Cover of "Never on Sunday"
Cover of Never on Sunday

This Greek name owes her success to two actresses.

Thanks to Liz for suggesting Melina as our Baby Name of the Day.

Melissa, Pamela, Melanie, and Melody made the mel element popular in the twentieth century.  Melina has several possible origins:

  • Like Pamela, her mel could refer to honey;
  • Some suggest she comes from the Greek melon, meaning apple – which applied to nearly any foreign fruit;
  • She can be a nickname for names containing mel, including Amelia.

With the exception of Melanie, few of the mel names have truly ancient roots.  But census records confirm that there were a handful of Melinas in the US near the end of the nineteenth century and in the first half of the twentieth.

The Melina who put her given name on the map was born Maria Amalia, but rose to fame as actress Melina Mercouri.  She scored a Best Actress Academy Award nomination in 1960 for her role in Never on Sunday.  At Cannes, she won the Best Actress award.  The plot owes something to My Fair Lady, except Melina’s character is a hooker.

Mercouri entered politics later in life, serving as Greece’s Minister for Culture.

In the US, Melina first appeared in the Top 1000 in 1967, and also ranked in the 1970s and 80s.  She fit right in with Top Ten Melissa, as well as Pamela, Melanie, and Melinda.  1981’s For Your Eyes Only gave the name to deep sea diving Bond girl Melina Havelock.

Still, she never quite caught on, and by 1986 was headed towards obscurity.

Then along came another actress, this time an American of Greek descent, Melina Kanakaredes.  In the early 1990s, she played Eleni on Guiding Light.  Kanakaredes has had a long run on the small screen, starring in medical drama Providence and then CSI: NY.

It makes for the kind of steady exposure that keeps a name in parents’ minds.  And yet it isn’t so strongly associated with a single figure – think Cher or Kimora – that it seems extreme to bestow it on a child.

There is one other Melina to consider: WWE’s five-time champ, Melina Perez.  Her first title was won in 2007, and her most recent in 2010.

Similar names include:

  • Malina has multiple origins.  She’s figure in Inuit mythology, and also has Scottish and Slavic roots.  In Polish, Czech, and Slovak, malina means raspberry – and also implies attractiveness.  Actor Josh Malina of The West Wing is among those who wear it as a surname;
  • Melania was a third century Christian saint and the origin of the popular Melanie.  She’s also the given name of the current Mrs. Donald Trump.

While Melina remains a relatively rare #456, she made a big jump from 2008 to 2009, and she’s often heard on baby name discussion boards.  And why not?  She’s just a little bit different, neither truly unusual nor over-exposed.  Melina makes for a relatively modern name, but she doesn’t feel invented.  Besides Mel and Lina, you could also use Milly as a nickname.

If Melina has a failing, it is that her story is ever so slightly incomplete.  There’s no single figure – no goddess, no queen, no literary legend – strongly associated with the name.  Of course, that’s a plus for parents hoping for something fresh, but still solidly feminine.

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. My name is Melina, family and close friends call me Nina. First time I heard my name was on a video game Mortal Kombat, but spelt different (Mileena). My grandmother had a favorite song by Camilo Sexto called Melina (Spanish song) and that’s where the idea came to name me.

  2. I think it is a pretty name but way too close to melena for me (melena is a bloody stool).

  3. My name is Milina! and my nickname is Nina/Mina (from my siblings so only my family calls me that) My dad is half Slovenian and he looked up the word for grace in the Slovenian dictionary. Milina was his translation! I have never met anyone who spells it the same way either… The main reason why I am writing this is because April 19 is my bday and I thought that was pretty funny that it was also Melina’s name day 🙂

  4. Since having to clean up after a dog with some particularly nasty GI distress (that involved the passing of large amounts of melaena , this name has gone in the crapper.

  5. I know one Melina. I’d never come across the name before I met her. It’s a pretty alternative to the more familiar Melanie.

  6. I like Leonie for fresh but not weird! And Delphine. They were both too French for my husband’s taste (altho he did like Monique).

  7. I think it’s pretty, but I get a bit of a made-up vibe from it. I much prefer Milena, which is similar but has a different pronunciation. Though one of my favorite authors is Melina Marchetta, so that’s a positive association for me.

  8. I really like Melina, and the meaning/explanation just makes it better. I fear it’s too close to my daughter’s name (also 3 syllables, starts with M) to be of use to us at the moment. I also love the desccription “fresh but not weird” – that’s EXACTLY what I want, so if anyone wants to offer up some other “fresh, but not weird” ideas, I’ll be keeping an eye out!

  9. I went to high school with a Melina whose family is from Greece. I think it’s really pretty but I since I often prefer elaborate names for girls, I like Melania better. I am really surprised that Melina isn’t more popular.

    And yes, spellings make all the difference. My SIL’s 5 yr old foster daughter is Mylani prn Muh-lah-nee. Yuck. And the poor girl hates that her name is mispronounced and misspelled all the time.