Relatively modern creation, of uncertain origin. It had a temporary vogue following the Battle of Alma (1854), which is named from the river in the Crimea by which it took place; similarly, Trafalgar had occasionally been used as a girl's name earlier in the 19th century. Nevertheless, the historical event seems only to have increased the popularity of an existing, if rare, name. Alma is also the feminine form of the Latin adjective almus ‘nourishing, kind’ (compare the term alma mater ‘fostering mother’, denoting an educational establishment). The name was borne by Alma Bennett (1889–1958), American vamp of the silent screen. In Tennessee Williams's play Summer and Smoke (1948), a bearer of the name explains that it is ‘Spanish for soul’, but this seems to be no more than coincidental.