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.

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