- Education and Science
The History of the Most Common Names: Females
Every name has a history, unique or not. Where did it first originate? Around a campfire ten million year ago, maybe. Or perhaps it evolved from another name? Here is the history of the most popular FEMALE names.
Mary is the usual English form of Maria, which was the Latin form of the New Testament Greek names Μαριαμ (Mariam) and Μαρια (Maria). These were from the Hebrew name מִרְיָם (Miryam). No one knows the meaning for certain, but it’s thought to be “sea of bitterness”, “rebelliousness”, and “wished for child”. But it’s most likely an Egyptian name, which could derive from mry ”beloved” or mr ”love”.
As most popular names are, it has its place in the Bible, as Jesus’s mother Virgin Mary, and Mary Magdalene. In England it has been around since the 12th century and very popular since the 16th, but in some cultures the name Mary is considered too holy for everyday use.
The name Patricia is a feminine derivation from the Latin word “patricius” meaning “a patrician”, “a noble” or “an aristocrat”. This name was probably not used until the 18th century in Scotland.
Princess Victoria Patricia Helena Elizabeth – known as Princess Patricia – popularized the name in England in the 19th century.
Linda was originally a medieval short form of Germanic names containing the elementlinde, meaning “soft, tender”. It also comes from the Spanish word linda which means “pretty” or “beautiful”.
It’s also been used as a shortened version of the English names Belinda or Melinda. One unpopular but unique variant of this is Linza (Ancient Germanic).
This name is derived from the Greek βαρβαρος (barbaros) meaning “foreign”. According to one legend, Saint Barbara was a young woman killed by her father Dioscorus, who received his just desert by getting killed by a bolt of lightning. Saint Barbara is the patron of architects, geologists, stonemasons and artillerymen. Because of her fame, the name came into use in the Christian world in the Middle Ages.
In England it became rare after the Protestant Reformation, but it was revived in the 19th century.
Elizabeth is from Ελισαβετ (Elisabet), the Greek form of the Hebrew name אֱלִישֶׁבַע (‘Elisheva’) meaning “my God is an oath” or “devoted to God”. The Hebrew form appears in the Old Testament (where Elisheba is the wife of Aaron), and the Greek form appears in the New Testament (where Elizabeth is the mother of John the Baptist).
This name was originally more common in Eastern Europe. It was the name of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, a daughter of King Andrew II who used her wealth to help the poor. So in Medieval Europe it was occasionally used in honor of this saint through the form Isabel which was more common. It’s been very popular since Queen Elizabeth I in the 16th century.
Jennifer stems from a Cornish form of the Welsh name Gwenhwyfar (Guinevere). Despite the wide use of Jennifer, this name has only been common outside of Cornwall since the beginning of the 20th century after it was featured in George Bernard Shaw’s play ‘The Doctor’s Dilemma’ (1906).
Some believe that Jenny and Jennifer evolved together but they might not have — Jenny was considered a pet name for Johanna or Jane. Jennifer was one of the seven names that that made it to the Top 100 list from 1944 through 1994.
Which name out of these is your favorite?
Read the history of the most common MALE names!
Are you wondering what the most common male names are and why? Click here to read the sister (or should I say "brother"!) article.