MELISSA f English, Dutch, Ancient Greek, Greek Mythology
Means "bee" in Greek. This was the name of a nymph that cared for young Zeus
in Greek mythology. It is also the name of the fairy who helps Rogero escape from the witch Alcina in Ludovico Ariosto's poem 'Orlando Furioso' (1516). As an English given name, Melissa
has been used since the 18th century.
MERAB (1) f Biblical
Means "abundant" in Hebrew. This was the name of a daughter of Saul in the Old Testament.
MEREDITH m & f Welsh, English
From the Welsh name Maredudd
, possibly meaning "great lord" or "sea lord". Since the mid-1920s it has been used more often for girls than for boys in English-speaking countries, though it is still a masculine name in Wales. A famous bearer of this name as surname was the English novelist and poet George Meredith (1828-1909).
MICAIAH m & f Biblical
Means "who is like YAHWEH
?" in Hebrew. This name occurs in the Old Testament belonging to both males and females.
MICHAL (2) f Biblical, Hebrew
Possibly means "brook" in Hebrew. In the Old Testament she is a daughter of Saul
. She was married to David
, but after David fled from Saul he remarried her to someone else. Later, when David became king, he ordered her returned to him.
MILADA f Czech
Originally a diminutive of Slavic names containing the element milu
"gracious, dear". It has become associated with Czech mladý
MILENA f Bulgarian, Czech, Serbian, Croatian, Slovene, Macedonian, Polish, Russian, Italian
Feminine form of MILAN
. It began to be used in Italy in honour of Milena Vukotić (1847-1923), mother of Helen of Montenegro, the wife of Italian king Victor Emmanuel III. In Italy it can also be considered a combination of MARIA
MILLICENT f English
From the Germanic name Amalasuintha
, composed of the elements amal
"work, labour" and swinth
"strong". Amalasuintha was a 6th-century queen of the Ostrogoths. The Normans introduced this name to England in the form Melisent
. Melisende was a 12th-century queen of Jerusalem, the daughter of Baldwin II.
MINERVA f Roman Mythology, English
Possibly derived from Latin mens
meaning "intellect", but more likely of Etruscan origin. Minerva was the Roman goddess of wisdom and war, approximately equivalent to the Greek goddess Athena
. It has been used as a given name in the English-speaking world since after the Renaissance.
MIRANDA f English, Dutch
Derived from Latin mirandus
meaning "admirable, wonderful". The name was created by Shakespeare for the heroine in his play 'The Tempest' (1611), about a father and daughter stranded on an island. It did not become a common English given name until the 20th century. This is also the name of one of the moons of Uranus, named after the Shakespearian character.
MIREILLE f French
From the Occitan name Mirèio
, which was first used by the poet Frédéric Mistral for the main character in his poem 'Mirèio' (1859). He probably derived it from the Occitan word mirar
meaning "to admire".
MIRIAM f Hebrew, English, German, Biblical, Biblical Hebrew
Original Hebrew form of MARY
. It is used in the Old Testament, where it belongs to the elder sister of Moses
. She watched over the infant Moses as the pharaoh's daughter drew him from the Nile. The name has long been popular among Jews, and it has been used as an English Christian name since the Protestant Reformation.
MITRA (1) m & f Hinduism, Indian, Hindi
Means "friend" in Sanskrit, a cognate of MITHRA
. This is a transcription of both the feminine form मित्रा
and the masculine form मित्र
, which is the name of a Hindu god of friendship and contracts who appears in the Rigveda.
MOIRA f Irish, Scottish, English
Anglicized form of MÁIRE
. It also coincides with Greek Μοιρα (Moira)
meaning "fate, destiny", the singular of Μοιραι
, the Greek name for the Fates. They were the three female personifications of destiny in Greek mythology.
MONA (1) f Irish, English
Anglicized form of MUADHNAIT
. It is also associated with Greek monos
"one" and Leonardo da Vinci's painting the 'Mona Lisa' (in which case it is a contraction of Italian ma donna
meaning "my lady").
MONICA f English, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Late Roman
Meaning unknown, most likely of North African or Phoenician origin. In the 4th century this name was borne by the North African saint Monica of Hippo, the mother of Saint Augustine, whom she converted to Christianity. Since the Middle Ages it has been associated with Latin moneo
"advisor" and Greek monos
"one". As an English name, Monica
has been in general use since the 18th century.
MONIKA f German, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Czech, Slovak, Polish, Slovene, Croatian, Lithuanian, Latvian
Form of MONICA
MORANA f Slavic Mythology, Croatian
From a Slavic root meaning "death, plague". In Slavic mythology this was the name of the goddess of winter and death.
MORGAN (1) m & f Welsh, English, French
From the Old Welsh masculine name Morcant
, which was possibly derived from Welsh mor
"sea" and cant
"circle". Since the 1980s in America Morgan
has been more common for girls than boys, perhaps due to stories of Morgan
le Fay or the fame of actress Morgan Fairchild (1950-).
