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The Name Barbara

Updated on June 13, 2015

My Name is Barbara - But What Does Barbara Mean?

Barbara. What does the name Barbara really mean? what' in a name? If you are looking for a name for a baby girl or gifts for someone named Barbara you need to know a little more about the history of the name, the name meanings and who else has been called Barbara.

I began to look into names, the meaning of names and baby name fashions and I found it all absolutely fascinating. My name is Barbara. Not a very popular baby name at the moment (names like Ava, Olivia, Emma and Grace are top baby girls names for 2013) but I'd hazard a guess that it won't be long before Barbara makes a come-back with new parents choosing baby names.

This is for all the other Barbaras out there, (and for Babras as the name is sometimes spelled 'Barbra' as in Barbra Streisand) for any baby Barbaras and for anyone looking for a gift for Barbara. I've taken a look at the origins of the name, at famous people called Barbara and at the meaning of the name and diminutives of Barbara - although personally I hate to be called Babs or, worse still, Barbie!

What does Barbara mean to you?

What Does Barbara Mean?

Diminutive of Barbara: from the Greek Barbaros Meaning Foreign or Strange, Traveler from a Foreign Land, exotic. Stranger, Cold, Distant, Idealistic

As a name, Barbara is Latin and literally means "foreign woman," from the word "barbarus" or foreign. This word itself is of Greek origin; it came from a made-up word "bar-bar" to indicate the sound of non-Greeks talking in different languages (the name Barbara still exists in modern Greek, pronounced var-VAR-a.) The word "barbarian" clearly comes from this root too, and illustrates the ancients' mistrust of foreigners.

Do you love the name Barbara - or hate it?

What do you think of the name Barbara?

See results
Poster 'Christmas in Connecticut, Barbara Stanwyck', 1945 Photographic Poster Print, 18x24
Poster 'Christmas in Connecticut, Barbara Stanwyck', 1945 Photographic Poster Print, 18x24 | Source

Barbara is Famous!

Famous people called Barbara or Barbra

  • Barbra Streisand: Singer and acress. We all love Barbara Striesand movies!
  • Barbara Stanwyck: Filmstar
  • Barbara Castle: UK Labour polititcian and socialist
  • Barbara Hepworth: Sculptor
  • Barbara McClintock: geneticist
  • Barbara Dickson
  • Barbara Bradford Taylor (sometimes known as Barbara Taylor): Novelist
  • Barbara Cartland: Novelist. Barbara Cartland is famous for her steam bodice-ripper novelettes
  • Barbara Mori
  • Barbara Kingsolver
  • Barbara Walter
  • Barbara De Angelis
  • Author, Barbara Bush: First Lady of America, wife of George Bush

More Famous People Called Barbara

One of just many gifts for Barbara at My online Zazzle Shop
One of just many gifts for Barbara at My online Zazzle Shop | Source

Exclusive Gift Designs for Barbara

Personalize these name gifts for Barbara

This is my range of exclusive name gift designs for Barbara and the gifts range from mouse pads to T Shirts, clocks, mugs - a whole range of lovely things. Remember you can add your own text and images to make these gifts really special. You'll find so many lovely gifts for Barbara at my online Zazzle shop LouLou Arts.

My Name is Barbra - Barbra Streisand singing about her name

Queen Barbara of Portugal (1711-1758)
Queen Barbara of Portugal (1711-1758) | Source

Queen Barbara

Yes, Barbara is a royal name

Before writing this article I'd never heard of a Queen Barbara, but now I've found three!

The Queen pictured here is Queen Barbara of Portugal (Maria Madalena Barbara Xavier Leonor Teresa Antnia Josefa (Dates 1711 - 1758) was a princess, (or infanta) of Portugal and when she married Ferdinand VI of Spain aged just eighteen, she became Queen of Spain.

Barbara of Cilli (1392 - 1451) was a Hungarian who was also known as "Barbara of Celje") She married the Holy Roman Emperor, Sigismund, and so became the Holy Roman Empress. By marriage marriage she was also Queen of Hungary and Bohemia.

Barbara Radziwitt - Barbora Radvilaitė in Lithuanian - (1520 - 1551)was the Queen of Poland and Grand Duchess of Lithuania as consort to Sigismund II Augustus. Barbara was Lithuanian and was considered to be one of the most beautiful women in Europe.

Saint Barbara in her tower by Robert Campin 1483 From the Prado Museum.
Saint Barbara in her tower by Robert Campin 1483 From the Prado Museum. | Source

Barbara: Your Saints Day is December 4

Who was Saint Barbara?

St. Barbara is a 'Protectress Against Fire and Lightning' and is the patron saint of artillerymen and anyone involved with gunpowder and explosives.

The Story of Saint Barbara

Barbara was the daughter of Dioscuros, a rich and powerful pagan named who lived in Nikomedia, now modern Turkey. To keep her from the eyes of men, her father locked her in a tower with two windows when he was away from home. When he arrived back after one of his trips, he found that Barbara had added a third window. When her father questioned her, she admitted that she had converted to Christianity and that the third window was put in place to represent the Holy Trinity. She had secretly been baptized by a priest posing as a physician. Not only this, but Barbara had refused to marry suitors that her father had proposed.

