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Gender: Female Meaning of Mary: "bitter" Origin of Mary: Hebrew Mary's Popularity in 2017: #126

The name Mary is a girl's name of Hebrew origin meaning "bitter". Mary is ranked #126 on our popularity charts and is often added to lists like Bible Names for Girls and discussed in our forums with posts like "A brother or sister for little Jack or Olivia".

From the experts:

Mary, the quintessential New Testament name, was Number 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.

Find other names based on Mary using our baby name generator.

Famous People Named Mary

Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus Christ
Mary Magdalene, follower of Jesus Christ
Mary of Bethany, follower of Jesus Christ
Mary I, Queen of England, aka Bloody Mary
Mary II, Queen of England and Scotland, wife of William III
Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots
Mary, Queen of Hungary
Mary of Guelders, Queen consort of James II of Scotland
Mary of Guise, Queen consort of James V of Scotland
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 Tudor, Queen consort of Louis XII of France
Mary of Austria, Queen consort of Louis II of Hungary and Bohemia; Governor of the Habsburg Netherlands
Mary Elizabeth Donaldson, Crown Princess of Denmark
Mary Todd Lincoln, U.S. First Lady as wife of President Abraham Lincoln
Mary Pickford (born Gladys Louise Smith), Canadian-American actress
Mary Sean Young, American actress
Mary Tyler Moore, American actress
Mary Noel Streatfeild, English novelist
Mary Louise "Meryl" Streep, American actress
Mary Willa 'Mamie' Gummer, American actress, daughter of actress Meryl Streep
Mary Anna McCartney, daughter of musician Paul McCartney and Linda Eastman McCartney
Mary Elizabeth Winstead, American actress
Mary Jane Blige, American R&B singer
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, English novelist
Mary Stuart Masterson, American actress
Mary-Louise Parker, American actress
Mary Frances Crosby, American actress
Mary Hart (born Mary Johanna Harum), American TV news personality
Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, American actress
Mary-Kate Olsen, American actress and fashion designer; twin of Ashley Olsen
Mary Katherine Campbell, Miss America 1922 and 1923
Mary Elise Hayden, American actress
Mary Pope Osborne, American children's author
Mary Jean "Lily" Tomlin, American actress and comedienne
Mary Frances "Debbie" Reynolds, American actress
Mary Margaret "Marg" Helgenberger, American actress
Mary Ford (born Iris Colleen Summers), American singer, wife of guitarist Les Paul
Mary Ellen Mark, American photographer
Mary Byrne, Irish singer-songwriter
Mary Boleyn, sister of English Queen consort Anne Boleyn
Mary Jo Eustace, Canadian actress, singer and chef
Mary Jo Salter, American poet
Mary-Charles Jones, American child actress
Mary Wollstonecraft, English author and feminist
Mary Chapin Carpenter, American country music singer
Mary Eileen McDonnell, American actress
Mary Stuart, Princess of England, Scotland and Ireland, daughter of James VI and I
Mary Henrietta of England, Princess Royal, Princess of Orange and Countess of Nassau; daughter of Charles I
Mary, Princess of Great Britain, daughter of George II
Mary, Princess of the U.K.; Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh, daughter of George III
(Victoria Alexandra Alice) Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood, daughter of George V of the U.K.
Mary Adelaide Wilhelmina Elizabeth of Cambridge, Duchess of Teck; mother of Mary of Teck
Mary Allin Travers, American singer of group Peter, Paul & Mary
Mary Blair (born Mary Browne Robinson), American Disney artist
Mary Black, Irish singer
Mary Read, English pirate
Mary Jackson, NASA's first African-american female engineer
Mary O'Hara Alsop, American novelist and screenwriter
Mary Gilmore, Australian poet and journalist
Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs aka Cokie Roberts, American TV journalist and author
Mary Kay Place, American actress
Mary Kay Bergman, American voice actress
Mary Tamm, English actress
Mary Jo Kopechne, American political campaign specialist
Mary Renault (born Eileen Mary Challans) English and South African novelist
Mary Oliver, American poet
Mary Hunter Austin, American nature writer
Mary (Theresa Eleanor) Higgins Clark, American novelist
Mary Westmacott, alias of novelist Agatha Christie
Mary Anning, English paleontologist
Mary Amelia Ingalls, sister of novelist Laura Ingalls Wilder
Mary Kubica, American novelist
Mary Abigail "Abby" Wambach, American soccer player
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.