MORIAH f Biblical, Biblical Hebrew, English (Modern)
Possibly means "seen by YAHWEH
" in Hebrew. This is a place name in the Old Testament, both the land where Abraham
is to sacrifice Isaac
and the mountain upon which Solomon
builds the temple. They may be the same place. Since the 1980s it has occasionally been used as a feminine given name in America.
MORWENNA f Cornish, Welsh
Means "maiden" in Cornish (related to the Welsh word morwyn
). This was the name of a 6th-century Cornish saint.
MURIEL f English, French, Irish
Medieval English form of a Celtic name which was probably related to the Irish name MUIRGEL
. The Normans brought it to England from Brittany. In the modern era it was popularized by a character from Dinah Craik's novel 'John Halifax, Gentleman' (1856).
NAAMAH f Biblical, Hebrew
Means "pleasant" in Hebrew. This name is borne in the Old Testament by both a daughter of Lamech
and a wife of Solomon
. Some later Jewish texts give Naamah as the name of Noah
's wife, even though she is not named in the Old Testament.
NAOMI (1) f English, Hebrew, Biblical
From the Hebrew name נָעֳמִי (Na'omiy)
meaning "pleasantness". In the Old Testament this is the name of the mother-in-law of Ruth
. After the death of her husband and sons, she returned to Bethlehem with Ruth. There she declared that her name should be Mara
(see Ruth 1:20).... [more]
NATALIE f French, English, German
From the Late Latin name Natalia
, which meant "Christmas Day" from Latin natale domini
. This was the name of the wife of the 4th-century martyr Saint Adrian of Nicomedia. She is venerated as a saint in the Orthodox Church, and the name has traditionally been more common among Eastern Christians than those in the West. It was popularized in America by actress Natalie Wood (1938-1981), who was born to Russian immigrants.
NATASHA f Russian, English
Russian diminutive of NATALYA
. This is the name of a character in Leo Tolstoy's novel 'War and Peace' (1865). It has been used in the English-speaking world only since the 20th century.
NAZLI f Turkish
Turkish form of NAZLI
. This name is spelled with a Turkish dotless i
, as Nazlı
NÉLIDA f Literature, Spanish
Created by French author Marie d'Agoult for her semi-autobiographical novel 'Nélida' (1846), written under the name Daniel Stern. It was probably an anagram of her pen name DANIEL
NERTHUS f Germanic Mythology
Latinized form of Nerþuz
, the Germanic (feminine) equivalent of Njörðr
). Nerthus was a Germanic goddess of fertility as described by the Roman historian Tacitus in the 1st century.
NICOLE f French, English, Dutch, German
French feminine form of NICHOLAS
, commonly used in the English-speaking world since the middle of the 20th century. A famous bearer is American-Australian actress Nicole Kidman (1967-).
NINA (1) f Russian, Italian, English, German, French, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, Dutch, Polish, Slovene, Czech, Slovak, Croatian, Serbian
Short form of names that end in nina
, such as ANTONINA
. It was imported to Western Europe from Russia and Italy in the 19th century. This name also coincides with the Spanish word niña
meaning "little girl".
NOAH (2) f Biblical
Derived from the Hebrew name נוֹעָה (No'ah)
meaning "motion". In the Old Testament this is the name of a daughter of Zelophehad.
NORMA f English, Italian, Literature
Created by Felice Romani for the main character in the opera 'Norma' (1831). He may have based it on Latin norma
"rule". This name is also frequently used as a feminine form of NORMAN
NÚRIA f Catalan, Portuguese
From a Catalan title of the Virgin Mary
, Nostra Senyora de Núria
, meaning "Our Lady of Nuria". Nuria is a sanctuary in Spain in which there is a shrine containing a famous statue of Mary.
NYDIA f English (Rare), Spanish, Literature
Used by British author Edward Bulwer-Lytton for a blind flower-seller in his novel 'The Last Days of Pompeii' (1834). He perhaps based it on Latin nidus
OANEZ f Breton
Derived from Breton oan
"lamb" (ultimately from Latin agnus
) and used as a Breton form of AGNES
OCTAVIA f English, Spanish, Ancient Roman
Feminine form of OCTAVIUS
. Octavia was the wife of Mark Antony and the sister of Roman emperor Augustus. In 19th-century England it was sometimes given to the eighth-born child.
ODESSA f Various
From the name of a Ukrainian city that sits on the north coast of the Black Sea. This name can also be used as a feminine form of ODYSSEUS
ODETTE f French
French diminutive of ODA
. This is the name of a princess who has been transformed into a swan in the ballet 'Swan Lake' (1877) by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
OLGA f Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, German, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Icelandic, Latvian, Hungarian, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian, Czech, Slovene, Serbian, Bulgarian
Russian form of HELGA
. The Varangians brought it from Scandinavia to Russia. The 10th-century Saint Olga was the wife of Igor I, Grand Prince of Kievan Rus (a state based around the city of Kiev). Following his death she ruled as regent for her son for 18 years. After she was baptized in Constantinople she attempted to convert her subjects to Christianity.
