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The History of the Most Common Names: Females

Updated on April 5, 2015

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.

1. Mary

3,991,060 Marys

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.

2. Patricia

1,628,911 Patricias

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.

3. Linda

1,571,224 Lindas

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).

4. Barbara

1,487,729 Barbaras

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.

5. Elizabeth

1,422,451 Elizabeths

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.

6. Jennifer

1,414,861 Jennifers

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?

See results

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.

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    • Danida profile image
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      Danida 3 years ago from London

      @Crystal Tatum: That's such a nice name! I still can't decide on what to name my future children, but I like the name Stella as it means "star".

    • Crystal Tatum profile image

      Crystal Tatum 3 years ago from Georgia

      I always said if I had a girl, I would name her Alanna, because it means "awakening," and I think that's such a great meaning for a name.

    • Danida profile image
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      Danida 3 years ago from London

      @Crystal Tatum: Me too! I can never just give a name to a child or character without taking the meaning into account. The sound of the name is an important factor, but it must have great origins too!

    • Crystal Tatum profile image

      Crystal Tatum 3 years ago from Georgia

      I've always been fascinated by the meaning and origin of names. I can remember buying a baby name book just for my reading pleasure when I was about 10! Very interesting.

    • Danida profile image
      Author

      Danida 3 years ago from London

      @JoanCA, I think they'll become less popular in time but variations of them will probably arise. I don't know any kids with those names either. A lot of them go by nicknames though. It's the older women that have these names.

    • JoanCA profile image

      JoanCA 3 years ago

      I wonder if these names will become far less popular in the future. Plenty of older people I know or have known have these names but I don't know any children with them. Sarah is one name that's definitely held it's popularity.

    • Danida profile image
      Author

      Danida 3 years ago from London

      @Eiddwen, thank you!

    • Danida profile image
      Author

      Danida 3 years ago from London

      @FlourishAnyway, I do that too! I always look at the meaning of names before naming characters in my stories.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

      A brilliant hub; original and so interesting.

      Voted up for sure.

      Eddy.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      I enjoy reading about names, their origins, their meanings, and famous examples, too. When I select names for characters, I often look at that information. Well done and beautiful images, too.

    • Danida profile image
      Author

      Danida 3 years ago from London

      @Jodah, thank you very much Jodah! I'm thinking of doing more name hubs so there might be more! I love history of names too :)

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Another interesting sequel to your hub about most common male names. Well done danida, but I wanted to read more. Names and their meanings interest me. Great images to accompany the text.