of 14, most likely due to scarlet fever. In the fictionalized television series, Mary goes to school for the blind, meets and marries a handsome young man, and they open their own school for blind children. The “real” Mary, too, attended a seven year course of study at the Iowa College for the Blind, but she returned home and lived with her parents until their deaths. No handsome spouse in the cards for her. Her career was a little less lofty as well, for she made fly nets for horses. She did, however, contribute to the often struggling family’s income, and she was most certainly an inspiration to her younger sister.

Mary Lennox is the ten year old girl at the center of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1911 children’s classic, The Secret Garden. Born in India to rich and distant parents, she has largely been looked after by servants. Left to herself, she has become a sickly, sulky and demanding child. When an outbreak of cholera kills both her parents, little Mary is shipped back to England to be the ward of her uncle, a widower who is always away on travels. Mary is warned to keep to herself, but in her wanderings about the grounds she comes across a secret garden that has been neglected for years. Along with the scullery maid’s young brother, Dickon, Mary brings the garden back to life, and in so doing, infuses her own person with new life. At the same time, she discovers her invalid cousin in the great house, and brings him to the healing magic of the garden. All’s well that ends well, when a grateful uncle returns home to find both his garden and his son restored. The curative powers of nature have also helped transform Mary into a kinder, more caring – and, best of all – happier little girl.

Mary Poppins is the title character of the 1964 Disney musical with Julie Andrews, itself based upon the popular British Mary Poppins series of books by P.L. Travers, which she began in 1934. Starring Julie Andrews in the title role, the movie became an instant and beloved classic, mixing live action and animation to maximum results. As the nanny to the Banks’ family children, Mary Poppins is as sweet as sugared tea, quite in contrast to the rather tart and stern original model. Along with her platonic friend, Bert the chimneysweep, she literally swoops the children up on fantastical adventures, leading them into magical animated kingdoms and singing and dancing on the rooftops of London. In addition, she succeeds in opening the eyes of the benign but busy elder Banks to the needs of their children. In short, she is just what all parents would love to be able to call upon at least once in a while.

Popular Songs

ON MARY

Sally Mary
a song by Dan McCafferty

Proud Mary
a song by John Fogerty and CCR

Bonnie Mary
a song by Real Mckenzies

The Thoughts of Mary Jane
a song by Nick Drake

Mary Jane
a song by Tori Amos

What's the New Mary Jane
a song by The Beatles

Mary Jane (All Night Long)
a song by Mary J. Blige

Mary-Jane
a song by Quick Silver [explicit]

Mary Jane Shoes
a song by Fergie

Mary Jane's Last Dance
a song by Tom Petty

The Moon and St. Christopher (Mary Chapin Carpenter)
A song from her "Shooting Straight in the Dark" album.

Tom and Mary
a son by Ben Folds Five

Ah Mary
a song by Grace Potter and The Nocturnals

Along Comes Mary
a song by Manhattan Transfer

Bells of St. Mary
a song by Aaron Neville

Bloody Mary
a song by Whitesnake

Born of Mary
a song by The Supremes

Breath of Heaven (Mary's Song)
a song by Amy Grant

Bringing Mary Home
a song by Red Sovine

Crazy Mary
a song by Pearl Jam

Cross-Eyed Mary
a song by Jethro Tull

Darlin' Mary
a song by TQ [explicit]

Dear Mary
a song by the Steve Miller

Devilish Mary
a song by The Skillet Lickers

Don't You Weep Mary
a song by the Kingston Trio

Down In Mary's Land
a song by Mary Chapin Carpenter

Have You Seen Mary
a song by Sponge

Hello Mary Lou
a song by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Mary, Mary
a song by The Monkees

