Hebrew or Egyptian
"drop of the sea, bitter, or beloved"

Mary Origin and Meaning

The name Mary is a girl's name of Hebrew origin meaning "drop of the sea, bitter, or beloved".

Mary is the English form of Maria, which ultimately was derived from the Hebrew name Maryam/Mariam. The original meaning of Maryam is uncertain, but theories include "drop of the sea" (from Hebrew roots mar "drop" and yam "sea"); "bitter" (from Hebrew marah "bitterness"); and "beloved" (from the Egyptian root mr).

Mary, the quintessential New Testament name, was #1 for girls until the mid-twentieth century. Though still popular, Mary is used now mostly for religious or family reasons. If it's style you're after, Mary's many diminutives and derivatives such as Maire, Mamie, May, Mitzi, Molly, Maura, Marietta, and even Maria may seem more fashionable.

Mary was the most popular and enduring female Christian name in the English-speaking world (as were Maria and Marie in Spanish and French) until the 1940s. That was when in the US Mary was finally dethroned by such trendy upstarts as Linda and Karen.

There are six Marys in the Bible, including the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and Mary the mother of Mark, and there have been British royal Marys beginning in the sixteenth century. In earlier times Mary was considered too sacred to be used; it finally gained usage in England in the twelfth century, and by the sixteenth had blanketed the female population, to the point where dozens of pet forms had to be contrived to distinguish one Mary in the family from the others.

The poet Byron deemed Mary a "magic" name, and Bing Crosby proclaimed it "a grand old name." Mary has always been a good-girl name, as reflected by such mid-century icons of propriety and wholesomeness as Mary Poppins and Mary Tyler Moore. The lovely Lady Mary Crawley of Downton Abbey has restored some freshness to the name.

Among the celebs who dropped their birth name of Mary are Meryl Streep, Debbie Reynolds, and Lily Tomlin.

For more detail on the origins and possible meanings of the name Mary, see this excellent post on the subject.

