Mary Name Meaning

baby girl

Manuel Breva Colmeiro / Getty Images

What Does Mary Mean?

The name Mary was derived from the ancient Hebrew name Miriam. Miriam was the name of Moses’ sister in the Old Testament of the Bible. This name may have come from a root meaning “beloved,” or from a word meaning “bitter” or “rebellious,” a reference to the biblical Miriam’s life as a slave in Egypt.

  • Origin: In Latin editions of the Bible, the name Miriam (or Maryam, an Aramaic variant) was rendered as Maria. This led to the French name Marie, which in English was spelled as Mary.
  • Gender: Mary is traditionally a feminine name. Marion, Marius, or Mario may be used as masculine equivalents.
  • Pronunciation: MAIR-ee

Although the name Mary is typically used as a girl name, it can be used any way you see fit, as sex does not have to be a part of your name selection process.

How Popular Is the Name Mary?

Mary was the most popular baby name for girls in America for over sixty years, from the 1880s until the year 1946. It dropped to No. 2 in the late 1940s and early 50s, as Linda took the No. 1 slot, but Mary rose to the top spot again from 1953 to 1961.

The name Mary remained in the top 10 throughout the 1960s but dropped in popularity from the 1970s to the present. The latest statistics rank Mary at No. 126.

Although the name Mary is typically used as a girl name, it can be used any way you see fit, as sex does not have to be a part of your name selection process.

Name Variations

As a name featured prominently in the Bible, Mary has an equivalent in virtually every known language:

  • Maaria (Finnish)
  • Maarja (Estonian)
  • Mair (Welsh)
  • Mari (Danish)
  • Maria (Italian)
  • María (Spanish)
  • Mariam (Armenian)
  • Marie (French)
  • Mariya (Belarusian)
  • Marja (Dutch)
  • Maryam (Arabic)

The various spellings of Mariah/Marya/Maryah are also derived from the same name.

Similar Names

The name Mary has been mashed up or combined with various other names, leading to such combos as Maryann/Maryanne (Mary + Anne), Marybeth (Mary + Beth), Marilee (Mary + Lee), Marilu/Mary-Lou (Mary + Lou), and Marilyn (Mary + Lynne).

More girl names starting with M:

  • Madeleine
  • Madison
  • Maeve
  • Margaret
  • Martha
  • Meredith
  • Mia
  • Myla

More names associated with royalty:

  • Alexandra
  • Anne
  • Catherine
  • Charlotte
  • Diana
  • Elizabeth
  • Isabella
  • Victoria

Suggested Sibling Names

If you're looking for a name to group with Mary, try one of the following:

  • Carolyn
  • Dorothy
  • Helen
  • James
  • John
  • Michael
  • Patricia
  • Thomas

Famous People Named Mary

There are several prominent figures named Mary from biblical times to current.

Marys From the New Testament

  • Mary, the mother of Jesus, known as the Virgin Mary
  • Mary Magdalene, an early follower of Jesus
  • Mary of Clopas, who accompanied Mary Magdalene at the tomb of Jesus
  • Mary of Bethany, a sister of Lazarus

British Queens

  • Queen Mary I of England (1516–1558), known for her efforts to re-establish the Catholic Church in England
  • Mary, Queen of Scots (1542–1587), the mother of James I of England
  • Queen Mary II of England (1662-1694), daughter of James VII and II, wife of King William III, and joint ruler with him

Other Notable Marys

  • Mary Baker Eddy (1821–1910), founder of Christian Science
  • Mary J. Blige (born 1971), Grammy Award-winning singer and actress
  • Mary Higgins Clark (1927–2020), best-selling American author known for writing suspense novels
  • Mary Jackson (1921–2005), American mathematician and aerospace engineer who received a posthumous Congressional Medal of Honor
  • Mary Todd Lincoln (1818–1882), the wife of President Abraham Lincoln
  • Mary Lyon (1797–1849), American pioneer in women's education
  • Mary Martin (1913–1990), Broadway performer known for her role as “Peter Pan” in the 1954 musical
  • Mary Pickford (1892–1979), Academy Award-winning film star, known as “America’s Sweetheart” in the silent film era 
  • Mary Shelley (1797–1851), English novelist best known as the author of “Frankenstein” 
  • Mary Shepard (1909–2000), English artist known for illustrating the “Mary Poppins” books by P.L. Travers
  • Mary Steenburgen (born 1953), Academy Award-winning actress, known for her roles “Melvin and Howard,” “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” and “The Help”
  • Mary Stuart Masterson (born 1966), American actress known for her roles in “Some Kind of Wonderful” and “Fried Green Tomatoes”
  • Mary L. Trump (born 1965), psychologist and author, niece of former President Donald Trump
  • Mary Tyler Moore (1936–2017), American actress best known for her roles in “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”
  • Mary Wells (1943–1992), American singer who helped define the Motown sound
  • Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–1797), English writer and philosopher who advocated for women’s rights

More Baby Names

Still searching for the perfect baby name? Check out these related baby name lists for even more options:

Loading shell for quizzesApp1 vue props component in Globe.
Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Social Security Administration. Popular Baby Names.

Additional Reading