Famous People

NAMED MARY

Mary I of England (Queen of England)
Mary II of England (Queen of England)
Mary Queen of Scots (Queen of Scotland)
Mary Shelley (novelist)
Mary Tyler Moore (actress)
Mary Lou Retton (Olympian gymnast)
Mary-Kate Olsen (actress)
Mary “Elle” Fanning (actress)
Mary Higgins Clark (author)
Mary Todd Lincoln (U.S. First Lady)
Mary Cassatt (painter)
Mary Louise “Meryl” Streep (actress)
Mary “Farrah” Fawcett (actress)
Mary Astor (actress)
Mary Pickford (actress)
Mary J. Blige (singer)
Mary Martin (actress)
Mary Elizabeth "Sissy" Spacek (actress)
Mary-Louise Parker (actress)
Mary Miles Minter (silent era actress)
Mary Steenburgen (actress)
Mary Chapin Carpenter (musician)
Mary Mastrantonio (actress)
Mary McCormack (actress)
Mary Pierce (tennis player)
Mary I of England (Queen of England)
Mary II of England (Queen of England)
Mary Queen of Scots (Queen of Scotland)
Mary Shelley (novelist)
Mary Tyler Moore (actress)
Mary Lou Retton (Olympian gymnast)
Mary-Kate Olsen (actress)
Mary “Elle” Fanning (actress)
Mary Higgins Clark (author)
Mary Todd Lincoln (U.S. First Lady)
Mary Cassatt (painter)
Mary Louise “Meryl” Streep (actress)
Mary “Farrah” Fawcett (actress)
Mary Astor (actress)
Mary Pickford (actress)
Mary J. Blige (singer)
Mary Martin (actress)
Mary Elizabeth "Sissy" Spacek (actress)
Mary-Louise Parker (actress)
Mary Miles Minter (silent era actress)
Mary Steenburgen (actress)
Mary Chapin Carpenter (musician)
Mary Mastrantonio (actress)
Mary McCormack (actress)
Mary Pierce (tennis player)
Mary I of England (Queen of England)
Mary II of England (Queen of England)
Mary Queen of Scots (Queen of Scotland)
Mary Shelley (novelist)
Mary Tyler Moore (actress)
Mary Lou Retton (Olympian gymnast)
Mary-Kate Olsen (actress)
Mary “Elle” Fanning (actress)
Mary Higgins Clark (author)
Mary Todd Lincoln (U.S. First Lady)
Mary Cassatt (painter)
Mary Louise “Meryl” Streep (actress)
Mary “Farrah” Fawcett (actress)
Mary Astor (actress)
Mary Pickford (actress)
Mary J. Blige (singer)
Mary Martin (actress)
Mary Elizabeth "Sissy" Spacek (actress)
Mary-Louise Parker (actress)
Mary Miles Minter (silent era actress)
Mary Steenburgen (actress)
Mary Chapin Carpenter (musician)
Mary Mastrantonio (actress)
Mary McCormack (actress)
Mary Pierce (tennis player)

Children of Famous People

NAMED MARY

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

Historic Figures

WITH THE NAME MARY

Mary Cassatt was a highly successful American Impressionist artist, whose usual subject was women, especially mothers and children. Born to an upper-middle class family, her privileged childhood included extensive travel and a sophisticated education. Still, it was a time that discouraged independence and careerism in women, especially in the arts. Mary Cassatt moved to France and, although she was not allowed entry to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts due to her gender, she studied with their masters and also self taught by copying the great works in the museums. Highly influenced by Edgar Degas, she became associated with the Impressionistic Movement, although in later years she moved away from any labels. She spent most of her life in France, being awarded the Legion d’honeur in 1904, and having had much of her work exhibited in the prestigious Paris Salon. Mary Cassatt made the decision early on not to marry and become a mother, knowing that she could not thus carry on her life’s work. Ironically, it is for those very tender depictions of mothers and children that she is best known today.

Queen Mary I of England was the only surviving child of Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon; she succeeded her half-brother, Edward VI, to the throne. She restored the establishment of Roman Catholicism and was known as “Bloody Mary” for her cruel prosecution of Protestant dissenters, including the burning at the stake of hundreds. The divorce of Mary’s parents essentially deemed her illegitimate at the age of 17, and she was stripped of her title and goods and right to the throne. Upon Edward VI’s early death, their cousin, Lady Jane Grey, was briefly installed as queen, however, popular sentiment for Mary assured her own ascension to the throne (as well as the execution of poor Lady Jane). Then the rampage began and the forcible restoration of Catholicism as the religion of the land was begun. In 1554, Mary married Philip II of Spain, a union which failed to produce a child. She seemed to be in love with him, but such was not the case with him. Upon her death at age 42, he wrote, damningly: “I felt a reasonable regret for her death.” Others did not. Elizabeth I became queen and Protestantism was swiftly reintroduced to the land.

