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.