Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Sunday 29 November |
Saint of the Day: Bl. Bernardo Francisco de Hoyos
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

What was the Virgin Mary's real name?

MADONNA IN SORROW

Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato | Public Domain

Philip Kosloski - published on 09/12/20

The English word "Mary" is a translation of the Hebrew "Myriam," which would have been her real name.

In the English-speaking world, it is easy to forget that all of the biblical characters had “different” names than what we say in our language. Both Jesus and Mary had names that were originally in Hebrew or Aramaic and had deep spiritual meaning.




Read more:
Was Jesus’ name really Jesus?

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “The Hebrew form of her name is miryam [or myriam].” This name was used in the Old Testament to denote the only sister of Moses.

However, over the years the name has been put through various translations as the Bible has spread throughout the world.

[The] Septuagint … renders miryam by Marian, a form analogous to the Syriac and Aramaic word Maryam. In the New Testament the name of the Virgin Mary is always Mariam, excepting in the Vatican Codex and the Codex Bezae followed by a few critics who read Maria in Luke 2:19. Possibly the Evangelists kept the archaic form of the name for the Blessed Virgin, so as to distinguish her from the other women who bore the same name. The Vulgate renders the name by Maria, both in the Old Testament and the New; Josephus (Ant. Jud., II, ix, 4) changes the name to Mariamme.

The name “Miriam” is closer to the original Hebrew than the English “Mary” or Latin “Maria,” though the Aramaic is not much different as it only adds “am” to “Mary.”

Furthermore, the original definition of the name has been taken by many scholars and saints to have great symbolism.

Some biblical scholars have seen in it the Hebrew words mar (bitter) and yam (sea). This first meaning can refer to Mary’s bitter suffering at the cross and her many tears of sorrow.

Another interpretation of the word mar renders Mary’s name to mean “drop of the sea” and St. Jerome rendered it in Latin as stillamaris, which was later changed to stella (star) maris. This accounts for a popular title for Mary as “Star of the Sea.”

St. Bonaventure took many of these meanings and combined their symbolism, giving each one its own spiritual meaning.

This most holy, sweet and worthy name was eminently fitted to so holy, sweet and worthy a virgin. For Mary means a bitter sea, star of the sea, the illuminated or illuminatrix. Mary is interpreted [as] Lady. Mary is a bitter sea to the demons; to men she is the Star of the sea; to the Angels she is illuminatrix, and to all creatures she is Lady.

It wasn’t a coincidence that God chose a woman named “Myriam,” and did so with the history and meaning in mind.


MARY,STAR OF THE SEA,STELLA MARIS

Read more:
The spiritual meaning of the Virgin Mary’s name

Tags:
BibleVirgin Mary
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in eight languages: English, French, Arabic, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
LUXOR FILM FESTIVAL
Zoe Romanowsky
20-year-old filmmaker wins award for powerful...
Eric Clapton, Luciano Pavarotti, East London Gospel Choir
J-P Mauro
Hear Clapton and Pavarotti sing a prayer to t...
FIRST CENTURY HOUSE AT THE SISTERS OF NAZARETH SITE
John Burger
British archaeologist confident he has found ...
PRAY
Cerith Gardiner
12 Things we can be grateful for this Thanksg...
EARTHQUAKE
Bret Thoman, OFS
Two earthquakes couldn't stop these Italian n...
CATHEDRAL OF THE SACRED HEART
Fr. Patrick Briscoe, OP
6 Questions to determine if your heart is har...
VATICAN POPE GOOD FRIDAY COLOSSEUM
Kathleen N. Hattrup
Learn to pray with the early Church and to di...
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.