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Meaning & Origins

Latin form of Mary. It arose as a back-formation from the early Christian female name Mariam, which was taken as a Latin accusative case. In fact, however, it is an indeclinable Aramaic alternative form of the Hebrew name Miriam. In the English-speaking world Maria is a learned revival dating from the 18th century, pronounced both ‘ma-ree-a’ and, more traditionally, ‘ma-rye-a’. This form of the name is also in common use in most European languages, either as the main local form of the name, as in Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Dutch, Scandinavian, Polish, and Czech, or as a learned doublet of a vernacular form. In Spain not only is the name María itself enormously common, but a large number of Marian epithets and words associated with the cult of the Virgin are also used as female given names. Maria is also used as a male name in combinations such as Gianmaria (Italian) and José María (Spanish).
15th in the U.S.
Spanish (Hernández) and Jewish (Sephardic): patronymic from the personal name Hernando (see Fernando). This surname also became established in southern Italy, mainly in Naples and Palermo, since the period of Spanish dominance there, and as a result of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain and Portugal at the end of the 15th century, many of whom moved to Italy.
21st in the U.S.

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