Mary Queen of Scots was the only living (legitimate) child of King James V of Scotland when he died, leaving the throne to her at the ripe old age of 6 days – talk about a steep learning curb! Spending her childhood and girlhood mostly in France while Scotland was under regent rule, Mary married the Dauphin Francis of France and was briefly Queen Consort of France until his death. Returning to Scotland as widow and being installed as Catholic queen of a largely Protestant Scotland in 1561, Mary married Lord Darnley in 1565. This, however, was an unhappy marriage (producing one son, James), and Darnley was found murdered in the garden of his home after it was destroyed by an explosion in 1567. Suspicion fell on Mary, especially after she married the Earl of Bothwell shortly afterward, who was largely believed to have been responsible for Darnley’s murder. Mary was then imprisoned by the Protestant lords and forced to abdicate her throne to her son, who, not quite as precocious as his mother at these things, was an old guy of one year. Seeking refuge from her cousin, Elizabeth I of England, Mary was shuttled from castle to castle while in custody until, at the age of 44, she was executed for the crime of plotting to assassinate Elizabeth.

Queen Mary II of England is the other half of the famous “William and Mary” team, who ruled England, Scotland and Ireland together from 1689 until her death in 1694, after which William became sole ruler. Mary was the daughter of James II, who converted to Catholicism during her childhood. James became king upon the death of his brother, Charles II, and the new king’s religion sparked revolution. Mary, being married to William of Orange of the Netherlands, was invited to return to England with him and overthrow her father. It was said that this caused her great consternation – however – she did it. James II fled the country and Mary and William ruled happily ever after. They even found the time to endow the College of William and Mary in the colonies in 1693. Mary and William were childless; she died of smallpox and her husband ruled until 1702, after which Mary’s sister, Anne, ascended to the throne.

Mary Todd Lincoln was the wife of perhaps the most beloved president in American history, Abraham Lincoln, and served as first lady of the land from 1861 until his assassination in 1865. He was beloved – she was not. Poor Mary’s reputation has suffered as much since her death as before. Maligned as a vain clotheshorse, a spendthrift, and a neurotically selfish woman, she is often depicted as a scourge of the sainted Abe, responsible for just about every ill he suffered short of the assassination. The truth, of course, lies closer to a mundane, albeit crushing, reality. Mary Todd was born into a rich Kentucky family and was educated accordingly. Her marriage to Lincoln was seen by her family as a social faux-pas, but she stubbornly stood by him and relinquished her strong Southern roots in favor of supporting him through the Civil War. As a mother, she had the unenviable fate of outliving three of her four sons. Son “Eddie” died at the age of four of tuberculosis; “Willie” died of typhoid fever at the age of twelve; “Tad” died (probably of pneumonia) at the age of eighteen. Only Robert outlived her, and he had her declared incompetent and confined to a mental institution. As a wife, she suffered the trauma of having her husband violently killed right beside her. As a woman in general, she was a victim of various ailments, including depression and the dreaded migraine headaches that afflicted her for years. She even attempted suicide at one point. Mary spent her final years in the home of her sister, as her health grew steadily worse. She died at age sixty-three.

Mary Magdalene has the distinction of being the second-most well-known woman in the New Testament, after, of course, Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. She is honored as a saint by many Christian denominations. Because of the proliferation of the use of the name “Mary” in the New Testament, Mary Magdalene got the probably erroneous reputation early on of being a “bad” girl. This portrayal was furthered by early church fathers and emphasized by religious art over the centuries. There is, in fact, no evidence to associate her with the woman Mary who was the acknowledged sinner, but the confusion took hold and actually seems to have imbued her with a certain sympathetic identity. Who needs another saint, anyway? In the Gospels, Mary Magdalene is credited with three pretty big events: she witnesses the crucifixion of Jesus, his burial, and then the empty tomb from which Jesus rose after three days. These are solemn occasions, and they are unconnected to the stories of the woman from whom seven demons were exorcised, the woman who anointed the feet of Jesus, or the woman who dried her own tears with her sensuous long red hair. Contemporary Gnostic accounts go so far as to depict her as Jesus’ most beloved apostle who is called upon to spread his word, thus sparking an outrage of jealousy from the Apostles, particularly Peter. Who knows where legend ends and lies begin? Whatever her own truth, Mary Magdalene lives on today in a special aura, and we welcome the solicitude of one who was, perhaps, just like the rest of us – flawed and yet - ever striving.