OLIVIA f English, Italian, Spanish, German, Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish
This name was first used in this spelling by William Shakespeare for a character in his comedy 'Twelfth Night' (1602). Shakespeare may have based it on OLIVER
, or perhaps directly on the Latin word oliva
meaning "olive". In the play Olivia is a noblewoman who is wooed by Duke Orsino but instead falls in love with his messenger Cesario.... [more]
OPHELIA f English, Literature
Derived from Greek οφελος (ophelos)
meaning "help". This name was probably created by the 15th-century poet Jacopo Sannazaro for a character in his poem 'Arcadia'. It was borrowed by Shakespeare for his play 'Hamlet' (1600), in which it belongs to Hamlet
's lover who eventually goes insane and drowns herself. In spite of this, the name has been used since the 19th century.
OPRAH f Various
In the case of television personality Oprah Winfrey, it was a childhood mispronunciation of her real name ORPAH
that became permanent.
ORIA f Italian
Italian form of the Late Latin name Aurea
which was derived from Latin aureus
"golden". This was the name of a 3rd-century saint from Ostia (near Rome), as well as an 11th-century Spanish saint.
ORIANA f Italian
Possibly derived from Latin aurum
"gold" or from its derivatives, Spanish oro
or French or
. In medieval legend Oriana was the daughter of a king of England who married the knight Amadis.
ORPAH f Biblical
Means "back of the neck" in Hebrew. Orpah was Naomi's second daughter-in-law in the Book of Ruth in the Old Testament.
PADMA f & m Hinduism, Indian, Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, Telugu
Means "lotus" in Sanskrit. This is a transcription of both the feminine form पद्मा
and the masculine form पद्म
. According to Hindu tradition a lotus holding the god Brahma
arose from the navel of the god Vishnu
. The name Padma is used in Hindu texts to refer to several characters, including the goddess Lakshmi
and the hero Rama
PARVIN f Persian, Azerbaijani
Means "the Pleiades" in Persian. The Pleiades are a group of seven stars in the constellation Taurus.
PATRICIA f English, Spanish, German, Late Roman
Feminine form of Patricius
). In medieval England this spelling appears in Latin documents, but this form was probably not used as the actual name until the 18th century, in Scotland.
PAULA f German, English, Finnish, Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan, Romanian, Hungarian, Polish, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Croatian, Ancient Roman
Feminine form of Paulus
). This was the name of a 4th-century Roman saint who was a companion of Saint Jerome.
PELAGIA f Ancient Greek, Greek, Polish
Feminine form of PELAGIUS
. This was the name of a few early saints, including a young 4th-century martyr who threw herself from a rooftop in Antioch rather than lose her virginity.
PENELOPE f Greek Mythology, English
Possibly derived from Greek πηνελοψ (penelops)
, a type of duck. Alternatively it could be from πηνη (pene)
"threads, weft" and ωψ (ops)
"face, eye". In Homer
's epic the 'Odyssey' this is the name of the wife of Odysseus
, forced to fend off suitors while her husband is away fighting at Troy. It has occasionally been used as an English given name since the 16th century.
PERPETUA f Spanish, Late Roman
Derived from Latin perpetuus
meaning "continuous". This was the name of a 3rd-century saint martyred with another woman named Felicity.
PERSIS f Biblical, Biblical Greek
Greek name meaning "Persian woman". This was the name of a woman mentioned in Paul
's epistle to the Romans in the New Testament.
PETRONILLA f Italian, Late Roman
From a Latin name, a diminutive of Petronia
, the feminine form of PETRONIUS
. This was the name of an obscure 1st-century Roman saint, later believed to be a daughter of Saint Peter
PHILOMENA f English, German, Late Greek
From Greek φιλος (philos)
"friend, lover" and μενος (menos)
"mind, purpose, strength, courage". This was the name of an obscure early saint and martyr. The name came to public attention in the 19th century after a tomb seemingly marked with the name Filumena
was found in Rome, supposedly belonging to another martyr named Philomena. This may have in fact been a representation of the Greek word φιλομηνη (philomene)
PHOEBE f English, Greek Mythology (Latinized), Biblical, Biblical Latin
Latinized form of the Greek name Φοιβη (Phoibe)
, which meant "bright, pure" from Greek φοιβος (phoibos)
. In Greek mythology Phoibe was a Titan associated with the moon. This was also an epithet of her granddaughter, the moon goddess Artemis
. The name appears in Paul
's epistle to the Romans in the New Testament, where it belongs to a female minister in the church at Cenchreae. In England, it began to be used as a given name after the Protestant Reformation. A moon of Saturn bears this name (in honour of the Titan).
PHYLLIS f Greek Mythology, English, German
Means "foliage" in Greek. In Greek mythology this was the name of a woman who killed herself out of love for Demophon and was subsequently transformed into an almond tree. It began to be used as a given name in England in the 16th century, though it was often confused with Felicia
PORTIA f English
Variant of Porcia
, the feminine form of the Roman family name PORCIUS
, used by William Shakespeare for the heroine of his play 'The Merchant of Venice' (1596). In the play Portia is a woman who disguises herself as a man in order to defend Antonio
in court. It is also the name of a moon of Uranus, after the Shakespearian character.