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International Variations of Mary

International Variations of Mary
In the world of girl names, Mary is as classic as it comes. Many of its international variations qualify as classics too, especially Maria, the name from which Mary itself derived. Mary was the most popular name for girls for hundreds of years, but today comes in second to Maria. It’s followed by Molly, which held the top spot among Marian names for much of the previous decade.

Along with Maria and Molly, other international variations of Mary in the US Top 1000 include Mia, Malia, Mariana, Miriam, Maryam, Marie, Maren, and Mara. Attractive forms of Mary from around that world that have never gained favor in the US include the French Manon and Milou, Scottish Mairi, and Dutch Marieke.

Mary’s meaning is disputed , but it is undeniably important both spiritually and culturally for many people around the world.

Mary may not be exactly stylish among baby girl names now, but as the top girls' name for centuries, it's spawned many intriguing international variations. Browse our full list, below.

MiaHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian word name or Scandinavian short form of Maria
  • Meaning:

    "mine or bitter"
  • Description:

    Mia originated as a short form of Maria, which ultimately derived from the Hebrew name Miryam. In modern times, Mia has been used as a nickname for names including Amelia, Emilia, and Miriam. Mia is also an Italian and Spanish word meaning 'mine.'

MiriamHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew or Egyptian
  • Meaning:

    "drop of the sea, bitter, or beloved"
  • Description:

    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. Miriam is currently the Number 1 girls' name in Israel.

MollyHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Mary, Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "bitter"
  • Description:

    Molly originated as a diminutive of Mary, spawning from medieval variations Malle and Molle. Molly has been used as a stand-alone pet form of Mary since the Middle Ages, and has been consistently popular as an independent name in the U.S. over the past several decades.

MarenHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "sea"
  • Description:

    Maren is one of the many twenty-first-century takes on Mary--but we find the more classic Marin spelling preferable. When spelled Maren, the pronunciation seems more clearly to resemble Mary, with the emphasis on the first syllable. Marin, the spelling also used for the beautiful coastal county north of San Francisco, is often pronounced with the emphasis on the second syllable, as in Marie.

MaraHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "bitter"
  • Description:

    Mara is the evocative ancient root of Mary, appearing in the Book of Ruth, in which Naomi, devastated after the death of her two sons, says "Call me not Naomi, call me Mara." It's one of the girl names starting with M that both fits in and stands out.

MaryHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew or Egyptian
  • Meaning:

    "drop of the sea, bitter, or beloved"
  • Description:

    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).

MariahHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "the Lord is my teacher; or drop of the sea, bitter, or beloved"
  • Description:

    Thanks to Mariah Carey, everyone now knows this name – and is aware that Mariah's pronounced with a long i – just as Maria was in the Jane Austen era. And though Mariah now sounds modern, it was heard as far back as 1550 in Great Britain.

MarisolHeart

  • Origin:

    Spanish, contracted form of Maria de la Soledad
  • Meaning:

    "Mary of Solitude"
  • Description:

    Marisol is a favorite Spanish name for girls, and an excellent candidate to cross the culture line, a la Soledad and Paz.

MarieHeart

  • Origin:

    French variation of Mary
  • Meaning:

    "drop of the sea, bitter, or beloved"
  • Description:

    The ubiquitous French version of Mary came into the English-speaking world in the nineteenth century. In the United States, Marie was a huge hit at the turn of the last century and for the ensuing fifty years, becoming the seventh most popular name in the country for three years, from 1901 to 1904.

PollyHeart

  • Origin:

    English variation of Molly
  • Description:

    An alternative to the no-longer-fresh Molly, the initial 'P' gives Polly a peppier sound, combining the cozy virtues of an old-timey name with the bounce of a barmaid.

MariaHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew or Egyptian
  • Meaning:

    "drop of the sea, bitter, or beloved"
  • Description:

    As a highly popular girls’ name in all Spanish-speaking countries, this saintly Latin variation of Mary retains a timeless beauty. Through the centuries, Maria remains one of the most widely-used girl names starting with M.

MariamHeart

  • Origin:

    Arabic variation of Mary
  • Meaning:

    "drop of the sea, bitter, or beloved"
  • Description:

    Popular among parents with Arab roots. Also found as Maryam.

MarilynHeart

  • Origin:

    English, combination of Mary and Lynn
  • Meaning:

    "drop of the sea, bitter, or beloved + lake"
  • Description:

    For a name that was in the Top 20 for a whole decade – the 1930's – Marilyn has attained the status of almost a one-person name. Just say the name Marilyn, and most people will know who you mean. Yet strangely enough, though Marilyn Monroe (born Norma Jean and renamed in tribute to earlier star Marilyn Miller) was the sex symbol of her generation, very little stardust adhered to her name. In fact, when Mariah Carey wished to honor the star in her daughter's name, she chose to call her Monroe rather than Marilyn.

MoiraHeart

  • Origin:

    Irish, variation of Mary
  • Meaning:

    "bitter; beloved; drop of the sea"
  • Description:

    Well-established Irish and Scottish name that has never really caught on across the pond. Remembered by an older generation as the beautiful red-haired ballerina in the film The Red Shoes, Moira Shearer.

