Meaning: “foreigner; barbarian”
The name is derived from the Greek barbaros (βαρβαρος) meaning “foreign; barbarian.”
The name is borne by a 4th-century Christian martyr. St. Barbara was said to be so beautiful that her wealthy father had her locked away in a tower to protect her from disease and unwanted suitors, however, a Christian tutor of hers, had converted her to Christianity. When Barbara’s father found out, he beheaded her, but afterwards was struck by lightning, hence Barbara was considered the patron saint against lightning. She is also the patron saint of artillery, architecture, prisoners and, in Poland, she is considered the patron saint of miners. Its usage in Poland was originally delegated to miners’ daughters, but now it is widespread and popular among all classes.
Barbara currently ranks in the top 100 in Chile, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia. In the United States, however, she only ranks in at # 758, she did rank in at # 3rd back in 1933.
Other forms of the name include: (listed alphabetically by linguistic origin)
- Rabab (Arabic)
- Barbare (Basque/Georgian)
- Bärbl (Bavarian)
- Barba (Breton/Estonian/Latvian)
- Bàrbara (Catalan)
- Barbara (Croatian, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Latvian, Norwegian, Polish, Ripoarisch, Romanian, Slovene)
- Babeta (Czech/Slovak)
- Bára (Czech: originally a diminutive form, now used as an independent given name)
- Barbora (Czech, Lithuanian, Slovakian: 10th most popular female name in the Czech Republic for 2007)
- Barbel (Danish)
- Barbertje (Dutch: obscure, also a word for a kitchen rack in Dutch)
- Parba (Estonian)
- Varje/Varju/Varve (Estonian)
- Barbe (French: obscure, not very popular due to it also being the French word for beard)
- Barber/Berber (Frisian)
- Babette/Barbette (French diminutive forms, used as independent given names, considered very dated)
- Varvara Βαρβαρα (Greek Modern)
- Borbála (Hungarian: 84th most popular female name in Hungary for 2005)
- Báirbre (Irish)
- Barbarella/Barbarina/Barberina/Barbera (Italian: obscure forms)
- Berb (Limburgish)
- Barbė (Lithuanian)
- Bäerbel (Luxemburgish)
- Barbo (Norwegian)
- Bárbara (Portuguese/Spanish)
- Barbla/Barla (Romansch)
- Varvara Варвара (Russian/Bulgarian)
- Barabal (Scottish)
- Varjenka/Varja/Varvana (Slovene)
- Borbora (Sorbian)
- Barbro (Swedish/Danish/Norwegian)
- Bäbi (Swiss German)
Popular English diminutive forms are Babbie, Babs, Barb, Barbie and sometimes Bobbie.
Popular Polish diminutives are Basia (BAH-shah) and Baska (BASH-kah).
Czech diminutives are Bára, Barca, Barča, Barka, Barborka and Baruška. Croatian diminutives are Bara and Barica (bah-REET-sah).
Russian and Bulgarian diminutives forms are Varenka, Varinka, Varya and Varyusha.
German diminutive forms are: Baba, Babe, Babi, Bäbs, Babschi, Babsi, Babsili, Babsl, Baby, Bar, Barb, Barbi, Bärbi, Bari, Bobbel, Bobbie, Bobsi, Wara, Wawi, Wetl and Wetty. Slovenian diminutives are: Bara, Barba, Barbi, Barca, Barica, Barbika, Barbina and Barbka.
There are Italian masculine versions, which are: Barbaro, Barbarino and Barberino.
The designated name-day is December 4.
Other notable bearers are Barbara of Celje (1390-1451) a Hungarian queen crowned Holy Roman Empress, known for creating the Order of the Dragon.
Former first lady Barbara Pierce Bush (b.1927), American actresses, Barbara Stanwyck (1907-1990) and Barbara Hershey (b.1948). Renowned journalist, Barbara Walters (b.1929) and singer, Barbra Streisand (b.1942).