Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Maureen

Maureen is the anglicized form of Máirín (pronounced MOI-reen) which is an Irish-Gaelic diminutive of Mary. Not surprisingly, given her importance in the Christian narrative, Mary is one of the most successful female given names in the Western World. As such, it’s a name that has appeared in several ethno-linguistic forms and diminutives throughout Europe since the Middle Ages. The name’s etymology is not entirely certain, though the English form (Mary) evolved from the French Marie and the Latin Maria – all of which were borrowed from the Greek  Μαριαμ (Mariam) ultimately derived from the Hebrew מִרְיָם (Miryam). In other words, Miriam, Moses’ sister, from the Biblical Old Testament (originally written in Hebrew) shares the exact same etymological root as the Virgin Mary, Jesus’ mother, from the New Testament (originally written in Greek). Are you following us so far? The Hebrew Miryam is so ancient – one of the first female names to appear in Western Civilization – that etymologists have debated the name’s origin for centuries. 
 
Given Miryam’s birthplace in the Old Testament’s Book of Exodus (Egypt), the most likely origin of the name comes from the Ancient Egyptian element “mry” meaning “beloved” (as a diminutive of Mary, Maureen would therefore mean “little beloved one”). Another theory suggests the name Miryam comes from the Hebrew element “maráh” meaning “to rebel, to be rebellious, to disobey,” in reference to Miryam’s minor rebellion in Exodus when she becomes a little indignant over the fact that her brother Moses is getting all the attention and making all the decisions (God struck Miryam with a minor case of leprosy for her insubordination). Finally, in folk etymology, Mary is said to mean “star of the sea” (stella maris). This “invented” etymology comes from the writings of St. Jerome in the late 4th or early 5th century when he compared the Blessed Mother to a “drop of the sea” – from the Hebrew elements “mar” (a drop) and “yam” (the sea). A scribe later erroneously recorded Jerome’s words as “stella maris” meaning “star of the sea” in Latin – and from this mistake a new etymology was created. In fact, Stella Maris is one of the oldest known epithets for the Virgin Mary.
 
Given Mary’s Biblical importance as the mother of Jesus, her name was considered too holy for use in earlier medieval times (particularly among the Celtic people), but by the Late Middle Ages, Mary had become the single most successful female name EVER. The Gaelic and Welsh picked up the name in their own native tongues where Mary would become Maureen (Irish), Maura (Scottish) and Mair (Welsh), among several other variations. Common nicknames for Maureen are Mo and Reenie.

All About the Baby Name – Maureen

Personality

OF THE GIRL NAME MAUREEN

The number Five personality loves the excitement of life and can easily adapt to all situations. As natural adventurers, these personalities thrive on the new and unexpected and prefer to be in constant motion. It makes them feel alive. They'll stir up some action if there's not enough around, and as inherent risk-takers they enjoy pushing the envelope. Naturally rebellious, the Five personality has no fear and never resists change.  Traveling and new experiences feed their souls. Fives are very social and attract friends with ease. People love to be around the Five fun-loving and exciting energy.  This is also a lucky number in numerology (like the Threes), so fortune seems to shine on them, helped along by their own optimism and good-nature. Fives have a quick wit, a cerebral mind, and are generally very persuasive. 

Popularity

OF THE GIRL NAME MAUREEN

Maureen is what we’d call a “mid-century favorite” – and by that we mean the mid-20th century. In other words, her glory days have come and gone (though it’s not to say she won’t return again). Like Colleen, Eileen, Noreen and Kathleen, Maureen is quaintly Irish if just a tad bit too old-fashioned (it’s barely used in Ireland anymore). The name Maureen first appeared on America’s Top 1000 list of girl names in 1907 but would later gain notice in the 1930s thanks to Irish actress Maureen O’Sullivan who appeared as Jane in the successful Tarzan string of movies between 1932 and 1942 (she also happens to be the mother of Mia Farrow). The beautiful actress Maureen O’Hara would further cement the name’s appearance on marquees across America in the 1940s and 50s.  As a female given name, Maureen was most popular between the years 1946 and 1955 – the only years the name would achieve Top 100 status nationwide (she topped the charts at position #88 in 1948, her best year ever). The name held strong to the charts until the 1980s at which point it became clear Maureen was quickly going out of style. In fact, 1997 marks the last year this name would be counted among America’s Top 1000 and only 43 baby girls (out of nearly two million) were called Maureen in 2013. Maureen is just one of those mid-century names (like Linda, Patricia, Barbara, Pamela) that haven’t stood the test of time. Still, we love this name for its Irish earthiness. And if history teaches us anything at all, we believe Maureen will once again return to fashionable usage. We may just have to wait until mid-century again. This time mid-21st century.
 

Quick Facts

ON MAUREEN

GENDER:

Girl

ORIGIN:

Gaelic

NUMBER OF SYLLABLES:

2

RANKING POPULARITY:

N/A

PRONUNCIATION:

MAWR-een

SIMPLE MEANING:

Little beloved one

Characteristics

OF MAUREEN

Freedom-loving

Adventurous

Adaptable

Intellectual

Easygoing

Progressive

Sensual

Cultural References to the Baby Name – Maureen

Literary Characters

OF THE BABY NAME MAUREEN

Maureen Johnson is a central character from the Broadway musical hit "Rent." More information on this character forthcoming.

Popular Songs

ON MAUREEN

Maureen Maureen
a song by John Prine

Maureen
a song by Sade

Famous People

NAMED MAUREEN

Maureen O'Sullivan (Irish-American actress)
Maureen O'Hara (Irish-American actress)
Maureen Connolly (tennis player)
Maureen Stapleton (actress)
Maureen Dowd (columnist/author)
Maureen "Moe" Tucker (musician)
Maureen McCormick (actress)
Maureen Forrester (Canadian opera singer)
Maureen McGovern (musician)

Children of Famous People

NAMED MAUREEN

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

Historic Figures

WITH THE NAME MAUREEN

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