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. I love Melina and she was a top contender for my youngest had he been a girl. I have yet to meet one.

  2. Yay for Melina day! I have a friend my age with that name (early 40s) and recently got to know a 3 yr old (playmate of my youngest’s) with the name. Warning: her mom said she thought it would be unusual but that there are actually 4 Melinas at their preschool — a fairly large preschool, but still! 😉

  3. My younger sister (now 26) is named Melina (to add to your list of nicknames, she sometimes goes by Mina). The difference in popularity between her name and mine made us, I think, particularly sensitive to names growing up, and of course to the rare occurrences of Melina. Interestingly, we’ve been seeing it more and more in the last few years–Lizzie McGuire had a character named Melina, and the Emperor’s New Groove television show had a Malina. The most interesting signal of its apparently rising popularity–a recent Girl Guides of Canada commercial features both an Emily and a Melina.

    1. Mina is a great nn! Thanks for the mentions of fictional Melinas – betcha that Lizzie McGuire character influences a few parents. And how fun for you & your sister that your names are in the GG commercial!

  4. My 14 year-old has a friend nicknamed Malena, short for Maria Elena. She pronounces it the same as Melina, but since it’s frequently mispronounced as muh-LAY-nah, Melina seems more intuitive. Lovely name.

  5. This is funny. I just read on another friend’s blog that she’d attended a wedding for a bride named Melina. It was the first time I’d seen the name.

  6. Melina is super pretty.

    I once heard of someone naming their child “Melana”, and was horrified. One letter can make all the difference. (If you don’t understand, check wikipedia for melana).

    1. Angela, small world! This is Sarah Al-Kabour. Looks like I’m not the only name nerd from school, haha. Nice to see you on here 🙂

  7. Malina is the name of a handful of cousins and, with my heritage, the version I’d use if I were inclined to. But Melina strikes me as both simple & sweet. Almost refreshingly light in a sea of Isabellas. That’s a plus, in my book. Huzzah Melina!

  8. I love Melons on other people. It has a great sound. My sister is Melinda so I could never use it.

  9. Melina is gorgeous! Over here, lots of parents want to choose Mel for their little girls, but the name – that is the portuguese word for honey – is only approved for boys…

  10. We recently met a four year old Melina at our chiropractor’s office. She is a lovely girl. I had never heard of Melina before but really like it. It seems to be a perfect combination of fresh but not weird.