Pop Culture References for the name Mary

Mary Lennox, main character in F.H. Burnett's "The Secret Garden"
Mary Grayson, character in DC Universe
Mary Wardwell, character in "Sabrina" universe
"Mary Poppins," series by P.L. Travers, movie, and its main character
Mary Bennet, character in Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice"
Mary Malone, character in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series
Mary Morstan Watson, character in the Sherlock Holmes series
Mary Jensen, main character in film "There's Something About Mary"
Mary Russell Holmes, character in Laurie R. King's Russell and Holmes series
Mary Iris "Mim" Malone, character in "Mosquitoland"
Mary Sandra Winchester, character on TV's "Supernatural"
Mary Lisbon, character in "The Virgin Suicides"
Mary Shepherd-Sunderland, character in video game Silent Hill 2
Mary Terrafino, character in Michael Grant's Gone series
Mary Katherine (M.K.), main character in movie "Epic"
Mary Bennington, character in movie "Three Men and a Little Lady"
Mary Josephine Crawley, character on TV's "Downton Abbey"
Mary Anne Spier, character in The Babysitters Club series
Mary Mahoney, character in Christopher Durang's "Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All For You"
Mary, character in G. A. Henty's, For the Temple
Mary Jane Watson, character in the Spider-Man series
Mary Margaret Blanchard, character on TV's "Once Upon A Time"
Mary Edwards aka Grandmary, character in the American Girl Samantha series
Mary Jean, character in Lily Tomlin's sketches
Mary Camden, character on TV's "Seventh Heaven"
Mary Swanson, character in movie "Dumb and Dumber"
Mary Vega, character in movie "Crusade in Jeans"
Mary Barrows, villain in video game "Clock Tower"
Sister Mary Benedict, character in movie "The Bells of St. Mary's"
Mary O'Connor, character in G. A. Henty's "With Moore at Corunna and Under Wellington's Command"
Mary Rivers, character in Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre"
Sister Mary Eunice McKee, character from "American Horror Story: Asylum"
Mary Chance, character in Jenny Nimmo's "The Children of the Red King" series
Mary Waters, character in the "St Clare" book series by Enid Blyton
Mary Louise, character on TV's "The Vampire Diaries"
Blue Mary, character in the video game "King of Fighters"
Mary "Marjory" Kerr, character in G. A. Henty's, In Freedom's Cause
Mary Lou Barebone, character in "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" by J.K. Rowling
Mary Prentice, character in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner"
Mary Griffin, character in "The 100"
Mary, main character in "The Forest of Hands and Teeth", by Carrie Ryan
Mary, character in "Mary Death" by Matthew Tarpley
Mary Adler, child maths prodigy in film 'Gifted' played by McKenna Grace
Mary Shannon, main character on the TV series " In Plain Sight"
Mary (Hatch) Bailey, character in film "It's a Wonderful Life"
Mary Wang, character in the Netflix series "Trollhunters"
Mary Palmer, character in "The Alienist"
Mary Test, character on animated series Johnny Test
Bloody Mary, cocktail inspired by Mary I of England
"Mary Jane Holland," Lady Gaga song
"Bloody Mary," Lady Gaga song
The Jesus and Mary Chain, band
"Mary," song by The Death Riders
"Mary had a Little Lamb," nursery rhyme
"Mary, Mary, quite contrary," nursery rhyme
"Mary, Mary," 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 Janes, women's shoe
Mary Jane, slang for marijuana
Mary Sue, term for a perfect female character
Mary Vanderboom, character in Rusty Lake: Roots


TheHumanCanvas Says:


Mary's been avoided like the plague for so long, it's bound to come back in style! Whether in the near future, or a bit further down the line, I couldn't say. It was so popular for so long, it just needed a while to slumber, but Mary was popular for a reason. I'm fairly certain people will begin to rediscover that.

