Maeve: Baby Name of the Day

by appellationmountain on December 8, 2014

Queen Meave and the Druid

This post was originally published on June 6, 2008.  It was substantially revised and re-posted on December 8. 2014.

This modern-sounding name belongs to a legendary warrior queen.

Thanks to Kayt for suggesting today’s Baby Name of the Day: Maeve.

Maeve: Celtic Roots

Plenty of authentically Irish appellations come with cumbersome spellings.  Niamh and Aoife are lovely, but there’s a built-in letmespellitforyou.

Thanks to success of names like Mae and Eve, Maeve is pretty obvious – one-syllable, MAYV.  A strong sound, slim-and-trim, but without sacrificing the style of a longer name.

In Irish myth, Maeve is a much-married warrior queen who picked fights and won them.  Find her in the Ulster Cycle, set in the first century AD but recorded in the Middle Ages.

That’s the queen herself in the portrait above, pictured with a Druid – the priests who advised rulers.

She’s fearless and sometimes ruthless – a queen, not a ballgown-wearing fairy princess.

Speaking of fairies, do you remember Mercutio’s famous speech in Romeo and Juliet?  He leers and jeers about Queen Mab, “the fairies’ midwife,” “no bigger than an agate-stone.”  Mercutio’s Mab may be drawn from the same legends that give us Maeve – but it’s too thin a link to call this one a Shakespearean name.

Maeve: Intoxicating

Maeve’s meaning is almost always given as intoxicating.  There’s some suggestion that Maeve and mead – as in the honey wine made as early as the year 7000 BC – share roots.

Maeve’s sound is enchanting, too.  Think of current favorites like:

  • Mini name Mia and goddess name Maya are wildly popular, along with variants of both.
  • The merry month of May and the silver screen Mae – think West – are enjoying a renaissance.
  • The letter V! From Victoria to Vivienne to Ava to Evelyn, it’s a powerful sound for girls’ names today.
  • In an age of elaborate names like Isabella and Olivia, there’s something to be said for crisp, one-syllable names for girls.

Maeve: The New Megan

American parents have cycled through lots of Irish names for girls, trading Kathleen for Kelly.  Now that Erin and Megan are in mom name territory, no wonder we’re looking for new Irish appellations.

But it wasn’t just her kelly green credentials that put Maeve on our minds.  The name debuted in the US Top 1000 in 1997 at #953.

Credit the small screen.  90s-era fantasy adventure series The Adventures of Sinbad gave the famous sailor a Celtic sorceress sidekick called Maeve.

Around the same time, Irish author Maeve Binchy became better known in the US when her 1990 novel Circle of Friends became a 1995 movie starring Chris O’Donnell and Minnie Driver.

Suddenly, Maeve was on the radar of parents looking for an Irish appellation just a little bit different.

Maeve: Name on the Rise

Maeve remains relatively underused in the US, but this is a name on the rise. In 2007, Maeve ranked #619.  By 2013, Maeve was up to #484.

Add an ‘a’ and Maeva is a totally separate name, with Tahitian roots.  But Maeva, too, is climbing, given to 34 girls in 2013.

Serious and sassy at once, it is easy to see the appeal of Maeve.  With a brave, legendary namesake and a modern sound, Maeve will wear well in 2015.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrea Y December 8, 2014 at 12:49 PM

I understand when names get put into the “mom” category–I really do. Every week when I go to church I am surprised afresh at the one-year-old Steven who attends the same time. It is a lovely name that is firmly in the “dad” category. That being said, I don’t think the lovely Megan should ever be put on a shelf to wait 100 years for rediscovery. I’ve long thought it the perfect name and would have used it for one of my own daughters if I didn’t already have a sister and niece with the same name.

Some names are timeless, and I think Megan is one of them.

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Megan December 8, 2014 at 11:21 AM

This would have 100% been my girl name for our 2nd but we just found it’s a boy again. And I have 0 boy’s names!

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Anna July 14, 2013 at 8:09 PM

I really like this name right now. I hope when and if we ever have another girl… my husband will consider it! :)

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Kat August 12, 2011 at 1:24 PM

I think the most famous bearer of the name is Maeve Binchy, the author of “Circle of Friends”. She’s the reason I’m hooked on the name :) Needless to say, it’s on my short list for a girl!

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llrm March 7, 2011 at 11:52 AM

i know a maeve preschooler and she’s fabulous! she is strong willed yet also feminine, earthy and very confident! Maeve is this kind of name to me…

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Kristine December 29, 2010 at 10:18 PM

Maeve is such a gorgeous name.

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Sebastiane August 5, 2009 at 4:44 PM

Oops, sorry, I meant to say May & Mae, I’m loopy on antihistamines.

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Sebastiane August 5, 2009 at 4:44 PM

There is also some speculation that Maeva is a Breton form of Maeve, hence is why its popularity in France imploded. I think Maeve has a very pretty, velvety, soft gentle sound. I have a cousin named this and I have always loved it. It would also make a wonderful middle name option. Much more interesting than the overused filler names of May, Mae and Maeve.

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appellationmountain August 24, 2008 at 2:30 PM

Maeva, hmmm … it’s not related to Maeve, is it?

I’d have to do some digging, but the back of my brain is telling me that this is a more exotic moniker that isn’t so much an alternative to Maeve as a totally separate choice. (Googling now.) Ah … here it is, The New York Times tells me that there was a 1961 movie about a Tahitian girl called Maeva.

I’ve been thinking a lot about “exotic” baby names – after all, if you’re not white – or if your child won’t be – I can see why naming her Emma or Laura might feel false. (I recently watched my Greek friend and her Jamaican husband wrestle with this issue.) Maeva probably qualifies for inclusion on that list – but I’d need to do some more reading, because I fear she has a bit of a sci-fi vibe, too. Or a video game?

Did you stumble across it from the old movie, or somewhere else?

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Maddie August 24, 2008 at 3:17 AM

That’s interesting. What do you think of Maeva?

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