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’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.