April Ludgate Says:


I think of Mary Albright from 3rd Rock From The Sun

Violet_Rose Says:


Oh, thank you for informing me 💜

Xiao Casa Says:


Mary Magdalene was never described as a prostitute, but she was a victim of demon-possession. However, Jesus drove the demons out of her, and she became a committed, devout follower. Most Christians remember her as a woman of strong faith, one of the women present at Christ's crucifixion and one of the first to see him after his resurrection, before any of the 12 disciples saw him in fact!

The prostitute myth isn't from the Bible, but came about in Medieval church history, when translation of the Bible was not as accurate and there was lots of lore and legend surrounding what people did know of it.

mrs_anton_yelchin1990 Says:


Personally, I think the name is a bit too plain and definitely overused as a first. But, I think it could be cute as a middle name.

cheesy-biscuit Says:


Mary is not my cup of tea but I love Mamie.

Violet_Rose Says:


Wasn't the Mary Magdalene in the Bible a prostitute??..

FantasyandPrayer Says:


I love how beautifully vintage and southern Mary feels, as a brit with an obsession with southern names

Toronto87 Says:


Mary is feeling very fresh to me. It's sort of funny that the name means bitter, but the word that comes to mind when I hear Mary is that it is a sweet name. It's a front runner for a middle name for me for my first born daughter given my middle name is Marie and there are multiple people in both mine and my SO's families with names that start with "Mar".

Miriam2468 Says:


I'm surprised at how popular it is nowadays. I would never name my child this, I'm Jewish and I think this name is a little too tied to Christianity for me, but it is sorta sweet.

Ella Says:


I can't believe people think that Mary is still boring.Its not in the top 100 anymore peeps.Its actually lovely.

Kat Says:


My daughter is called Mary and her middle name Alice. Good choice! :D both also after relatives. I love it!

Kat Says:


Ive just read this comment today so I thought Id let you know I named my little girl Mary. She's 6 months old now and really suits it. I wasn't sure at first, but my husband loved it and it has certainly grown on me. She just looked like a Mary as soon as she came out.

Tammy Tim-Tam (Timmy Tammy) Says:


Is the baby a girl?

Tammy Tim-Tam (Timmy Tammy) Says:


Mary Jane *wink, wink*

paulapuddephatt Says:


Strong, classic name

mill1020 Says:


I'm totally into this name lately. Don't care about the meaning, either.

Gabrielle Doiron Says:


My mom's name is MaryEllen, but she goes by just Mary. I used to dislike my mom's name when I was younger because I found it boring and...dull. But as I got older I developed a certain appreciation in it - finding it's hidden beauty. I'm quite fond of her name now, and it's definitely not a name I hear very often. Which saddens me in its own way, because I think it's a charming name that deserves more credit.

clairels Says:


"It was Mary, Mary, long before the fashions came, And there's something there that sounds so fair, it's a grand old name." Still true, and this was written at the turn of the century!

clairels Says:


People still think Mary is plain or boring, but it isn't because it's become so seldom used. There was a girl named Mary who lived next door to me for a while growing up, and she was the only Mary in my entire high school of like 1,200 kids. She really made it her own. Lady Mary from Downton Abbey has also revitalized this for me.

Liberty Bell Says:


I always thought this was a pretty boring name, however you meet so few Mary's these days that I have become quite fond of it.

JulesBerry Says:


If I have a daughter (currently expecting baby #3) it'll be Mary Alice (as a fisrt name) in honor of my mom & grandma. Love the Mary double name tradition

MommaMcguire Says:


I appreciate your input MarieLalie. The meaning is what I've found to be most frustrating. Thankfully there are other possible meanings as well.

lovewn Says:


Ha! That's my grandmother's middle and last name. I hadn't thought of it as a first and middle because of the repeating "AYR" sound, but I guess it works pretty well.

hufflepuff Says:


I love the combo of Mary Sparrow! It makes me love the name Mary so much. I think you could get super creative with the middle name.

