Maureen O'Hara in a screenshot from the traile...

Today’s feature is part Irish-heritage choice, part-Hollywood name.

Kara’s week continues with Maureen as our Baby Name of the Day.

You’ll sometimes see Maureen’s meaning given as little Mary, and that’s not inaccurate.  In Irish, Mary became Maire, and Mairin was a diminutive form.  In English, Mairin became Maureen.

Maureen first appease in the US Top 1000 in 1907, though it is possible she was in use far earlier.  Irish immigration to the US started in the seventeenth century, so plenty of women recorded as Mary might have answered to Maureen on a daily basis.

One of the most famous bearers of the name was Maureen O’Hara, born Maureen FitzSimmons, outside of Dublin.  She studied acting and voice, but her dad had his hesitations, and she also went to business school to study typing.

As it happened, the acting lessons paid off.  In 1939, she appeared in an Alfred Hitchcock film.  By 1939, she was cast as Esmerelda in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  O’Hara’s career also included How Green Was My Valley and Miracle on 34th Street.

Maureen was already on the rise when O’Hara’s career took off.  In 1931, Maureen ranked #222.  By 1946, the name was in the Top 100, and would remain there through 1955.

Credit part of her popularity to the actress, and some to her sound.  Baby Boomer names are rich with the –een ending: Kathleen, Eileen, Darlene, and Irene were among the most popular, with choices like Colleen, Charlene, Doreen, Noreen, Marlene and Arlene also seeing lots of use.

Other notables include:

  • New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.
  • The actress better known as Marcia Brady from 1969 through 1974, and again on countless Brady Bunch reunion specials.
  • Academy, Tony, and Emmy Award-winning actress Maureen Stapleton, whose Broadway debut came in 1946 near the height of the name’s popularity.
  • The actress who played Jane opposite Johnny Weissmuller in the Tarzan movies was Maureen O’Sullivan.
  • Ages before he left Hollywood, future president Ronald Reagan and fellow young actor Jane Wyman married and gave this name to their firstborn.
  • Beatles drummer Ringo Starr married a Maureen – though she was born Mary.
  • The Velvet Underground’s drummer Moe Tucker was also a Maureen.
  • If you’ve seen Rent, you might immediately think of the flamboyant performance artist from the show.
  • Speaking of fictional characters, this was the given name of the biochemist matriarch in the Robinson family in Lost in Space.  June Lockhart played her in the television series.

I could go on – the name was popular enough for long enough that many accomplished women answer to Maureen.

But today, she’s doubly dated – we expect Maureen to be grandmotherly, but even if we don’t know anyone by the name, the sound instantly tells us that she’s dated.  That’s not quite the case for Deborah or Barbara – if they hadn’t been so popular previously, they’d be ripe for discovery right now.

Maureen still needs some time to hibernate.  Possibly that’s why just 55 girls received the name in 2012, and 43 in 2012.  She lasted appeared in the US Top 1000 in 1997.

If you’d like to honor a beloved Maureen, options abound.  Nearly any Mary name works, as would Maura or Moira, both of which feel more current.

Still, chances are that Maureen will be back – right about the time we trade Kaitlyn in for Kathleen.

What do you think of Maureen?  Is she due for a comeback?

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.

You May Also Like:

What do you think?


  1. I love the name Maureen! Named her after my very dear aunt.
    Named my first born daughter Maureen Catherine. January 2006.
    She is the only Maureen in her school, sure doesn’t know a single Maureen her age. makes her so unique.

  2. My name is Maureen, my Mum and Dad both being Irish! I’ve always disliked it as it seems such an ‘old persons’ name. Now I’m nearly 50, I suppose it suits……but
    I still dislike it 🙁

  3. I am actually hoping to honor a dear Family friend named Maureen who recently passed away should I have another girl in the future. Thinking about just using the name itself as a middle but not sure I am sold yet.
    Others I like: Maren/Marin, Miriam, and Mae/May.

    Are these all acceptable?

    1. Becca, I love the idea of Maren for Maureen, and I think Mae/May and Miriam work, too. They’re all forms of Mary, so I think you have a lot of room to use a slightly different form and still consider it an honor name. Would all of these be middles only, or are some of them possibilities for a given name? I’m a huge fan of Mariel, too, but that might be too much of a stretch …

  4. How funny, I’ve just met up with my friend Máirín, who is in her mid-twenties – quite an unusual name for someone her age, but it really suits her! I much prefer the Celtic spelling: ‘Maureen’ visually still looks a bit frumpy and middle-aged to me, though her sounds are so lovely that perhaps she is due for a revival.

  5. Yay! I’m a (lurking) thirty-year-old Maureen; I’ve certainly always known my name skews a lot older, but I’ve also enjoyed having my name to myself in school and at work. I like its fusty feistiness. I have a friend who might name an upcoming daughter Maureen, which kind of blew my mind. It seems like SUCH a surprising choice today. (Although I may have a Kathleen–family name–someday, so…)

    1. I went to school with an Irene my age – there was something incredibly cool about the name precisely because it skewed older, I think. I would react the same way to meeting a Maureen in person – glad to hear it wears well!

  6. I asked for this one because Maureen is my middle. My mom wanted an Irish heritage choice and I have always liked my middle name, especially as it was different from the standard Marie, Ann, or Elizabeth that most girls my age had as their middle. I’m in my early 30s, but I have never met anyone under the age of 50 named Maureen, though I have met a few Colleens my age. I agree that Moira feels more current nowadays, but I think Maureen with Molly or Mara as nicknames could make a comeback.

    1. Thanks for requesting this! It’s my middle name too, and my husband likes the idea of using it somewhere for a daughter. I’m your age(ish) and have always felt the same way about it! I know a couple of little girls named Maren, which seems like a current twist on either Karen or Maureen. I like that but do think Maureen should make a comeback down the road!

    2. Maureen with Molly as a nn? Oh my goodness, I *love* that! And I have two fabulous women in my life named Maureen, so I’m thrilled that you requested it!

  7. I hope it’ll make a comeback! I love Maureen O’Hara, especially in The Quiet Man with John Wayne – she plays such a feisty character!

  8. Maureen is actually on my Short list for a daughter. Not only have I always loved it because of Maureen O’Hara, but it is a way to honor my grandmother Mary and my grandfathers Irish Heritage, and with my boyfriends red hair, maybe I will even get a little red-haired Maureen, which would be a dream come true! lol

  9. I have a brother much younger than I am. Before he was born, my mother wanted to use Maureen if he turned out to be a girl. Not too surprising that a woman who named her first, Colleen, wanted to name her last, Maureen. However, this was the early 90s and I tried desperately to show my mom that Maura was a much more current sound. He ended up being a boy so it didn’t end up happening.

    Even now, I would use Maura before Maureen. Still I have a soft spot for the Irish -een names. If this baby that I’m expecting is a girl, the middle name may be Cathleen (after a friend named Kathryn and a little connection to me) . I hope that Maureen comes back in style soon. It has such a pretty sound.