# 135 in the US

Mary Rank in US Top 1000

# 261 on Nameberry

Mary Rank in Nameberry Top 1000

Mary Popularity

Famous People Named Mary

  • Blessed Virgin Marymother of Jesus Christ
  • Mary Magdalenefollower of Jesus Christ
  • Mary of Bethanyfollower of Jesus Christ
  • Mary IQueen of England, aka Bloody Mary
  • Mary IIQueen of England and Scotland, wife of William III
  • Mary StuartQueen of Scots
  • MaryQueen of Hungary
  • Mary of GueldersQueen consort of James II of Scotland
  • Mary of GuiseQueen consort of James V of Scotland; mother of Mary, Queen of Scots
  • Mary of Modena (born Maria Beatrice Anna Margherita Isabella d'Este)Queen consort of James II and VII of England
  • Mary of Teck (born Victoria Mary Augusta Louise Olga Pauline Claudine Agnes)Queen consort of George V of the U.K.
  • Mary TudorQueen consort of Louis XII of France
  • Mary of AustriaQueen consort of Louis II of Hungary and Bohemia; Governor of the Habsburg Netherlands
  • Mary Elizabeth DonaldsonCrown Princess of Denmark
  • Mary Todd LincolnU.S. First Lady as wife of President Abraham Lincoln
  • Mary Pickford (born Gladys Louise Smith)Canadian,American actress
  • Mary Sean YoungAmerican actress
  • Mary Tyler MooreAmerican actress
  • Mary Noel StreatfeildEnglish novelist
  • Mary Louise "Meryl" StreepAmerican actress
  • Mary Willa 'Mamie' GummerAmerican actress, daughter of actress Meryl Streep
  • Mary Anna McCartneydaughter of musician Paul McCartney and Linda Eastman McCartney
  • Mary Elizabeth WinsteadAmerican actress
  • Mary Jane BligeAmerican R&B singer
  • Mary Wollstonecraft ShelleyEnglish novelist
  • Mary Stuart MastersonAmerican actress
  • MaryLouise Parker, American actress
  • Mary Frances CrosbyAmerican actress
  • Mary Hart (born Mary Johanna Harum)American TV news personality
  • Mary Elizabeth MastrantonioAmerican actress
  • MaryKate Olsen, American actress and fashion designer; twin of Ashley Olsen
  • Mary Katherine CampbellMiss America 1922 and 1923
  • Mary Elise HaydenAmerican actress
  • Mary Pope OsborneAmerican children's author
  • Mary Jean "Lily" TomlinAmerican actress and comedienne
  • Mary Frances "Debbie" ReynoldsAmerican actress
  • Mary Margaret "Marg" HelgenbergerAmerican actress
  • Mary Ford (born Iris Colleen Summers)American singer, wife of guitarist Les Paul
  • Mary Ellen MarkAmerican photographer
  • Mary ByrneIrish singer,songwriter
  • Mary Boleynsister of English Queen consort Anne Boleyn
  • Mary Jo EustaceCanadian actress, singer and chef
  • Mary Jo SalterAmerican poet
  • MaryCharles Jones, American child actress
  • Mary WollstonecraftEnglish author and feminist
  • Mary Chapin CarpenterAmerican country music singer
  • Mary Eileen McDonnellAmerican actress
  • Mary StuartPrincess of England, Scotland and Ireland, daughter of James VI and I
  • Mary Henrietta of EnglandPrincess Royal, Princess of Orange and Countess of Nassau; daughter of Charles I
  • MaryPrincess of Great Britain, daughter of George II
  • MaryPrincess of the U.K.; Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh, daughter of George III
  • (Victoria Alexandra Alice) MaryPrincess Royal and Countess of Harewood, daughter of George V of the U.K.
  • Mary Adelaide Wilhelmina Elizabeth of CambridgeDuchess of Teck; mother of Mary of Teck
  • Mary Allin TraversAmerican singer of group Peter, Paul & Mary
  • Mary Blair (born Mary Browne Robinson)American Disney artist
  • Mary BlackIrish singer
  • Mary ReadEnglish pirate
  • Mary JacksonNASA's first African,american female engineer
  • Mary O'Hara AlsopAmerican novelist and screenwriter
  • Mary GilmoreAustralian poet and journalist
  • Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs aka Cokie RobertsAmerican TV journalist and author
  • Mary Kay PlaceAmerican actress
  • Mary Kay BergmanAmerican voice actress
  • Mary TammEnglish actress
  • Mary Jo KopechneAmerican political campaign specialist
  • Mary Renault (born Eileen Mary Challans) English and South African novelist
  • Mary OliverAmerican poet
  • Mary Hunter AustinAmerican nature writer
  • Mary (Theresa Eleanor) Higgins ClarkAmerican novelist
  • Mary Westmacottalias of novelist Agatha Christie
  • Mary AnningEnglish paleontologist
  • Mary Amelia Ingallssister of novelist Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Mary KubicaAmerican novelist
  • Mary Abigail "Abby" WambachAmerican soccer player
  • MaryCooke Branch Munford, American activist and suffragette
  • Mary Clementine Ronstadt (b. 1990)daughter of singer Linda Ronstadt
  • Mary Bush (b. 2000)daughter of TV personality Billy Bush
  • Mary James Marsden (b. 2005)daughter of actor James Marsden
  • Mary Lucille Diana Hanson (b. 2016) daughter of singer Zac Hanson
  • Mary James Rust (b. 2017)daughter of Paul Rust and Lesley Arfin
  • Mary Iglesias (b. 2020)daughter of Anna Kournikova and Enrique Iglesias
  • Mary ShelleyEnglish novelist, author of Frankenstein
  • Mary Bell (b.1957)English child murderer aged 10,11 in 1968

