Name of the Day: Maeve

by appellationmountain on June 6, 2008

This straight-laced name has the most unexpected meaning: intoxicating.

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

Parents of Celtic descent searching for a daughter’s name have much reason to love Maeve. It’s simple, but unlike the equally appealing Naimh or Aoife, the most common spelling leads to the proper pronunciation: MAYV.

It’s a name that feels serious. Maeve is a child set for great accomplishments. When a colleague of ours chose it a few years back, he shrugged and said, “We figured she probably wouldn’t be a pop star.”

Of course, serious doesn’t mean staid. This is a name of legends, of a much-married warrior queen who picked fights and won them. She appears in the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology. Her tales are those of a fearless, and sometimes ruthless, ruler – not a ballgown-wearing fairy princess.

Speaking of fairies, however, there’s a famous soliloquy in Romeo and Juliet that mentions Queen Mab – who may or may not be drawn from the same Queen Maeve of Celtic legend. Mercutio’s leering, jeering speech calls her “the fairies’ midwife” and claims that she’s “no bigger than an agate-stone.” It’s too thin a link to call Maeve a Shakespearean name, but it’s one more reference that anchors her place in myth.

Not only does her name stem from a word that means intoxicating, Meave is linked to the word for mead – or drink. In fact, she once appeared on the Irish one pound note, so we can only imagine she spent quite a bit of time circulating in pubs.

While Maeve remains comfortably underused in the US, the name is gaining in favor. Back in 1997, it entered the US Top 1000 at #953. As of last year, it ranked #619.

So if you’re searching for a name that feels unusual without sacrificing a certain tailored style, Maeve is one to consider. And should you daughter ever complain that her moniker is too brief, simply direct her to the tomes of Irish myth. Doubtless she’ll decide that there’s quite a bit to admire in her legendary name.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

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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