The name is a contraction of Margaret but seems to have been used as an independent given name since the Middle Ages.
It was borne by Rita of Armenia (1278-1333) a Byzantine Empress. The name was further popularized in Europe due to the cult of St. Rita of Cascia (1381-1457) a Medieval Italian saint.
The name is used across Europe, including Armenia. Currently, Rita is the 461st most popular female name in Quebec, Canada (2010).
In more recent history it was borne by actress Rita Hayworthe (1918-1987).
Other forms of the name include:
- Riet (Dutch)
- Reeta (Finnish)
- Reetta (Finnish)
- Riitta (Finnish)
- Ryta (Polish)
A common Sicilian diminutive is Rituzza.