The oldest-known form of Mary, serious and solemn Miriam has been a particular favorite of observant Jewish parents. But we can see it extending beyond that sphere into the next wave of Old Testament names post-Rachel, Rebecca, Sarah, Hannah, and Leah.
In the Old Testament, Miriam appears in Exodus as the older sister of Moses and Aaron, a prophetess who led the triumphal song and dance after the crossing of the Red Sea and deliverance of the Israelites from the Egyptians. Miriam is the Old Testament form of the Hebrew Maryam.
Miriam is an artistic character in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Marble Faun and in Henry James's The Tragic Muse, Miriam Rooth is a talented young half-Jewish actress, Miriam Leviers is a farm girl in D. H. Lawrence's Sons and Lovers, and Miriam is the eponymous central character of a haunting Truman Capote short story.
Miriam is a Top 100 name in Spain, Portugal and Germany and Number 243 on Nameberry. One notable namesake is South African singer Miriam Makeba. More relaxed nicknames: Miri, Mira, and Mimi.