She’s an intriguing place name and a poem by Tennyson, too.
Thanks to Katheryn for suggesting Mariana as Name of the Day.
First, one of my (increasingly common) disclaimers: Katheryn suggested Marianna, but the single-n version is more common, though both rank in the US Top 1000.
Likewise, there are three legitimate origins for the name:
- Most of us probably view Mariana as a mash-up of Mary/Marie/Maria and Anna/Ana;
- Similarly, the name can be seen as an elaboration of Marie, via the French diminutive Marion/Marian;
- Marius, a Roman family name, could’ve inspired Mariana as the feminine.
The first famous Marianas were royal. Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand III married Maria-Anna of Spain and they bestowed the name Mariana on one of their daughters.
Mariana went on to marry Philip IV of Spain – her uncle! She became queen, and the regal moniker has been in use ever since. (Sadly, Mariana’s son, Charles II, suffered from a host of maladies brought on by generations of inbreeding and would ultimately be the last Hapsburg ruler of Spain.)
Less than a century later, Mariana Victoria of Bourbon married King Joseph I of Portugal. They named one daughter Maria, and another Mariana. Maria went on to become queen of Portgual – and mother of a Mariana herself.
Other notable bearers include:
- Early 19th century English travel writer Mariana Starke;
- Puerto Rico’s Besty Ross, Mariana Bracetti. She stitched a flag during the 1860s independence movement. After they failed to overthrow Spanish rule, the flag was adopted by the municipality of Lares;
- Mariana Pineda was a heroine of the Spanish resistance. Arrested for her work, she chose death rather than naming others. Her reputation grew after Federico Garcia Lorca penned the biographical drama Mariana Pineda;
- The name has Latino flair thanks to several actresses, including Mexican telenovela star Mariana Levy Fernandez and Brazilian actress Mariana Ximenes;
- Romanian soprano Mariana Nicolesco lends an operatic – and Eastern European – edge to the name;
- Marianna Pineda was a 20th century American sculptor best known for the eight-foot bronze statue of Queen Liliuokalani in front of the Hawaiian Capitol.
Some parents may have been inspired by Tennyson’s 1830 poem Mariana. A minor character in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, Tennyson expanded on Mariana’s story. He also broke Mariana’s heart, leaving her single at the poem’s end. The Bard was kinder, reuniting her with her intended.
As for the map, when Spain colonized a group of Pacific islands, they named them the Marianas after that first Queen Mariana. In the 1870s, the Mariana Trench was identified; over the years, scientists concluded that it is the deepest part of the ocean.
This last piece of Mariana’s story lends her a romantic flair. The Trench is home to curious deep sea life and the islands boast their share of unique creatures, including the Mariana fruit bat. In the Pixies’ alt-rock hit “Wave of Mutilation,” they sing “Could find my way to Mariana.” The name takes on an almost mythical aspect.
With nicknames aplenty – Mary, Marie, Anna and even Mia – plus classic roots, Mariana is a strong choice for parents hoping for something feminine yet distinctive. As of last 2007, Mariana ranked #177 and Marianna #754. That’s far from obscure, but less common than many similar choices.