MaryFiona Says:


My name is Mary. I always thought it was really boring, but I really like it now. My parents were going to name me Maria, and I much prefer Mary.

Analia Says:


Hmm interesting

Impwood Says:


The suggested etymology where Mary simply means "bitter" is unlikely. The earliest form of Mary is Miryam, and the step from "mar" (bitter) to Miryam is quite unlikely. However, a combination of "mar" with "yam" (which translates to "sea") is possible, giving us the translation of "bitter sea", which is much nicer in my opinion, evoking the stinging mists and bitter salty smell of the sea, combined with the sound of the waves. Another possible etymology is that it comes from the word "mari" (lady) combined with "yam" (sea), which would give us the meaning of "lady of the sea".

Impwood Says:


My absolute favourite name! No name could be more sweet, simple, divine, pure, perfect, exquisite. It probably seems as if I am being a bit overly-ecstatic about plain old Mary but in my eyes her beauty is in her simpleness and her wonderful history. I would absolutely love to name a daughter this one day!

Plutophelia Says:


I love this name. Especially with a shiny middle name. I like Mary Mavis, Mary Octavia, Mary Ophelia, etc.

kitchi1 Says:



kitchi1 Says:


You could go by your middle name, then.

kitchi1 Says:


Yes, it's not as popular as it used to be and there are more popular names now. But it seems to be the go-to, generic name like Bob and John...which sucks heavily since it's such a nice name. John too.

kitchi1 Says:


Mary Magnolia...great!

kitchi1 Says:


It is definitely tied to Christianity, but not heavily. The name has been so widely used, it isn't just a Christian/Biblical name.

kitchi1 Says:


I have been really loving this name lately. As Tay2thestars said, it is a total breath of fresh air on a little girl. My concern is, once she grows up, she might no longer be a breath of fresh air. I would like to use it, and I know a really wonderful Mary who i would like to name after, but it's such a generic name I couldn't bring myself to, and I feel like it's odd as a middle name for some reason. Ah, I guess this would have to stay on the guilty pleasures list.

TheHumanCanvas Says:


I find it so disappointing that Mary is as far out of style these days as it is. I mean, there are always the vintage names like Emma and Sarah which manage to sound just as normal today as they did centuries ago - and then Mary has just been thrown in the trash. But I love it. I wish more people would love it.

vintageisfave Says:


I'm starting to really like Mary. One reason is that it's not too popular but it's very familiar. It also happens to be the name of my favorite character on my favorite TV show, Downton Abbey, and because of Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden. Lastly, it's vintage, and as my username states, well, "vintage is fave". Totally using for my kid one day. Hopefully my spouse will like it too:)I also love the cute nn opportunities-my favorites being May and Mollie.

vintageisfave Says:


Oh my! Mary-Magnolia is beautiful! One of my favorite pairs is Magnolia Mary haha.

Catastroffy Says:


I love this name. To me it is a classic name on a higher rung on the ladder than all the others.
It is simple and pure and sweet and sophisticated, and is close to as old and seeped in history as a name can be. It is the name of the Holy Mother of God. It's beautiful.

TheHumanCanvas Says:


That's so cool! Maybe if you're right, that's where the confusion came in :)

TheHumanCanvas Says:


Not really; I don't automatically associate it with Mary from the Bible.

MarieLalie Says:


To all the people that would use Mary (or Maria) for their children but they won't do it because of the "bitter" meaning. There is a heavy discussion about the meaning of Mary/Maria/Marie... since it is a very old name with very old origins. There is over 70 interpretations about the meaning of Mary. The most common interpretations include: Mary evolving from the egyptian Mrym (Myriam, basically) that would mean "beloved by the god Amon" or "Beloved by God". Another common interpretation comes form the semitic and would give Mary the meaning of "lady" or "queen". And of course, the one that believes that Mary comes from the hebrew Marah and that would give Mary the meaning of "bitter" or "tenacious". Other possible meanings of Mary include: "prophet", "seer" and etc. I repeat, there are more than 70 interpretations and "bitter" is only one of them! I hope y'all find this helpful!

