The name could be of several different origins and meanings depending on the bearer of the name. Generally, the name is mostly used in reference to its Biblical origins, when Naomi takes the name of Mara(h) (Ruth 1:20), (which in Hebrew means “bitter”) as a way to express her grief over losing her husband and sons. The same name also appears in the Exodus as the name of one of the locations which the Torah identifies as having been travelled through by the Israelites.

It could also be from Latvian mythology, spelled Māra, being the name of the supreme goddess who was associated with all feminine aspects of life. She is sometimes believed to be one and the same as Laima.

The name also appears in Slavic mythology as another name of the goddess Marzanna, the goddess of death and winter. Interestingly, it is also the name of the goddess of death in Hinduism. The two deities may have a distant connection.

In German the name is ultimately derived from a proto-Indo European source meaning “to harm” or “to rub away.” In folklore, mara were wraiths who pressed on the chests of sleeping victims, this is where the word nightmare is believed to have derived.

It is interesting to note that the name appears in the top 100 most popular female names in Germany, where it is currently the 55th most popular female name, (2011). It is doubtful, however, that the name is used in reference to its Germanic folklore origins, but is more likely used in reference to its Biblical connections.

The name could also be from the Syriac and modern Maltese meaning, “woman.”

In Hungarian and Croatian, it is used as a form of Marija.

Her rankings in other countries are as follows:

  • #79 (Croatia, 2010)
  • # 93 (Spain, 2010)
  • # 128 (Netherlands, 2010)
  • # 869 (United States, 2010)