Marjorie appears in many a nursery rhyme. Maybe it’s time to return this name to actual nursery schools, too.
Thanks to Lola and JNE for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
Jack stars in several childhood staples, along with fellow water-fetcher Jill, Marys Quite Contrary and the one with the lambs, Polly, Peter, Tom, and Simon. The list goes on.
Open any copy of Mother Goose, and odds are you’ll find “See Saw Margery Daw.” First published in the eighteenth century, some version of the rhyme is likely far older – and, of course, open to interpretation, like all nursery rhymes.
And, like the names of her fellow fictional children, Margery would’ve been fairly common at one point.
Saint Margaret of Antioch escaped from the belly of a dragon, or so the legend goes. Crusaders brought the story – and the name – back to England, where it became Margery. While it’s tough to imagine Margaret as a trendy name, that was the case many centuries ago.
Speaking of the distant past, way back in the fifteenth century, a real-life Margery penned The Book of Margery Kempe.
While memoirs feel commonplace, even saturated, by twenty-first century standards, they were rare in her day. It’s sometimes called one of the earliest autobiographies. Except Margery wrote in the third-person, detailing her pilgrimages to distant lands, and a wide range of religious experiences.
It’s a fascinating story, but I can’t tell if her fame would’ve helped the name, hurt it, or simply reinforced how very popular it had become.
Getting from Margaret to Margery seems relatively straightforward. Middle English gives us Mary from Maria, Lucy from Lucia, and Cecily from Cecilia. Ending feminine names with an ‘ee’ sound was the norm.
What explains the spelling switch, from -gery to -jorie?
Turns out it’s the herb, marjoram. And as for that word, its origins are unclear, but probably trace back to India.
The thirteenth century Marjorie of Carrick, mother of Scotland’s Robert the Bruce, used the spelling. In turn, Robert gave the name to his firstborn daughter.
FALL AND RISE
By the 1700s or so, this name had faded – in all spellings. When it was rediscovered a century later, the -jorie form dominated. While Marjorie spent several years in the US Top 20, and even more in the Top 200, Margery barely made it into the Top 300.
The spelling helped us see this as a distinct name from Margaret, too.
Notable women by the name abound, including:
- Silent film star Marjorie Daw. That’s her real first name, though her surname at birth was House.
- Velveteen Rabbit author Williams.
- Crime writer Allingham, best known for creating detective Albert Campion.
- Socialite and businesswoman Marjorie Merriweather Post is remembered for her extensive art collection, still on display today, and even more so for the Florida estate she built: Mar-a-Lago.
Then there’s novelist Herman Wouk’s creation, the title character in Marjorie Morningstar. His bestselling 1955 novel became a successful movie just a few years later. It starred a young Natalie Wood as Miss Morningstar. Born into a traditional Jewish family, it’s the story of a young woman’s attempt to carve out an independent – and somewhat rebellious – path of her own.
Maybe that’s what cements this name in the 1950s, rather than the 1920s and 30s where it clearly belongs. Though the name remained in the US Top 100 into the 1940s.
Many of those girls would’ve been mid-century Margies.
Because if not Morningstar, then it’s My Little Margie that makes this name feel stuck in the ’50s. From 1952 to 1955, the public followed young Margie Albright’s madcap capers, first on radio, then on television. The show owes much to I Love Lucy, but is mostly forgotten today.
Other fictional characters answered to various forms of the name.
That meant, of course, that Marge was squarely in mom name territory when we first met Homer and Marge Simpson in 1987, as a short on The Tracey Ullman Show. She of the towering blue hair might be the most prominent Marge for most would-be parents today.
READY FOR REVIVAL
There’s a super-spooky Marjorie in a recent season of American Horror Story, and Mimi Kennedy plays a wise, supportive Marjorie – usually called Marge – on long-running sitcom Mom.
Despite this, the name enjoyed a brief renaissance, returning to the US Top 1000 from 2013 to 2017.
What do you think of Marjorie? Is this name ready for revival?
Originally published on June 24, 2009, this post was revised substantially on March 11, 2020.
PS I forgot to say that the flapper actor shown at the top of Marjorie looks very much like my grandmother in her 20’s class pictures!
I adore the name Marjorie. It was my Nana’s name. I’m partial to substantial sounding names, names with a certain strength and dignity, and to me, Marjorie has these in spades. It also reminds me of the garden, both because Nan was a master gardener and because of the herb, marjoram.
Is there more to this entry? I’m seeing three short paragraphs.
..hi.. my name is MARJoRiE..
..JORIE and Majoe is my nickname..
..x) sHocks,,my name is so old..hehe
anY waY im proud that my nAme is Marjorie 🙂
J O R I E says
my name is marjorie ! hihi
i have no idea that my name is so old .
but they say it is kind of unique ..
and they call me jorie .
its kind of pretty cool .
like a baby . haha
Jorie is a neat, modern nickname for such an old name – thanks for mentioning it!