Mary Magdalene (Maria Magdalena) has the distinction of being the second-most well-known woman in the New Testament, after, of course, Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. She is honored as a saint by many Christian denominations. Because of the proliferation of the use of the name “Mary” in the New Testament, Mary Magdalene got the probably erroneous reputation early on of being a “bad” girl. This portrayal was furthered by early church fathers and emphasized by religious art over the centuries. There is, in fact, no evidence to associate her with the woman Mary who was the acknowledged sinner, but the confusion took hold and actually seems to have imbued her with a certain sympathetic identity. Who needs another saint, anyway? In the Gospels, Mary Magdalene is credited with three pretty big events: she witnesses the crucifixion of Jesus, his burial, and then the empty tomb from which Jesus rose after three days. These are solemn occasions, and they are unconnected to the stories of the woman from whom seven demons were exorcised, the woman who anointed the feet of Jesus, or the woman who dried her own tears with her sensuous long red hair. Contemporary Gnostic accounts go so far as to depict her as Jesus’ most beloved apostle who is called upon to spread his word, thus sparking an outrage of jealousy from the Apostles, particularly Peter. Who knows where legend ends and lies begin? Whatever her own truth, Mary Magdalene lives on today in a special aura, and we welcome the solicitude of one who was, perhaps, just like the rest of us – flawed and yet - ever striving.

Mary Magdalene has the distinction of being the second-most well-known woman in the New Testament, after, of course, Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. She is honored as a saint by many Christian denominations. Because of the proliferation of the use of the name “Mary” in the New Testament, Mary Magdalene got the probably erroneous reputation early on of being a “bad” girl. This portrayal was furthered by early church fathers and emphasized by religious art over the centuries. There is, in fact, no evidence to associate her with the woman Mary who was the acknowledged sinner, but the confusion took hold and actually seems to have imbued her with a certain sympathetic identity. Who needs another saint, anyway? In the Gospels, Mary Magdalene is credited with three pretty big events: she witnesses the crucifixion of Jesus, his burial, and then the empty tomb from which Jesus rose after three days. These are solemn occasions, and they are unconnected to the stories of the woman from whom seven demons were exorcised, the woman who anointed the feet of Jesus, or the woman who dried her own tears with her sensuous long red hair. Contemporary Gnostic accounts go so far as to depict her as Jesus’ most beloved apostle who is called upon to spread his word, thus sparking an outrage of jealousy from the Apostles, particularly Peter. Who knows where legend ends and lies begin? Whatever her own truth, Mary Magdalene lives on today in a special aura, and we welcome the solicitude of one who was, perhaps, just like the rest of us – flawed and yet - ever striving.

Mary Magdalene has the distinction of being the second-most well-known woman in the New Testament, after, of course, Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. She is honored as a saint by many Christian denominations. Because of the proliferation of the use of the name “Mary” in the New Testament, Mary Magdalene got the probably erroneous reputation early on of being a “bad” girl. This portrayal was furthered by early church fathers and emphasized by religious art over the centuries. There is, in fact, no evidence to associate her with the woman Mary who was the acknowledged sinner, but the confusion took hold and actually seems to have imbued her with a certain sympathetic identity. Who needs another saint, anyway? In the Gospels, Mary Magdalene is credited with three pretty big events: she witnesses the crucifixion of Jesus, his burial, and then the empty tomb from which Jesus rose after three days. These are solemn occasions, and they are unconnected to the stories of the woman from whom seven demons were exorcised, the woman who anointed the feet of Jesus, or the woman who dried her own tears with her sensuous long red hair. Contemporary Gnostic accounts go so far as to depict her as Jesus’ most beloved apostle who is called upon to spread his word, thus sparking an outrage of jealousy from the Apostles, particularly Peter. Who knows where legend ends and lies begin? Whatever her own truth, Mary Magdalene lives on today in a special aura, and we welcome the solicitude of one who was, perhaps, just like the rest of us – flawed and yet - ever striving.

Namesake of Madeleine and spelling variations.