Her furious father then drew his sword to kill her, but Barbara prayed for divine intervention and a wall in her tower opened up and she found herself on a mountain side with two shepherds watched their flocks. When her father caught up with her the first shepherd protected her, but the second betrayed Barbara and was turned to stone and his flock were transformed into locusts.

Barbara was then tortured by the prefect of the province, Martinianus but by night she was bathed in light and every morning the wounds from torture were healed. Torches intended to burn her went out and finally she was condemned to death by beheading, carried out by her father who was struck by lightning and his body was consumed by flame.

The day of her death is supposed to be December 5 in the year 267. Barbara was buried by a Christian, Valentinus, her tomb becoming the site of a string of miracles.

You can recognise images of Saint Barbara, because she is shown holding a small tower or standing near a tower, and holding a chalice and perhaps the palm of martyrdom.

Saint Barbara and the cherry branch

Whilst she was locked in the tower, Saint Barbara kept a cherry branch and it is said that on the day she died, the cherry branch blossomed. The tradition of "Barbarazweig," stems from this. Cherry branches are brought into the house on December the 4th in the hope that they will bloom at Christmas.

Barbara by Christian Petzold - I'm thinking of films about famous Barbaras

Not that many spring to mind. I'm not going to look at films starring actresses called Barbara, but rather I'm looking for heroines with that name. Christian Petzold 's film (2012) called Barbara is one film. The heroine, played by Nina Hoss, is an East German paediatrician who is moved to the provinces when she applies for a visa to the west.

Barbarella is an ancient (1968) science fiction film and Jane Fonda plays Barbarella.

Barbara Gordon is Batgirl. Daughter of James Gordon, Gotham City Police Commissioner became Batman's partner and Batgirl. She later became the Commissioner of the Gotham Police Department herself.

Barbara is a new film by Christina Petzold

Where in the World is Barbara? - Barbara's special places

Barbara: ancient region in the Horn of Africa

Barbara: a town in Italy

Barbara: a former Palestinian village near Gaza

Santa Barbara County, California

Santa Barbara, City, California

Santa Barbara and Other Places named Barbara

Santa Barbara, city in Santa Barabara County, California, USA:
Santa Barbara

get directions

Horn of Africa:
Horn of Africa

get directions

Barbara Italy:
Barbara Italy

get directions

Choose your Baby's Name - Thousands of baby names to choose from

I used The Guinness Book of Names to choose my son's name but this book has so many more names to choose from.

100,000 + BABY NAMES:The Most Complete Baby Name Book
100,000 + BABY NAMES:The Most Complete Baby Name Book

So many names to choose from - you're sure to find the perfect name for your baby here.


Good Advice for Choosing the Name of Your Baby - A rose by any other name ....

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet? what if roses were called 'Stinking Hellebours'? Would we risk smelling them to find out? Take some of this great advice when choosing the name of your baby:

Barbara in Songs - Barbara Ann by the Beach Boys and Barbara Allen by Johnny Cash

Your name song Barbara Ann by the Beach Boys - This is absolutely guaranteed to bring a smile to your face and a tear to your eye!

Barbara Allen is a popular, traditional ballad originating in England and Scotland. There are many versions but the central story is of a young man who is scorned by Barbara Allen and dies. She then regrets her behaviour and she then dies of a broken heart.

Barbara Ann by the Beach Boys - my name song

Top Girls Names - Popular Babies Names for girls


Top 10 names for girls

The top 10 girls names in the US 2011 and many of these are still going strong in 2013. The order has changed slightly although in 2012 Emma was still tops. In Britain Ava is on the top of the list at the moment. Barbara is not amongst them. An old and distinguished name, it has never been a common one - all the more reason to think about choosing Barbara as a name for your baby.

(Names from Baby Centre)

Babies Names for Girls - Books to help you choose your baby girls name

The Ultimate Baby Girl Names Book
The Ultimate Baby Girl Names Book

A book to help you name your baby girl. Choosing a name is just so important that you have to get it right. Now many of us know if we're going to be blessed with a little girl or a little boy so we can buy the right book in advance and give the whole matter the thought it deserves.


Barbie Dolls are World Famous - Buy a Barbie doll for your Barbara

Barbie was 'born' in 1959. Her 'Mum' is Ruth Handler, co-founder of the American toy-company Mattel, along with her husband Elliot Handler. The great thing about Barbie was that she was one of the first teenage fashion dolls. She was called Barbie, after their daughter, Barbara. Barbie has her very own fictional biography so we know that her full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts. In the 1960s a series of novels were published by Random House which filled in the details of her life. (See below for more details).

Of course, we all know about Barbie's boyfriend, Ken who first appeared in 1961. This relationship has had its ups and downs, (well, which relationship doesn't?). At the time of writing I'm not exactly sure if it's on or off!

Have a look at the five great Barbies that I've selected. of course there are many more Barbie dolls to choose from so get choosing your beautiful barbie gift now.

Barbie Fashionistas - Barbie Doll
Barbie Fashionistas - Barbie Doll

Girls love fashion - and I know that I used to love to make dolls clothes for my teen dolls.


© 2012 Barbara Walton

Do Leave Me a Message if You Have Thoughts on the Name Barbara - Whether your name is Barbara or not!

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    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 

      4 years ago from Templeton, CA

      You confirmed what I believe is the origin of my name. But my mother didn't know it and thought it meant "gift from God," which is what she must have read somewhere.


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