MariHeart

  • Origin:

    Welsh, Breton, Scandinavian, Hungarian, Estonian, and Basque variation of Maria or Mary
  • Meaning:

    "drop of the sea, bitter, or beloved"
  • Description:

    Mari enjoyed some mid-century popularity as a nicknameish version of Mary, but now deserves a second look as a multicultural classic. Mari is the name of the Basque goddess of fertility and weather and is also, for unrelated reasons, popular in Norway. The biggest problem with the potentially-lovely Mari will be getting people to say it the way you want. While some Europeans pronounce it as Marie, that will only confuse things more. Better to make it its own individual name by pronouncing it MAH-ree. As one commenter pointed out, in Estonian the name is not a Mary variation but means "berry" – all the more reason for us to like it!

MarianaHeart

  • Origin:

    Spanish and Portuguese combination of Ana and Maria
  • Meaning:

    "grace + drop of the sea, bitter, or beloved"
  • Description:

    Combination of popular traditional names Maria and Ana.

ManonHeart

  • Origin:

    French, diminutive of Marie
  • Meaning:

    "bitter"
  • Description:

    Manon is an endearing French pet name for Marie or Marianne; it has the international yet straightforward feel that makes it a viable import. Manon of the Spring was a gorgeous French film, Manon Lescaut a 1731 novel by Abbe Prevost, set in France and Louisiana, that was controversial in its day. It formed the basis of operas by Puccini and Massenet, and several films and TV series.

MarionHeart

  • Origin:

    English and French diminutive of Marie
  • Meaning:

    "drop of the sea, bitter, or beloved"
  • Description:

    An underused classic that has proved surprisingly unisex over the last few decades, being given to roughly the same number of baby girls and boys in the US from the 1970s to the 2000s. For a girl, Marion has a sturdy old-fashioned charm.

MarissaHeart

  • Origin:

    Variation of Maris or a combination of Maria + Louisa
  • Meaning:

    "drop of the sea, bitter, or beloved + famous battle"
  • Description:

    Pretty feminissima name that never became as overused as cousin Melissa. The more streamlined Maris is a more modern sounding option.

MariellaHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian and Dutch diminutive of Maria
  • Meaning:

    "drop of the sea, bitter, or beloved"
  • Description:

    Lilting and nearly unknown here, with the currently popular ella ending, makes a good Marissa alternative.

MaliaHeart

  • Origin:

    Hawaiian variation of Mary
  • Meaning:

    "bitter"
  • Description:

    Makes Grandma Mary or Maria's name fresh and modern. A fairly unusual name made more familiar by one of Barack and Michelle Obama's young daughters.

MaribelHeart

  • Origin:

    English combination of Mary and Bel
  • Meaning:

    "drop of the sea, bitter, or beloved + beautiful"
  • Description:

    This modern name gathers some steam from the wildly popular Isabel.

MarielleHeart

  • Origin:

    Dutch and French diminutive of Mary
  • Meaning:

    "drop of the sea, bitter, or beloved"
  • Description:

    Mariel Hemingway made us aware of the more abbreviated spelling of this charming name, which dates back to the nineteenth century.

MilouHeart

  • Origin:

    Combination of Marie and Lou or Louise
  • Description:

    Milou and her near-identical twin Malou are adorable names popular throughout Europe; they're contractions of Marie or Mary and Lou or Louise. The Malou spelling will probably be easier for English speakers to pronounce; Milou may be conflated with Milo.

MarielHeart

  • Origin:

    Dutch diminutive of Mary
  • Meaning:

    "drop of the sea, bitter, or beloved"
  • Description:

    Mariel Hemingway popularized this attractive and unusual variation of Mary. It's a fairly recent form, emerging in the twentieth century. Other variations include Marielle and Mariella, which is found in Italy.

MaryamHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew, Arabic, Iranian
  • Meaning:

    "drop of the sea, bitter, or beloved"
  • Description:

    As Mary falls further out of favor, her variations become more appealing, whether you're honoring an ancestral Mary or Marie or Miriam or simply love the tradition of the name.

MitziHeart

  • Origin:

    German, diminutive of Maria
  • Meaning:

    "bitter"
  • Description:

    Mitzi is a spunky German nickname name that might appeal to parents drawn to the genre of lively vintage chorus girl names that proliferated in 1930's musicals. Lively entertainer Mitzi Gaynor--who was originally named Francesca Marlene de Czani von Gerber--made the name notable in mid-century America.

MauraHeart

  • Origin:

    Anglicized variation of Maire
  • Description:

    Somber, almost mournful name that still has a lovely sound.

MaureenHeart

  • Origin:

    Irish variation of Mary
  • Description:

    Almost as popular in the 1950s among the Irish in Boston as it was with those back in Bray, Maureen was once among the most prominent Irish names for girls in the US but has fallen from favor along with most of her een-ending sisters such as Eileen and Colleen.

MarisaHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian and Spanish combination of Maria and Louisa
  • Meaning:

    "drop of the sea, bitter, or beloved + famous battle"
  • Description:

    A name made famous by Marisas Berenson and Tomei, never became as saturated as its cousin Melissa, so still a feasible choice. Marisa is one of those Spanish and Italian names for girls that sounds at once unusual and familiar, which makes it truly an international choice.

MamieHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Mary or Margaret
  • Description:

    Mamie is back. Having finally shorn her Mamie Eisenhower bangs, this insouciant and adorable nickname name is perfect if you want a zestier way to honor a beloved aunt Mary. Meryl Streep's actress daughter, properly named Mary Willa, is called Mamie Gummer. You might think of Mamie as a sister of the stylish Maisie.

MareHeart

  • Origin:

    Irish variation of Mary
  • Description:

    With this spelling, and one-syllable pronunciation, it sounds less like a whole name than a cut-off version of Mary. In fact, actress Mare Winningham was christened Mary.

MariettaHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian diminutive of Maria
  • Meaning:

    "drop of the sea, bitter, or beloved"
  • Description:

    Marietta would make for a classy and uncommon long form for cool nickname Etta.

MyHeart

  • Origin:

    Swedish diminutive of Maria
  • Meaning:

    "bitter; wished-for child"
  • Description:

    Although the sound is pretty, "my" is too common of an English word for My to be usable as a baby name.

MaryaHeart

  • Origin:

    Arabic
  • Meaning:

    "purity, bright whiteness"
  • Description:

    The final a adds a lot of style.

RiaHeart

  • Origin:

    Spanish
  • Meaning:

    "small river"
  • Description:

    Short and feminine, Ria has a rhythmic flow.

MalouHeart

  • Origin:

    Combination of Mary and Lou
  • Meaning:

    "bitter; renowned warrior"
  • Description:

    This charming name, popular in France and the Netherlands, has not traveled to the U.S. yet but would make a modern way to honor grandma Mary or Louise, or as a perfect short form of Mary Louise. Or, with the growing fashion for nickname names, it can stand perfect well on its own. One of several similar variations — Lou, Lilou, Louane — in vogue in Europe.

MaritzaHeart

  • Origin:

    Spanish diminutive of Maria
  • Meaning:

    "drop of the sea, bitter, or beloved"
  • Description:

    Used especially in Latin America, this would make a funky spin on Maria.

MashaHeart

  • Origin:

    Russian variation of Maria, Hebrew or Egyptian
  • Meaning:

    "drop of the sea, bitter, or beloved"
  • Description:

    Russian short form of Mary not destined for emigration.

MairiHeart

  • Origin:

    Scottish variation of Mary
  • Meaning:

    "bitter"
  • Description:

    Why does Mairi, pronounced MAW-re, seem so much cooler than Mary? This Irish form of Mary was not used before the seventeenth century, as it was considered too sacred. Some of its Anglicized forms include Moira, Maura and Maurya.

MaireHeart

  • Origin:

    Finnish, Irish variation of Mary
  • Meaning:

    "sweet; drop of the sea, bitter"
  • Description:

    Both Maire and Mare have begun making inroads with parents seeking novel yet authentic ways of honoring an ancestral Mary. The Finnish variation derives from the word mairea, meaning "sweet."

MaricelaHeart

  • Origin:

    Spanish, combination of Maria and Celia
  • Meaning:

    "drop of the sea, bitter, or beloved + heaven"
  • Description:

    A pretty and little-known Spanish smoosh name, combining Maria with Celia.

IsamarHeart

  • Origin:

    Spanish, Conflation of Isabella and Maria
  • Description:

    This is one elaboration of the ubiquitous Isobel that we think should be chosen more often and would work well in many languages.

MariskaHeart

  • Origin:

    Hungarian diminutive of Maria
  • Meaning:

    "drop of the sea, bitter, or beloved"
  • Description:

    Actress Hargitay made us notice this one, it makes a robust, energetic Slavic impression.

MarietteHeart

  • Origin:

    French diminutive of Marie
  • Meaning:

    "drop of the sea, bitter, or beloved"
  • Description:

    A less-popular alternative to Juliette, perhaps – although it feels rather more dated.

MarabelHeart

  • Origin:

    Variation of Maribel
  • Meaning:

    "beautiful Mary"
  • Description:

    Marabel was a form sometimes seen in the seventeenth century, and might appeal to someone looking for an uncommon 'bel' name.

MarikaHeart

  • Origin:

    Dutch variation of Mary
  • Description:

    Foreign variations of Mary are definitely the way to go; this one has a nice Dutch-girl feel.

MieHeart

  • Origin:

    Danish, Norwegian diminutive of Marie, Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "bitter; beauty; three"
  • Description:

    A sweet and simple nickname for Marie that could serve to freshen up the outdated full form.

MariyaHeart

  • Description:

    Russian, Ukrainian and Bulgarian version of Maria sure to cause a lifetime of spelling questions and pronunciation mistakes.

MaijaHeart

  • Origin:

    Finnish and Latvian variation of Maria
  • Description:

    A lovely and typical name on the eastern shore of the Gulf of Bothnia that no one in the English-speaking world will know how to pronounce. Maia sounds (virtually) the same and is far more familiar outside Finland and Latvia.
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