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Mary in English-speaking countries, Marie in French, Maria in Latin, Miryam in Hebrew, Maryam in Arabic, but also Mia, a modern variant of Scandinavian origin… The first name of the mother of Jesus appears in some form in practically every language and is very popular in many countries.
Indeed, in 2023 it was the most popular first name in 17 countries around the world. These are the findings of research published by the website Letter Solver — a site for lovers of letters and Scrabble fans. The site listed the most popular first names in many countries over the last 12 months, and highlighted the occurrence of the first name Mary and its derivatives in all languages.
Different versions for different countries
For example, Marie is the most popular female first name in Austria. Maria leads the way in Portugal, Romania, Colombia, Paraguay, Uruguay and Guatemala. Brazil cherishes naming little girls “Maria Alice.” As for the name Mia, it is overwhelmingly adopted by parents in Estonia, Croatia, Switzerland, Ecuador, Peru and Malta. And Mariam is currently the most popular name in Georgia.
Last but not least, the mother of Jesus also holds a place of choice in countries with an Islamic tradition. Maryam tops the list in Algeria and the United Arab Emirates, according to the Letter Solver website. Maryam is the Aramaic equivalent of Miryam. A popular name in Islamic tradition, it refers to Maryam, the mother of Jesus. The Koran mentions her several times, notably in a sura named after her, Sura Maryam (Sura 19). It presents her as a model of faith, humility, and purity.
In the United States, Mary was by far the most common name for women from 1923 to 2022 (according to the United States Social Security website): it is very nearly twice as common as the runner-up, Patricia (3,054,624 vs. 1,551,159). However, according to graphs provided by the Engaging Data website (using the same data), the name’s popularity has plummeted over the decades.
According to the same site, the derived names Maria, Marianne, Marian, and Mariah are less popular but have had more ups and downs over the same period, with Maria peaking in the 1970s and Mariah in the 1990s. Mia came late to the game, with the number of babies given that name taking off in the 1950s and reaching nearly 15,000 in 2015.