The name has several different origins and meanings. Its usage as a name in Britain skyrocketed around 1854, after the victorious Battle of Alma, which took place near the Alma River in the Crimea.
In this case, the name is derived from the Tatar word for, “apple.” It is interesting to note that Alma, till this day, is a traditional and common female name across Central Asia, especially among Russian-Tatars, Kazakhs and Uzbeks. In Uzbek, it appears in the form of Olma. Alma is also the word for apple in Hungarian, where it is also occasionally used as a female given name.
The name also appears in Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queen as the name of a minor character, the head of the House of Temperance in Book 2. In this case, the name is most likely taken from the Portuguese and Spanish word for “soul.”
Alma appears sparingly as a female given name in Renaissance Italy, in this case, it is most likely derived from the Latin, almus, meaning, “nourishing”; hence the term, alma mater (fostering mother). This usage of the name also appears as an epithet for a few Roman goddess, particularly Venus and Ceres.
It is the name of a book in The Book of Mormon, but in this case, it is masculine, being the name of two prophets, a father and son; Alma the Younger being the Chief Judge among the Nephites.
Other etymologies which have been suggested, include:
- It is from the Greek, αλμη (salt water)
- It is from an Arabic source, al-ma, meaning, (the water).
- It is a contracted form of Amalia and Amalberga.
The name is used in virtually every European country, including Scandinavia, where it is currently very trendy.
As of 2010, Alma was the 8th most popular female in the Faroe Islands. Her rankings in other countries are as follows:
- # 23 (Sweden, 2010)
- # 24 (Denmark, 2010)
- # 48 (Norway, 2010)
- # 49 (Bosnia & Herzegovina, 2010)
- # 80 (Spain, 2010)
- # 849 (United States, 2010)