Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Miriam

Miriam is a Hebrew name (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’. The name Miriam is borne from the Bible, specifically the book of Exodus in the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible, as the older sister of Moses and Aaron. During the time of Moses’ birth, the Pharaoh had orders in place to kill all newborn Israelite boys. In order to save his life, Moses’ mother (Jochebed) set the infant afloat in a reed basket on the Nile River. Miriam was appointed to watch over the baby, and when she saw the Pharaoh’s daughter take pity on the child and retrieve him from the water to take him home, Miriam offered the princess to find an Israelite woman to nurse him (thus cleverly returning Moses to his own mother). Oh, and ancient women belonged to an early version of the La Leche League, in that a typical weaning would happen between the ages of three and six. After that, Moses was returned to Pharaoh’s court, but not before understanding his Hebrew heritage. Miriam is also considered a prophetess in Judeo-Christian tradition who bravely helped lead the Israelites out of Egypt (well, actually God did most of the work by sending the Ten Plagues upon Egypt and giving Moses the power to part the Red Sea). After the Israelites crossed the sea safely, Moses sent the waters back down on Pharaoh’s army and drowned them. At which point in time, Moses and his sister Miriam lead their people in a victory song [Exodus 15]. Later in the Bible, Miriam and Aaron become a little indignant that Moses is getting all the attention and seems to be making all the decisions [Numbers 12]. “Has the Lord not spoken through us also?” they huffily ask each other. Apparently the Lord didn’t appreciate their insubordination, so Miriam was struck down with leprosy. Not to fear, Moses to the rescue! By uttering five words: “O God, please heal her” the Lord grants Moses’ wish, but not without making Miriam suffer for another week of punishment (sort of a harsher version of a “time-out” from your Father). In any case, Miriam is greatly revered in the Jewish tradition and her name has long been in use in honor of this strong and feisty woman. Arguably one of the first women-libber’s, we can’t really blame old Miriam for wanting more power. Miriam was more widely adopted among English-speakers after the Protestant Reformation. Today, Miriam is a high ranking name in Austria, Spain and Catalonia.

All About the Baby Name – Miriam



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.



Miriam has had a long and successful run on the U.S. popularity charts. She has mainly enjoyed moderate to high popularity, but her usage appears to be consistent. Miriam is a name long associated with the Jewish people, but the Protestants showed an equal respect to this strong Biblical character. Given the story of Miriam from the Bible, we like the meaning ‘rebelliousness’ most for this name. This spirited lady was a leader among the women Israelites. She demonstrated bravery and energy while the grumbling Israelites questioned their God during their exodus from Egypt. Then this little go-getter wanted more power and credit for being chosen by God. So the Lord took her down a notch or two. We still love that moxie of hers! Yes, Miriam is an “old-lady” name based on today’s fashions – kind of like Wilma, Esther or Gladys. Miriam will never be a trendy name. This is one for observant Jews and/or contrarian parents who like real meaning behind their name selections, rather than following the fashions of the day. Miriam is so uncool she’s cool.

Quick Facts























Cultural References to the Baby Name – Miriam

Literary Characters


Popular Songs


a song by King Diamond

Famous People


Miriam (sister of Moses)
Miriam Hopkins (actress)
Miriam Spickler (aka Mimi Rogers/actress)
Miriam (Mexican transgender and entertainer)
Miriam Ben-Porat (Israeli judge and state comptroller)
Miriam Flynn (actress)
Miriam Leslie (author, woman suffrage advocate, and philanthropist)
Miriam McDonald (actress)
Miriam Margolyes (British actress)
Miriam Shaviv (literary editor of the Jerusalem Post)
Miriam Stockley (English singer)
Miriam Toews (Canadian author)
Miriam Yalan-Shteklis (Israeli writer and poet)
Miriam Yeung (Hong Kong singer-actress)

Children of Famous People


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

Historic Figures


In the Book of Exodus, we are introduced to Miriam, the older sister of Moses and Aaron, all of whom are descended from the Levites. Her story is an interesting one. When Moses was born, his mother placed the baby in a buoyant reed basket (hence the “Moses basket”) into the Nile river in an effort to hide him from the Pharaoh. You see, it was Pharaoh’s orders that all Hebrew baby boys be killed at birth. One day, as Miriam is watching the baby Moses from afar, she sees the Pharaoh’s daughter (taking pity on the child) retrieve him from the river with plans to take him home. Miriam interjects and suggests the Pharaoh’s daughter use her own mother (i.e., Moses mother) as a hired wet-nurse. This way, Miriam cleverly returns the child back to his own family without detection. Fast forward to the Exodus from Egypt, Miriam is important as she leads the Israeli women, and once across the Red Sea, they sing a triumphant hymn. She is a prophet (along with her brothers) to whom God has spoken directly, and as a result, many Jewish women revere Miriam as a feminist symbol. Her one faux pas was criticizing Moses’ choice for a wife (a Cushite woman) and was therefore struck by God with leprosy. Moses came to the rescue by uttering a five-word prayer (“O Lord, make her well”); which God graciously accommodated, but not without making her suffer for seven days. Still, Miriam goes down as one of Israel’s most influential prophets and one kick-ass lady.