Origin: Greek Μέλισσα
The name comes directly from the Greek word μέλισσα (melissa) which shares a root with the Greek word for honey μέλι (meli). In fact, the Hititte word, melit (honey) shares the same etymological root.
The name is borne in Greek mythology by a nymph who taught mankind how to harvest honey, it is believed that this same nymph also nursed the god Zeus. It is actually borne by several characters in Greek mythology, including a priestess of Demeter who was murdered when she refused to release the secrets of initiation rights of Demeter.
It seems the name was common in ancient Greece, as it was also borne by a female Pythagorean philosopher (6th-century, CE).
The Italian poet Ludovico Ariosto used it as a name for the good witch who helps Ruggiero escape from the evil Alcina in Orlando Furioso (1516).
Melissa is also the scientific name of the lemon balm plant.
In the English-speaking world, the name caught on during the 18th-century and remained a common name since. The highest she ranked in U.S. naming history was between 1977 and 1979 when it was the 2nd most popular female name. Currently, she is the 157th most popular female name in the United States, (2010).
In Brazil, she is the 37th most popular female name, (2011). Her rankings in other countries are as follows:
- # 49 (France, 2009)
- # 74 (Germany, 2011)
- # 80 (Sweden, 2010)
- # 97 (Scotland, 2010)
- # 142 (the Netherlands, 2010)
Other forms of the name include:
- Melisa (Albanian/Kurdish/Polish/Spanish/Turkish)
- Melissa ميليسا (Catalan/Dutch/English/French/German/Greek/Italian/Lebanese/Portuguese/Scandinavian/Slovak)
- Mélissa (French)
- Melitta (German/Greek)
- Melika (Hawaiian)