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Miriam Name Meaning: Origin, Popularity & Nicknames

Learn about the name Miriam including the meaning, gender, origin, popularity, and more.

Miriam Overview

  • Meaning: Miriam means “drop of the sea,” “bitter,” and “beloved.”
  • Gender: Miriam is a girl’s name.
  • Origin: The name Miriam is of Hebrew origin.
  • Pronunciation: “Mee-ree-uhm”
  • Popularity: Miriam has always been a popular name in the United States, steadily ranking in the 100 to 300 range of the baby name list. It ranked 261st in 2021.
  • Nicknames: Mim, Mir, Mimi, Miri, Midge, Miz.
  • Variations: Maryām, Mira, Miri, Mimi, Mirjam, Mirijam, Miryām, Myriam.
  • Namesakes: Miriam Leslie (American woman suffrage advocate), Miriam Margolyes (British actress), Miriam Toews (Canadian author).

What Does Miriam Mean?

Miriam means “drop of the sea,” coming from the Hebrew words “mar” and “yam.” It can also mean “bitter,” from the Hebrew root “marah.” Another popular meaning is “beloved,” which comes from the Egyptian root of “mr.”

What Is the Origin of the Name Miriam?

Miriam is a Hebrew name that first appeared in the Book of Exodus (1). It has an uncertain origin. Some scholars have speculated that it might derive from the Egyptian “mr” as it was common for Levite names to come from that language. Another potential origin is the Hebrew verb “mara,” meaning “rebellious” or “disobedient.”

How Popular Is the Name Miriam?

Miriam is a name with a long history dating back thousands of years. In the United States, the Social Security Administration recorded it in position 214 as soon as it started keeping charts in 1900 (2).

The name has remained in the 100 to 300 range for more than a century. In 2021, Miriam was ranked 261, classifying it as popular.

How Do I Pronounce Miriam?

You pronounce the name Miriam in a very straightforward manner: “Mee-ree-uhm.” Some people prefer a slight variation, saying it as “Mir-ee-uhm.”

Is Miriam a Boy or Girl Name?

Miriam is a girl’s name. She was the sister of Moses in the Hebrew Bible. Moreover, it is the original version of the classic female name Mary.

Variations of Miriam

Due to its religious significance, many variations of Miriam have emerged across cultures and languages. Many are variants of the original Hebrew, but others reflect the spread of Abrahamic religions:

  • Mary (English)
  • Maryām (Ancient Greek)
  • Mira, Miri, Mimi (Hebrew)
  • Mirjam, Mirijam (German)
  • Miryām (Tiberian)
  • Myriam (French)

Nicknames for Miriam

Miriam is a name with three syllables that sounds slightly formal, so you’ll want nickname options. This list includes some basic nicknames, but you can customize them for your daughter:

  • Mim
  • Mir
  • Mimi
  • Miri
  • Midge
  • Miz

Similar Names to Miriam

You might like the style of the name Miriam but want something slightly different. These names are similar, with a sound just as timeless:

Middle Names for Miriam

Miriam is a traditional name, so you can pair it with an equally classic name. However, it’s also fun to pair Miriam with something modern. Try the combinations on this list to see what best suits your daughter:

Sibling Names for Miriam

Sibling names can be matchy-matchy or complete opposites. These lists have something to appeal to everyone:

For a Sister:

For a Brother:

Famous People Named Miriam

Miriam’s first appearance was in the Hebrew Bible and has been a common name since then. Read on to see if you recognize any of these famous Miriams:

  • Miriam Butterworth: American politician and activist.
  • Miriam Daly: Irish civil rights activist.
  • Miriam Hodgson: British children’s book editor.
  • Miriam Kara: Israeli Olympic gymnast.
  • Miriam Leslie: American woman suffrage advocate.
  • Miriam Makeba: South African singer.
  • Miriam Margolyes: British actress.
  • Miriam Miranda: Honduran human rights activist.
  • Miriam Pressler: German novelist.
  • Miriam Syowia Kyambi: Kenyan artist.
  • Miriam Toews: Canadian author.
  • Miriam Yalan-Shteklis: Israeli writer and poet.

Miriam in Popular Culture

With such an impressive history, it’s no surprise that Miriam appears in popular culture.

  • Miriam: sister of Moses in the Hebrew Bible.
  • Miriam: a character in “The Marble Faun” by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
  • Miriam: The titular character in a short story by Truman Capote.
  • Miriam Blaylock: A character in the movie “The Hunger.”
  • Miriam Godwinson: A character in the video game “Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri.”
  • Miriam Leviers: A character in “Sons and Lovers” by D. H. Lawrence.
  • Miriam Maisel: The main character in the TV show “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”
  • Miriam Mendelsohn: A character in the animated movie “Turning Red.”
  • Miriam Pataki: A character in the animated kids’ show “Hey Arnold!”
  • Miriam Rooth: A character in “The Tragic Muse” by Henry James.

Miriam FAQs

You know the meaning of Miriam, as well as what middle names go well with it. You can choose quality sibling names for Miriam’s brother and sisters, too. If you need more information before naming your daughter Miriam, check out the answers to these frequently asked questions.

Can Miriam Only Be Used in Judaism?

Miriam is a Hebrew name that comes from the Bible. She was the sister of Moses and first appeared in the Book of Exodus. In Hebrew, Miriam means “beloved” and “wished-for child.”

Though Miriam is a Hebrew name, you don’t have to be Jewish to use it. An English version, Mary, has become popular amongst Christian and secular families.

What Role Did Miriam Have in the Bible?

Miriam was the sister of Moses in the Hebrew Bible (3). She is Amram and Jochebed’s daughter, a prophet who appears in the Book of Exodus. She sings “Song of the Sea” with the Israelites after their army’s defeat.

Miriam gets leprosy, and though her brother prays for God to cure her, she dies of the disease. Her community buries her in Kadesh, a desert at the southern border of Israel.

Is Miriam a Good Name?

Miriam is a name with a strong history. It has a classical quality, but its relative rarity offers parents a twist on the more common Mary. That gives the name a modern dimension despite its ancient origin.

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