In the Old Testament, she was Moses’ quick-witted big sis. While plenty of Biblical names are white hot, this one remains undiscovered.
Thanks to Toni for suggesting Miriam as Name of the Day.
At first glance, Miriam might appear hopelessly out of fashion. But she shares a first letter and rhythm with one of the hottest names in recent years – Madison. Miri is just as appealing a diminutive as Maddie. And while Miriam isn’t gender neutral, she’s undeniably frills-free.
She’s also a hero name. Back in Ancient Egypt, after the pharaoh ordered the death of all newborn Hebrew boys, it was Miriam who carried her brother to the river. When the pharaoh’s daughter wandered by and discovered the child, Miriam was the one to suggest adoption. To put the cherry on top, she also encouraged the princess to take a nurse for the baby – none other than Jochebed, Moses and Miriam’s mother.
Even if you’re not interested in religion – or the interpretations of Miriam as a feminist icon – it is easy to admire the boldness and cunning that she must have possessed.
Jewish parents have embraced the name for generations. Following the Protestant Reformation, it became one of the Biblical choices increasingly heard in Christian families, too.
The name is sometimes written Myriam, Mariam, Maryam or Mariamne, and, of course, she’s the source of the classic Mary. Her origins are debated:
- Since Miriam and Moses were living in Egypt, many suggest that mry – love – is the name’s root;
- Ancient Egyptian names Meritamen, Meryamun and related variants also trace back to mry and seem a logical source;
- St. Isidore of Seville insisted that Mary meant lady in Syriac, but he might’ve been biased;
- Many sources tell us that mara meant bitter;
- There’s also a Hebrew verb that means rebellious – meri is one form of the word;
- A few connect the name to the phrase ma rama – wished for child.
Since 1880, Miriam has ranged between #174 and #376 in the rankings – the kind of name never wildly popular, but never obscure, either. A few famous Miriams include:
- Truman Capote penned the short story Miriam about a widow living a solitary life until she meets a girl called Miriam – spookiness follows;
- Canadian-born starlet Miriam McDonald plays Emma on Degrassi: The Next Generation;
- Acclaimed writer Miriam Toews lends some literary style to the name;
- Speaking of literature, a minor character in DH Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers was called Miriam;
- Miriam Yeung Chin-Wah was a nurse in Hong Kong until TVB’s New Talent Singing Awards launched her career as a Cantopop singer and actress;
- Dr. Miriam Stoppard was known for dispensing medical advice on British TV in the 1970s and 80s;
- Miriam “Ma” Ferguson was elected the first female governor of Texas back in 1925 – after her husband was impeached!
There’s also 2008’s Zack and Miri Make a Porno. Elizabeth Banks played Miriam “Miri” Linky. Had the film taken off, Miriam might’ve gotten a boost. But it fizzled, and the name remains underused.
Miriam is sensible and strong. She’s not exactly current, and she’s not quite a classic à la Mary. But she is a nice choice if you’re looking for something just a little different.