MariaIt’s a musical, Marian name as classic as they come.

Our Baby Name of the Day is Maria.

Maria: The Mother of All Names

Madonna of humility by Fra Angelico, c. 1430.

We tend to think of this name as Spanish, but that’s not exactly so. Maria began as the Latin form of Mary.

It’s also the preferred form in Spanish, Italian, German, and many other European languages, and is a wildly popular name from Finland to Brazil.

Double names formed with Maria are common, many honoring the mother of Jesus: Consuelo, Pilar, Lourdes. Many of those second names stand on their own today.

While it’s Mary that long held the #1 spot for girls in the US, Maria was a Top 100 choice from the 1940s through 2011. Marie – the preferred French form – ranked in the Top 100 from the late nineteenth century through the 1950s.

In raw numbers, more girls born in the US have been named Mary and Marie. But immigration from Spanish-speaking countries has made Maria a very common name for adults in the US. HowManyofMe puts Maria #23 and Marie #89.

Maria: Sing!

This name has plenty of musical appeal thanks to two twentieth century staples.

In 1957, West Side Story gave us an updated version of Romeo and Juliet. This time, it’s a tale of rival street gangs in 1950s New York, with a girl from the Puerto Rican Sharks in love with a boy from the caucasian Jets. Even if you’ve never seen the successful 1957 musical or the 1961 Oscar-winning film version, you probably can hum the tune of “Maria” and maybe know the line sung by a lovestruck Tony: I just met a girl named Maria.

Then there’s The Sound of Music. On stage in 1959 and the big screen in 1965, the story of the musical von Trapp family starts when Maria, a struggling postulant at Nonnberg Abbey is sent to serve as governess to the a widower’s children. When the Mother Superior and other nuns debate what to do with her, they sing How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? In 2006, a British reality show borrowed the lyric for their show’s title. “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?” was a competition to find the new star of a West End production of The Sound of Music.

There’s also legendary soprano Maria Callas, and plenty of other singers and songs with the name.

Maria: Familiar and Unexpected

All of this makes Maria a familiar name – probably so familiar that parents often don’t consider it. And yet, I think it would be quite the surprise to meet a little Maria, and the name would be nicely on trend.


  • The -ia ending is a favorite for girls today, from Sophia and Olivia to Amelia and Lydia. Nine of the current Top 100 names end with -ia.
  • While no nickname is required, possibilities abound. Two powerfully stylish options are Mia – Mia Farrow was born Maria de Lourdes – and Mae.

In fact, any form of this name, including Mary and Marie, could hit the sweet spot: a name that is instantly recognizable and easily spelled, but not likely to be shared with other girls her age.

Unless, of course, you live in a heavily Spanish-speaking community. Because while it’s inaccurate to consider Maria only Spanish, it remains most popular with Spanish-speaking families. Four forms of the name – Maria, plus three double names – rank in the Baby Center en Español Top 100.

But overall, let’s call Maria a classic, romantic name that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves.

What’s your favorite form of this enduring name?

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. Marie is my favorite version of Mary, but my husband insists that Maria sounds better, with a more solid name-like sound. I like all three so it’s not a dealbreaker but I might call her Marie anyway as a nickname.

  2. My daughter is a five year old Maria and she’s always loved that she has soooo many songs with her name. Daughter was born on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception… and that’s why her birthmom picked it in the 1st place, but we keep the name because it could also honor my Mom & MIL (Mary Ann and Ernestine Marie.)

    There’s another little Maria in our “group” and we actually met the “Other Maria” the 1st time we went out as a family and I almost freaked out the name being too common… but since my daughter is usually called Mamie/Mae it hasn’t been an issue.

  3. I have a standard latter 20th century middle name, Marie. But mine is a mash up between my paternal great-grandmother, Mary Hayes, and my maternal great-grandmother, Maria Gonzales. Don’t know if I could pick a favorite. (My eldest’s middle is a mashup of my grandmothers Estelle and Betty – Elspeth, because I love my middle name story.)

  4. For those who don’t know, Maria used to be pronounced Mah-Rye-Ah. Like in the Jane Austen books, whenever there is a character named Maria, it’s pronounced that way.

  5. I know a little Maria, born last year, whose older siblings have classic names that are currently popular and not overly religious — I was surprised and delighted!

  6. It’s about impossible to pick between the three but I love Maria’s spunky elegance. Marie and Mary are a little more sedate. I love that she could go by Mia, Ree, Ria.