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Is Mary an Egyptian name?


Wikipedia CC by SA 2.0

Philip Kosloski - published on 09/10/23 - updated on 09/16/23

In the Old Testament only one woman is named Mary, and scholars believe the name originated in the Egyptian language.

While numerous women in the New Testament were named Mary, only one woman has that name in the entire Old Testament.

In the Bible the first occurrence of the name occurs in Exodus, where the sister of Aaron and Moses is mentioned after the Hebrew people are freed from their slavery in Egypt.

Then Miriam, the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and dancing.

Exodus 15:20

The name Miriam or Maryam is the Hebrew form of the name Mary, though various scholars believe the name originated in the Egyptian language.

The Catholic Encyclopediaexplains this argument, pointing to a few possible interpretations.

Fr. von Hummelauer mentions the possibility that miryam may be of Egyptian origin. Moses, Aaron, and their sister were born in Egypt; the name Aaron cannot be explained from the Hebrew; the daughter of Pharaoh imposed the name Moses on the child she had saved from the waters of the Nile; hence it is possible that their sister’s name Mary was also of Egyptian origin. This seems to become even probable if we consider the fact that the name Mary was not borne by any woman in the Old Testament excepting the sister of Moses.

The the meaning of Mary as derived from the Egyptian Mery, Meryt means, “cherished, beloved.”

It’s quite possible that the name originated in Egypt, but was later influenced by the Hebrew language and was further transformed by the Greek and Latin languages.

Symbolically, if the name of Mary originated in Egypt, it brings to mind the reality that Jesus is the New Moses, who came to set us free from the slavery of sin and death.

BibleSaintsVirgin Mary
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