Female Names in the Upper New River Valley of North Carolina, 1700's to about 1850
A Very Brief History of Names in England and America
Naming Conventions and Spelling in the Upper New River Valley
Short List of Names

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MAHALA, MAHALIA, MAHALY, HILEY -  this unusual name was common in the American South during the 19th century.  Many "Melungeon" researchers have noticed that it is almost identical to the Arabic name "Mahalia."  However, "Mahala" is also found among the New England Puritans, who probably got it from the Bible.  See Genesis 28:9 (Mahalath), 1 Chron. 7:18 (Mahalah),  Numbers 26:33 (Mahlah).  

MALINDA - see Melinda.

MALVINA, MELVINA - the name "Malvina" was apparently invented by Scottish poet James MacPherson for his "Ossian" saga, Fingal, an Ancient Epic Poem (1762) (supposedly a translation of an ancient Gaelic epic, but actually written by MacPherson).  Nicknames: Vina, Viney.

MANDA, MANDY - a nickname for Amanda.

MAOMI, MIOMA, MIOMY - a variation of "Naomi" which is occasionally found in records from the 19th century.  I do not know if it was an intentional variation or a phonetic spelling based on a mispronunciation.  In some instances, it may be a transcription error, but in others, the original records clearly show the name spelled with an initial "m".

MARGARET - a very ancient name, common in England and Scotland since Medieval times. It originally comes from the French "Marguerite" which in turn derives via Latin "Margarita" from the Greek "Margarites," ultimately from the Hebrew word margaron, meaning pearl.  Nicknames: Margery, Maggie, Peggy.

MARILLA - a nickname for Amarilla (Amaryllis).

MARINA - this ancient name is often thought to be a variation of "Mary" but it is actually the feminine form of the Roman name "Marius."  The derivation of "Marius" is uncertain; it is possibly related to Mars, the Roman god of War, or the Latin word mas, meaning strong, male.  The name "Marina" is found throughout Europe, including England, Scotland, Italy, Germany, Spain, and Russia. 

- see Miranda.

MARTHA - New Testament; the sister of Lazarus and Mary of Bethany, and a friend of Jesus (John 11:1).  Her name means "lady" in Aramaic.  (Aramaic was the language spoken by the Jews during the time of Christ.)

MARTICIA - this name is apparently a Southern U.S. invention, possibly a creative variation of Martha.

MARY - New Testament; the mother of Jesus (see, e.g., Luke 1:27).  Mary's Hebrew name is actually "Miriam" but it was incorrectly translated into Latin as "Maria," and then into English as "Mary."  Christian scholars have debated the meaning of the name "Miriam" for centuries.  St. Jerome (4th century) associated it with the Latin word maris, meaning sea, hence Mary's Medieval title Stella Maris, star of the sea.  However, "Mary" comes from Hebrew, not Latin.  Catholic scholars have favored the Hebrew root mara, meaning "nourished," as implying "the beautiful one" or "the perfect one."  (The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1912.)  Variations: Maria, Mariah, Marion, Maryan, Maryann.  Nicknames: Polly, Molly.

MATHURSA, MATHURSIA - unknown origin; possibly an elaboration of Theresa?  Nickname: Thursey.

MATILDA - an English name that originally comes from the Germanic "Mechtilde" meaning "mighty in battle." The name "Matilda" and its Low German/Dutch variation, "Maud" (from "Mahauld") were introduced to England by the Normans in the 11th century.  Nicknames: Tilda, Tildy, Mattie.

MATTIE - a nickname for Martha or Matilda.

MAZY, MAZZY - possibly a contraction of "Mary Elizabeth" or a variation of Mary or Mattie (Martha).  Possibly related to "Maisie" which is a Scottish nickname for Margaret.  Possibly short for the Old Testament name "Amaziah" (2 Kings 14; 2 Chron. 25), but as this is a male name in the Bible, it was usually given to boys.  Maybe short for "Amazing" as in "Amazing Grace"?  "Amazing" sure sounds like it could be a Puritan virtue name, but I've found no evidence that it was.  However, the popular hymn "Amazing Grace" by John Newton (first published in 1744) may have inspired some parents in the 18th-19th centuries to name their daughters "Amazing."

MELIA - a nickname for Amelia, Permelia, or Mildred.

MELINDA - this name first appears in England and America in the late 1700's.  Its origins are a bit obscure.  It is the name of a character in a comedy called The Recruiting Officer by Irish playwright George Farquhar (1705), and a few years later, it appears in the novel The Adeventures of Roderick Random by Tobias Smollet (1748).  Although some sources claim that "Melinda" is an Anglo-Saxon or Latin name, I have not found any evidence that it was used in England prior the 18th century.   Nicknames: Linda, Lindy.

MELISSA - an Italian name that comes from the Greek word meaning "bee."  It first became popular in England in the 16th century as a result of the Italian poem "Orlando Furioso" by Ludovico Ariosto, which was translated into English in 1591 by Sir John Harington.

MICHAL - Old Testament; the daughter of Saul who married King David (1 Samuel 18:20-28). Her name means "who is like God?" in Hebrew.  "Michal" was taken up by the Puritans and it survived as a female name into the 19th century.  It has since disappeared, being replaced by the French form, "Michelle."

MILDRED - Old English, composed of the elements mild (gentle) and thryd (strength). This name has been used in England since before the Norman conquest.

MILLA, MILLY - nicknames for Amelia, Permelia, or Mildred.

MINDA, MINDY - nicknames for Araminta or Amanda.

MINERVA - the Roman goddess of wisdom and the arts.  This name became popular in England during the Classical Revival period.  Variations: Minervy, Minurvy.

MINTA, MINTHA, MINTY - nicknames for Araminta.

MIRA, MIREY - nicknames for names like Almira (Elmira), Lemira, and Miranda.  It was also used as a given name on its own.  The variation "Myra" was coined by the 16th century English poet Fulke Greville in his sonnet, "I, with whose colours Myra dressed her head."

MIRANDA - this name was apparently invented by Shakespeare for his play The Tempest (1611).  "Miranda" is a surname found in Spain and Portugal, but is not used there as a first name.  Nicknames: Rinda, Rindy, Rina, etc.

- a common English nickname for Mary.
NANCY - an English name of uncertain origin which first appears in the 17th century.  It may have originated as a variation of Annice (Agnes) which was a common name in England during the Middle Ages.  Nancy was often used as a nickname for Ann, Annice or Agnes.

NAOMI - Old Testament; Ruth's mother-in-law (Ruth 1:2; 2:1).  The word "Naomi" means "loveable" or "my delight" in Hebrew.  In American records, one occasionally encounters this name spelled with an "M" (Maomi, Miomi, Miomy).

NARCISSA, NARCESSA -   the feminine form of the Greek name "Narcissus."  In Greek mythology, Narcissus was a vain youth who turned into a flower while gazing at his reflection.  The name "Narcissa" was rare in England, but became fairly popular in the American South in the 19th century, probably as a flower name.  Nicknames: Sissa, Sissy.

- nickname for Eleanor, Ellen, or Penelope.

NICY, NISA -  nickname for Eunice.
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Copyright 2002 by Rebecca Moon