For centuries, Mary was the number one name for girls in many countries throughout the world. We can thank the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, for the name popularity; in a culture where the Christian religion reigned supreme, honoring her was of utmost importance to many new parents. While global communities – and name tastes – may have changed, we can still thank Mary today for the dozens of beautiful names that she inspired over the years.
Marian names refer to those that honor the Virgin Mary indirectly – taken from her many titles, the places where she appeared to believers, or important objects of faith connected to her. These names have been especially popular in Spanish-speaking communities, but a few Marian choices have entered English-oriented populations, too. Let’s look at a few feminine options from this lovely tradition: melodic and meaningful, these fifteen names combine historic and religious grounding with a unique sound.
Il Sassoferrato, “Madonna and Child,” 17th century. Image via Wikimedia Commons
Belen. Simple yet sophisticated, Belen is an attractive choice that’s relatively new to the United States – it only appeared in the top 1000 for the first time in 2000. Spanish for “Bethlehem,” where Mary gave birth to Jesus, Belen is particularly popular in Chile as well. With Bella and Elena flourishing on American playgrounds, Belen seems like a perfect alternative to the trends.
Lourdes. While this splendid name gained a few fans in the mid-twentieth century, it was a different Madonna who gave the name an extra boost – the pop star’s daughter, Lourdes Leon, influenced namers in 1996 and after. Luxurious Lourdes comes from a town in the Basque region of France where Mary appeared to St. Bernadette. This uncommon place name is also a fantastic route to the nicknames Lou or Desi.
Soledad. Derived from the Virgin Mary’s title “Our Lady of Solitude,” Soledad is an unforgettable name with style and substance. The most notable namesake is journalist Soledad O’Brien, whose birth name is actually María de la Soledad Teresa O’Brien. Elegant and sincere, Soledad is an excellent option for those who want a name with gravitas.
Consuelo. In the 1840’s, novelist George Sand (a masculine pseudonym for the female Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin) published a novel called Consuelo, about the “triumph of moral purity” by the eponymous heroine. With such an inspiring early wearer, is it any wonder that the name gained popularity in the Western world over the following decades? Another popular name in Chile, Consuelo – from Mary’s title “Our Lady of Consolation” – is a gorgeous choice, radiating grace and integrity.
Rosario. Spanish for “rosary,” Rosario is one of the most popular names for women in all of Mexico’s history. A rosary is a set of prayer beads, used most commonly in the Catholic faith to ask Mary for divine intercession and pray directly to God. While Rosario is feminine in Spanish, the name is masculine in Italian, and has frequently been recorded for both boys and girls in the United States. Melodious Rosario is also popular in film, television, and music, making it accessible but not overly attached to one individual.
Luz. Barely in the US top 1000 – it currently ranks at #998 – Luz is a chic yet friendly option with the appealing meaning of “light,” which references the epithet “Our Lady of Light.” In Spanish-speaking communities, Luz is often combined with other names: María de Luz, Luz Elena, etc. If you’re looking for a name that’s less common than Lucy but more memorable than Louise, Luz may be right up your alley.
Araceli. An historically popular name in Mexico that’s never made it big in the United States, Araceli comes from the uplifting phrase “altar of the sky.” The name specifically refers the Virgin Mary’s role as patron of Lucena, Spain, where an altar proclaiming “Our Lady of Araceli” honors her. Euphonic and feminine, Araceli fits right in with modern choices like Aria and Cecilia.
Mercedes. Though this name originally referred to the merciful aspects of Mary’s character, the name is now closely linked with the luxury car brand. Still, Mercedes’ background makes it more than just a flashy choice; Mercedes appears in royal family names, classic literature, and even modern films and television shows. It was very popular in the United States in the early 1990’s, but isn’t on the top 1000 today – your Mercedes is sure to shine all on her own.
Candela. Pretty Candela is a diminutive of Candelaria, another name for the festival of Candlemas (a celebration of the purification of the Virgin Mary). Candela’s aural associations with light and fire make it especially charming, and it could be an uncommon alternative to trendy Camila. Popular in Spain, this cross-cultural choice is familiar yet unique to American ears.
Fe. Pronounced “Fay,” this short and sweet Marian name is also a virtue name, translating to “faith” in Spanish. Fe is a shortening of a longer title, “María y de Fe” (also reduced to Marifé). Used sporadically in the United States since 1960, this lovely choice has never been given to more than 9 girls in any year. With shorter names on the rise, Fe merges tradition and positivity with a modern sound.
Maris. This name has a convoluted linguistic history – confusion between the roots of Hebrew Mary and Latin mare (“sea”) led to the connection between Mary and Maris. The Marian title Stella Maris, meaning “star of the sea,” refers to Mary’s role as a religious guide for believers, a kind of north star. Despite its etymological missteps, pleasant Maris is a strong and admirable choice – and could work well as an honor name for an important Marissa.
Nieves. Names from the Neve (“snow”) family are starting to rise in the English-speaking world – Irish Niamh, Latin Neva, and Dutch Neve in particular. Could beautiful Spanish Nieves join the mix? From the title “Our Lady of Snows,” this stunning choice combines elements of nature and religion in a delicate package.
Dolores. While Dolores’ style is a bit different than other names on this list, its origins are very similar – the name is Spanish for “sorrows,” and refers to Mary’s title as “Our Lady of Sorrows.” With the help of Mexican actress Dolores del Rio, this name soared as high as #13 in the United States in 1930, but hasn’t been recorded on the top 1000 since 1989. This classic, vintage choice also offers the adorable nickname Lola.
Socorro. From the Spanish for “aid” or “relief,” Socorro is an uncommon name with an unparalleled melody. It briefly ranked on US popularity charts between the 1920’s and 1950’s, though it comes from a much older Marian title – “Our Lady of Perpetual Help.” Offering a multitude of nicknames, such as Cory or Coco, Socorro is a darling option for a modern child.
Maricruz. Originally a merging of the title phrase María de la Cruz (“Mary of the Cross”), Maricruz is a meaningful name with a bit of flair. It’s been recorded in the United States since 1962, and could work well as an alternative to names like Marisol or Mariana. Interestingly, the name’s popularity jumped 800% between 1987 and 1988 when it was featured on a popular telenovela, Quinceanera.