Maeve belongs to a legendary warrior queen and a ruthless Westworld character.
Thanks to Kayt for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
So many Irish girl names suffer from a case of letmespellitforyou.
Niamh. Aoife. Saoirse.
But Maeve? Even if it strikes someone as new, our familiarity with Mae and Eve mean that it’s pretty obvious how to say this slim, trim name.
In Irish myth, the name belongs to a much-married warrior queen. She picked fights and won them. Find her in the Ulster Cycle, set in the first century AD, but recorded in the Middle Ages.
And make no mistake, she’s a queen, not a fairy tale princess. Maeve is depicted as fearless and bold. She ruled her kingdom with a ruthless focus on power.
This name means intoxicating. It may share roots with mead – the honey wine made as early as 7000 BC.
There’s also a legendary figure known as Mab, mentioned by Shakespeare, cousin to the warrior queen.
BY THE NUMBERS
The name appears in medieval Ireland in various spellings.
From the 1940s into the 1970s, a handful of girls received the name every year.
Perhaps some were inspired by popular names in Ireland, where the name was steadily popular.
In the mid-1980s, Irish author Maeve Binchy experienced early success in the US. She’s best known for Circle of Friends, which became a 1995 movie starring Chris O’Donnell and Minnie Driver.
Then came the 1990s-era fantasy adventure series The Adventures of Sinbad. The show gave the famous sailor a Celtic sorceress sidekick named Maeve.
By 1997, the name debuted in the US Top 1000.
MOVE OVER, ERIN AND KELLY
American parents have long embraced Irish names for our sons and daughters. But by the 1990s, names like Erin, Megan, Kaitlyn, Tara, and Kelly were solidly established for girls.
It’s worth noting that an American “Irish name” isn’t necessarily what Irish parents are naming their children. Erin, for example, caught on in the US first. We think of Megan as Irish thanks to a character in 1977 bestseller turned 1983 mini-series extravaganza The Thorn Birds.
Many parents have opted for surname-style names, like Riley, Teagan, and Quinn, to celebrate their Irish roots.
But Maeve feels a little different – the rediscovery of a strong, traditional name.
And then came Maeve Millay.
HBO original series Westworld debuted in 2016. It’s based on an earlier Michael Crichton novel, but this character is new. Set in the not-too-distant-future, Westworld is an immersive theme park for adults, populated by highly sophisticated androids, known as hosts.
Millay is a host, the madam of the Mariposa Saloon’s brothel.
The story begins with Maeve and the other hosts begin to develop awareness of their identities – and then take control of their own stories.
Thandie Newton plays Millay. The first name is a fitting choice – a warrior queen in a very different setting.
As of 2015, Maeve had reached #451 in the US. As of 2018, it ranked #334.
No question that Westworld factored into that equation. But this is no Khaleesi. Maeve boasts a long history, authentic Irish roots, and a sharp, stylish sound sure to appeal to parents after something just a little different.
Would you consider Maeve for a daughter?
First published on June 6, 2008, this post was revised substantially and re-posted on December 8. 2014, and again on March 24, 2020.
This is our front runner for our girl due in June! But my husband and I have not yet agreed on the spelling. He wants the Irish Mèabh and I want the more Anglicized Maeve. We’ve hit an impasse. Honestly, I’d love some advice on negotiating this discussion!
Seriously considering Maeve for our daughter, due.. 3 days ago haha. I think it would go well with big brother Arthur, not the least of which because they both share a rich legendary history.
Maeve is lovely but it isn’t an original Irish spelling as there isn’t even a V in the Irish language! The Irish spellings are Meadhbh, Méabh and Meadbh 🙂 Also, Megan is a Welsh name, not an Irish one! I live in Ireland and no one would connect Megan to being Irish! The Irish for Megan can be either Mairéad (Mar-ade, Irish for Margaret) or as I go by, Peigí (Simply said Peggy)
Andrea Y says
I understand when names get put into the “mom” category–I really do. Every week when I go to church I am surprised afresh at the one-year-old Steven who attends the same time. It is a lovely name that is firmly in the “dad” category. That being said, I don’t think the lovely Megan should ever be put on a shelf to wait 100 years for rediscovery. I’ve long thought it the perfect name and would have used it for one of my own daughters if I didn’t already have a sister and niece with the same name.
Some names are timeless, and I think Megan is one of them.
This would have 100% been my girl name for our 2nd but we just found it’s a boy again. And I have 0 boy’s names!
I really like this name right now. I hope when and if we ever have another girl… my husband will consider it! 🙂
I think the most famous bearer of the name is Maeve Binchy, the author of “Circle of Friends”. She’s the reason I’m hooked on the name 🙂 Needless to say, it’s on my short list for a girl!
i know a maeve preschooler and she’s fabulous! she is strong willed yet also feminine, earthy and very confident! Maeve is this kind of name to me…
Maeve is such a gorgeous name.
Oops, sorry, I meant to say May & Mae, I’m loopy on antihistamines.
There is also some speculation that Maeva is a Breton form of Maeve, hence is why its popularity in France imploded. I think Maeve has a very pretty, velvety, soft gentle sound. I have a cousin named this and I have always loved it. It would also make a wonderful middle name option. Much more interesting than the overused filler names of May, Mae and Maeve.
Maeva, hmmm … it’s not related to Maeve, is it?
I’d have to do some digging, but the back of my brain is telling me that this is a more exotic moniker that isn’t so much an alternative to Maeve as a totally separate choice. (Googling now.) Ah … here it is, The New York Times tells me that there was a 1961 movie about a Tahitian girl called Maeva.
I’ve been thinking a lot about “exotic” baby names – after all, if you’re not white – or if your child won’t be – I can see why naming her Emma or Laura might feel false. (I recently watched my Greek friend and her Jamaican husband wrestle with this issue.) Maeva probably qualifies for inclusion on that list – but I’d need to do some more reading, because I fear she has a bit of a sci-fi vibe, too. Or a video game?
Did you stumble across it from the old movie, or somewhere else?
That’s interesting. What do you think of Maeva?