Mary in Pop Culture

  • Mary Lennoxmain character in F.H. Burnett's "The Secret Garden"
  • Mary Graysoncharacter in DC Universe
  • Mary Wardwellcharacter in "Sabrina" universe
  • "Mary Poppins" series by P.L. Travers, movie, and its main character
  • Mary Bennetcharacter in Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice"
  • Mary Malonecharacter in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series
  • Mary Morstan Watsoncharacter in the Sherlock Holmes series
  • Mary Jensenmain character in film "There's Something About Mary"
  • Mary Russell Holmescharacter in Laurie R. King's Russell and Holmes series
  • Mary Iris "Mim" Malonecharacter in "Mosquitoland"
  • Mary Sandra Winchestercharacter on TV's "Supernatural"
  • Mary Lisboncharacter in "The Virgin Suicides"
  • Mary ShepherdSunderland, character in video game Silent Hill 2
  • Mary Terrafinocharacter in Michael Grant's Gone series
  • Mary Katherine (M.K.)main character in movie "Epic"
  • Mary Benningtoncharacter in movie "Three Men and a Little Lady"
  • Mary Josephine Crawleycharacter on TV's "Downton Abbey"
  • Mary Anne Spiercharacter in The Babysitters Club series
  • Mary Mahoneycharacter in Christopher Durang's "Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All For You"
  • Marycharacter in G. A. Henty's, For the Temple
  • Mary Jane Watsoncharacter in the Spider,Man series
  • Mary Margaret Blanchardcharacter on TV's "Once Upon A Time"
  • Mary Edwards aka Grandmarycharacter in the American Girl Samantha series
  • Mary Jeancharacter in Lily Tomlin's sketches
  • Mary Camdencharacter on TV's "Seventh Heaven"
  • Mary Swansoncharacter in movie "Dumb and Dumber"
  • Mary Vegacharacter in movie "Crusade in Jeans"
  • Mary Barrowsvillain in video game "Clock Tower"
  • Sister Mary Benedictcharacter in movie "The Bells of St. Mary's"
  • Mary O'Connorcharacter in G. A. Henty's "With Moore at Corunna and Under Wellington's Command"
  • Mary Riverscharacter in Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre"
  • Sister Mary Eunice McKeecharacter from "American Horror Story: Asylum"
  • Mary Chancecharacter in Jenny Nimmo's "The Children of the Red King" series
  • Mary Waterscharacter in the "St Clare" book series by Enid Blyton
  • Mary Louisecharacter on TV's "The Vampire Diaries"
  • Blue Marycharacter in the video game "King of Fighters"
  • Mary "Marjory" Kerrcharacter in G. A. Henty's, In Freedom's Cause
  • Mary Lou Barebonecharacter in "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" by J.K. Rowling
  • Mary Prenticecharacter in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner"
  • Mary Griffincharacter in "The 100"
  • Mary Vanderboomcharacter in Rusty Lake: Roots
  • Mary Coopercharacter, Sheldon's Mother on the prequel series "Young Sheldon"
  • Mary Albrightcharacter on TV show "3rd Rock from the Sun"
  • Mary Fiorecharacter in 2001 film "The Wedding Planner"
  • Marymain character in "The Forest of Hands and Teeth", by Carrie Ryan
  • Marycharacter in "Mary Death" by Matthew Tarpley
  • Mary Adlerchild maths prodigy in film 'Gifted' played by McKenna Grace
  • Mary Shannonmain character on the TV series " In Plain Sight"
  • Mary (Hatch) Baileycharacter in film "It's a Wonderful Life"
  • Mary Wangcharacter in the Netflix series "Trollhunters"
  • Mary Palmercharacter in "The Alienist"
  • Mary Testcharacter on animated series Johnny Test
  • Bloody Marycocktail inspired by Mary I of England
  • "Mary Jane Holland" Lady Gaga song
  • "Bloody Mary" Lady Gaga song
  • The Jesus and Mary Chainband
  • "Mary" song by The Death Riders
  • "Mary had a Little Lamb" nursery rhyme
  • "MaryMary, quite contrary," nursery rhyme
  • "MaryMary," song by the Monkees
  • "Mary's Song" song by Taylor Swift
  • "Mary" song by Noah and the Whale
  • "Miss Mary Mack" song sung in hand clapping rhythm
  • "Suddenly Mary" song by the American alternative rock band The Posies
  • "Mary" song by Scissor Sisters
  • Mary Janeswomen's shoe
  • Mary Janeslang for marijuana
  • Mary Sueterm for a perfect female character\

Mary in Nameberry Blog Posts