My name is Marjorie! I go by M.J. instead, though. I was named after my grandmother! I didn’t have any idea it was such an old name, either. Going back to the Medieval times and all. It sounds interesting. Thanks for sharing! =]
i love the name Margerie! .. but spelt as ‘Margerie’, though. i think that particular spelling is the nicest, maybe it has something to do with the ‘ie’ at the end – that makes it a little more feminine, almost French, just in my opinion. i don’t think it’s too old fashioned, or old-lady like! in fact, i can see it in a classy young lady, a lady of a vintage, jazzy sort of nature. i could imagine a waitress in a small jazz cafe in the urban streets with brown shapely hair and a delicate figure serving weary gentlemen and women some well-brewed coffee during they’re lunch breaks. i could imagine a Margerie to be well-mannered but still a sharp and witty enough woman to be dangerously obscure at will, and at word play. cheeky, but elegant!
hrmm, or possibly i just have an overly vivid imagination.
My husband’s aunt is called Margie, and for a few years I assumed it was short for Marjorie — but no, she’s just Margie. [Lovely woman, just turned 60 on Monday.]
I’ve always loved Margaret, and Margie as a nn is cute, but I’ve never warmed to Margery/Marjorie — the ‘jury’ sound puts me off.
I’ve never ever considered Marjorie/ Margery at all, and I have to say, as I was reading this post, the appeal of her got higher and higher 🙂 For some odd reason she reminds me of jam and Britain, but she is quite feminine in a rather ‘reserved’ way, and very spritely indeed, as previously proposed!
She’s lovely 🙂
I went to school with a Marjorie but she always went by Jorie.
One of my mother’s best friends as I was growing up was named Marjorie. I had no clue the name had such a history, and always thought the name quintessentially American (I’m Canadian) because of my mother’s friend’s nationality and also because a book I’d read featured an American living in China who wished her name was “Marjorie” instead of Jean since she thought Marjorie sounded more American.
Ugh, sorry about the super-long sentence!
This name has always reminded me of the word margarine.
I knew a Marjorie – call Marj – who was in her late 60s when we met – and yet she was as stylish and smart as anyone I’d ever met. Nothing old lady about her, despite her year of birth!
She’s lent the name a certain trim appeal, and I do think the word “sprightly” is exactly right.
But the nickname thing is a possible issue – there’s always a challenge using a nickname that isn’t the obvious one. (Though I’m comfortable with pushing it, farther than most.) I love Gigi from Marjorie – and Jorie is a neat idea, too!
Christina Fonseca says
I love Marjorie! I had a high school teacher by that name who went by Marge and a girl a couple of grades ahead of me went by Margie, but I’ve always preferred the full name. I have such a good association with the name that I named the hard drive on my first computer Marge 🙂
I would love to meet a little Marjorie!
Margery’s my lovely cousin and I love the name! Sweetly feminine but not fluffy. Indeed, I’d call a Margery (or Marjorie) Daisy, Maisie or maybe even Pearl or Maggie. I agree with Emmy Jo, it’s a sprightly, happy name and I love Margery’s Medieval roots. Margery’s awesome. Marjorie’s the one that feels middle aged to me, I know a handful of women with that spelling who are fast approaching 60!
Emmy Jo says
I love Margery/Marjorie! It’s happy and sprightly. While it’s not at the top of our current list, I’d definitely consider it if I were to have enough daughters. Plus I have a very dear aunt named Margie (just Margie), but Margery would be a neat way to honor her.
JNE — Since Marjorie comes from Margaret, any of Margaret’s nicknames could work. Meg is my diminutive of choice (a la “Little Women”), but a Marjorie could certainly go by Maggie, Maisie, or Maj/Madge.
I love Margery! Marjorie also delights me (as does Marjolaine).
I love Marjorie! And I had no idea the name was so old…
I think the nickname Jorie is cute (stress on the first sylable so the “jor” sounds sounds like the first part of Gorge).
Thanks for covering this name, Verity! This is a name I quite like, but I have a hard time with nicknames. Marge evokes Simpsons, I don’t much like Geri or its variants. I had a neighbor, Margaret, that went by Margie but with a hard ‘g’ and that is all old lady to me… with the soft g, Margie is still not quite right. Don’t like Jo which is an option with this spelling. Best I’ve come up with is Mara or Gigi, and Mara is probably more my thing. Marjorie has one big obstacle for me and that’s (surprise, surprise) my husband. Still, I keep putting her up for consideration on regular intervals. The name really pleases me, outside of the nickname issue… for me it is old-fashioned (rather than old lady), has the British connection, which I like, given my husband’s home country, and I think it has a quite sweet sound, without being little girl or saccharin. I’d love to hear any other possible nicknames if anyone is up for suggesting them. She is firmly on my list at this point.
I had a great-aunt Margie, short for Marjorie and for that I will always love the name. Odds are I won’t ever use it, though. It still has an old lady vibe as opposed to an old-fashioned vibe, if you see the difference. I do prefer the J spelling. Margery looks like it’s pronounced MAR-ga-ree, whereas Marjorie’s pronunciation is quite clear to me.