She’s the French form of the venerable Mary, a middle name for many, but a given name to relatively few.
Thanks to Shannon for suggesting Marie as our Baby Name of the Day.
If you want a name with a long history of use, one that works in nearly any language, it is hard to imagine a better choice than one of the Mary- names. The Biblical Miriam or Mariam became Maria in Latin, and Marie evolved from Maria. Even though we think of Mary as the original, she’s actually the English version of the name – and thus slightly younger than some forms of the name.
Mary is the Virgin Mother, but Maria? She tempts us to break into song. “I just met a girl named Maria …” and feels less pious, more romantic, a distinctly different choice. Ditto Marie. From queens to saints to a scientist and an animated kitten, Marie feels like a separate name, right on trend with her français style.
Among the many distinguished Maries, we find:
- A twelfth century French-born poet, who lived in England and wrote as Marie de France.
- The ill-fated eighteenth century queen of France, Marie Antoinette.
- Nineteenth century Swedish-Italian ballerina Marie Taglioni.
- Legendary voodoo priestess Marie Laveau.
- The first person to win Nobel Prizes in chemistry and physics, a scientific pioneer who just happened to be a woman, Marie Curie was actually born Maria, in Poland.
- Squeaky clean musical sensation Marie Osmond, actually born Olive Marie, and known for her 1970s variety television show co-hosted with brother Donny.
There are more royal and aristocratic Maries than I can count, plus there’s Irving Berlin’s charming song “Marie,” covered by plenty of recording artists. (I’m partial to The Ink Spots’ rendition.) And, of course, in childhood your little Marie would doubtless like to share her name with an animated Disney kitten, the bossy middle sister of Toulouse and Berlioz in the 1970 animated classic The Aristocats.
But isn’t Marie terribly ordinary? In the middle spot, maybe. But if you look at the trajectory of three most popular forms of Mary in the US, Marie is pretty rare:
- Mary ranked #1 from 1880 through 1961, charting in the Top Ten through 1971, before falling to #109 in 2010.
- Maria is actually the most popular today, appearing in the Top 100 every year since the 1940s. But today she’s falling, too, to just #86 in 2010.
- Marie was always an also-ran to Mary, though she appeared in the Top Ten from 1895 through 1905, and the Top 100 through 1957. Today she’s the least popular of the trio, charting at a frosty #575 in 2010.
You’re far more likely to meet a girl called Mariah, Mariana, or even Miriam today.
Like Rose, she’s an enduring classic that makes for a complete surprise in the first spot.