Nicki Osborn Says:


I named my daughter Mary-Magnolia (both are her first name). I adore it! My grandmama's name was Mary and I find it beautiful!

ThistleThorn Says:


I always thought that it meant "bitterly wished for child"

ridersienna Says:


I think it would be a good idea to honour a Mary as a middle name, but as a first name I just think it is a little outdated

SoDallas3 Says:


Mary is the total classic package in my eyes. On par with Elisabeth. I adore Mary and many of her variations (Maribel, Maribeth, Mariana, Mariella, Marietta etc.) I remember loving it from the time I was small and it's been unwavering ever since. It's rich history, double barrel potential, cute nicknames just add to my love. Characters portrayed in pop culture like Lady Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery) on Downton Abbey and Mary, Queen of the Scots (Adelaide Kane) on Reign, just remind me of the sass and beauty of this almost forgotten classic. Fingers crossed I get to use it some way, somehow.

ThistleThorn Says:


A lot of people won't use this because of how popular it once was, but it seems like more girls are named Katelyn or Alexa than Mary. Also, it's one of the few names that can always be double barreled. etc. Mary Ann, Mary Kate, Mary Grace. It sounds feminine and cute, while not being babyish or not aging well.

lexibatt Says:


This is my middle name and i actually wish it was my first. its timeless and beautiful. Its sad that not too many parents consider this name.

Leah3456 Says:


Old fashioned and it ages well unlike some names I hear today.

Anonymous Says:


I'm named Mary and my sister is Elizabeth....

caroblaise Says:


There is a GORGEOUS song called "Mary" by George M Cohan that made me love this name so much. After hearing it, you'll fall in love with Mary.

Guest Says:


There's a certain sweetness in the name Mary-

neworleans Says:


Mary is so cute! It's so heavily tied to christianity, though.

eveyalecia Says:


According to behindthename there's some contention over the true meaning. They say the most likely contender is "beloved" from the Egyptian word mry. "Beloved" is much nicer than "bitter." :)

kellymcd Says:


A wonderful, classic name—can't go wrong!

AnonymousPerson Says:


It's good to hear this. The "bitter" meaning is really the only drawback on the name. I once heard that it meant "star of the sea"...which would make sense as well, if you consider words such as marine.

AnonymousPerson Says:


I agree completely. Nobody seems to consider the name Mary for their children nowadays. I would like to name a future daughter Mary or Rosemary.

MaryKathryn Says:


I babysit a little girl named Mary, and it's always nice to know that she's nine and has such a traditional and beautiful name. Her sister is Elizabeth, which is also a beautiful name!

MaryKathryn Says:


It's nice to know that my first name could have a different meaning. I've always hated that my name meant "bitter".

jessieo Says:


Good point.

Analia Says:


I'm not so sure if Mary really means bitter. Because the name Miriam, another form of Mary means " a child that is wished for" which makes sense because in the bible, Mary was born to St. Anne and St. Joachim after they were struggling to have a baby for so long that they "wished for" or "prayed for" a child to God and that's how they got Mary. But I could be wrong :/

24601 Says:


My name is Mary and I absolutely love it. I've always gone by my first and middle name (double names are huge down here in the South), which has made the name unique but classic, and while double names can be a hassle, I've always loved it!

LadyVanRaven Says:


Totally agree. Wish I met more little girls named Mary, it is just so beautiful and sounds new again. I'm really growing tired of names like Jaideyn, Macee, Makinzie and such. If I met a young girl named Mary, I might jump for glee.

Tay2thestars Says:


Some people think Mary is plain, but I think it's a breath of fresh air on a little girl. Mary by itself is pretty and sophisticated, but it's also a great name to dress up as a double barreled name or by giving her a fun middle name.