Eng: (MAR-gret); Fre: (mar-GUR-eet); It/Sp (mar-gay-REE-tah).
The name is derived from the Greek word μαργαρίτης, (margarites), meaning, “pearl.” It is believed that the Greek word itself is derived from the Persian word Marg, Marq or Marka meaning bird, possibly due to the resemblance of the pearl to birds’ eggs.
The name was popularized in late antiquity due to the cult of St. Margaret of Antioch.
Legend has it that she was the daughter of a powerful Antiochian priest. Due to her Christianity, she was disowned by her father and lived as a shepherdess in the hills of Turkey. A nobleman went to her father and asked for her hand in marriage. Her father consented and sent the suitor to the Turkish hills to find Margaret. There, the suitor begged her to turn away from her religion and to marry him. When Margaret said no, the nobleman had her tortured. One legend has it, that while being tortured, she had a vision of Satan appearing to her in the form of a dragon and swallowing her whole. The beast regurgitated her back up due to the golden cross she was wearing. She was finally beheaded. Her death is set around 304 A.D. and her feast is usually held around the middle of July.
In Medieval England, Margaret’s cult became especially popular. She was considered protector of pregnant women, possibly due to her incident with the dragon. She is considered to be one of the Holy Helpers who appeared to Joan of Arc.
In the English speaking world, she has been in usage since the Middle Ages, also producing the English offshoot of Margery or Marjorie, which was popular in the early Middle Ages and was revived in the 18th-century. The last time Marjorie was seen in the U.S. top 1000 was in 1994, coming in as the # 991st most popular female name. The highest she ever ranked in U.S. naming history was between 1921 and 1924 when she came in as the 16th most popular female name.
In United States naming history, she peaked 7 years in a row coming in at as the 3rd most popular female name between 1905 and 1911. Currently, she comes in as the 180th most popular female name, and other forms have outranked her.
For instance, the Welsh form of Megan, is currently the 100th most popular female name in the United States, but in previous years, she has ranked even higher, in 1985, she was the 10th most popular female name. In other countries, Megan’s rankings are as follows:
- # 47 (Canada, B.C., 2008)
- # 15 (England/Wales, 2008)
- # 30 (Ireland, 2007)
- # 170 (the Netherlands, 2008)
- # 31 (Scotland, 2008)
In addition to her, there are several other saints who bear this name. Throughout history the name has been borne by several English and French Monarchs.
Other forms of the name include:
- Margarid (Armenian)
- Maharyta/Maharèta (Belarusian)
- Marc’harid (Breton)
- Mégane (Breton)
- Margarita Маргарита (Bulgarian/Late Latin/Lithuanian/Russian/Spanish)
- Margrethe (Danish/Norwegian)
- Margretje (Danish)
- Merete/Meret (Danish)
- Merit/Merrit (Danish)
- Mette (Danish/Norwegian)
- Margreet/Margriet (Dutch/Limburgish)
- Margaretja (Dutch)
- Margalida (Catalan)
- Markéta (Czech/Slovak)
- Markit (Czech: obscure form)
- Muchlina (Czech: obscure form)
- Margaret (English)
- Margo (English)
- Marga (Estonian/Catalan)
- Maret/Mareta (Estonian)
- Maarit (Finnish)
- Margareeta/Margareetta (Finnish)
- Margariita/Margariitta (Finnish)
- Marjatta (Finnish)
- Marketta (Finnish)
- Margaux/Margot (French)
- Maguy (French: medieval diminutive form occasionally used as an independent given name. mah-GEE)
- Marguerite (French: also the French word for daisy)
- Margarida (Galician/Portuguese: also coincides with the Galician and Portuguese word for daisy)
- Margalita (Georgian)
- Margareta (German/Dutch/Finnish/Romanian/Scandinavian/Slovene)
- Margarete/Margret (German)
- Margaretha (German/Dutch)
- Margarethe (German/Danish)
- Margrit (German)
- Margott (German)
- Meta (German/Scandinavian: originally a diminutive form, now used exclusively as an independent given name)
- Margarita Μαργαρίτα (Greek: Modern)
- Margalit (Hebrew: also the modern Hebrew word for pearl)
- Margaréta (Hungarian)
- Margita (Hungarian/Slovakian)
- Margit (Hungarian/Scandinavian)
- Margrét (Icelandic)
- Mairéad (Irish-Gaelic)
- Pegeen (Irish-Gaelic: Gaelicization of the English diminutive Peggy, used as an independent given name)
- Margherita (Italian: also the Italian word for cheese pizza and the daisy)
- Malgozata (Lithuanian)
- Margaid (Manx)
- Margrete (Norwegian)
- Marit (Norwegian/Swedish)
- Magalòna (Occitanian)
- Małgorzata (Polish)
- Magali (Provençal)
- Marghareta (Romanian)
- Marghita (Romanian)
- Maighread (Scotch-Gaelic)
- Maisie (Scotch-Gaelic: originally a diminutive form of Maighread and Margaret, the name has a long history of usage as an independent given name. Pronounced like (MAY-zee), rhymes with Daisy).
- Chmarietta (Slovene)
- Marjeta (Slovene)
- Merit (Swedish)
- Makalesi (Tongan)
- Marged (Welsh)
- Mared (Welsh)
- Megan (Welsh)
- Mererid (Welsh)
There is also the Germanic off spring of Greta and all her various forms, once used as a diminutive form, Greta and all her variations have a long history of being used as independent given names.
In the United States, Greta is currently the 694th most popular female name, her German sister of Gretchen currently ranks in as the 945th most popular female name.
- Greta (Danish/German/English/Plattdeutsch/Norwegian/Romansch/Swedish)
- Grete (Danish/German/Plattdeutsch)
- Grethe (Danish/Norwegian)
- Greet/Griet (Dutch/Limburgish)
- Greetje (Dutch)
- Gretje/Grietje (Frisian)
- Gretta (English)
- Gretchen (German/English)
- Gretel/Gretl (German)
- Gréta (Hungarian/Icelandic)
- Ghita (Italian)
- Grieta (Latvian)
- Greetke (Plattdeutsch)
- Greth (Plattdeutsch)
- Gretje (Plattdeutsch)
- Gretjen (Plattdeutsch)
- Grettina (Romansch)
Another diminutive offspring that has a history as an independent name is Rita, which originated as a Spanish and Italian contracted form and is now used in English, German, Hungarian, Portuguese, and the Scandinavian languages, Reeta/Reetta are Finnish forms.
There is the Italian masculine form of Margherito.
Common English diminutives are Daisy, Madge, Mae, Maggie, Mamie, Marge, Margie, Mayme, Meg, Meggie, Midge, Peg, Peggy, and Jorie (for Marjory).
Czech diminutives are: Gita, Gitka and Gituška, Polish diminutives are Gosia, Gośka, Małgorzatka, Małgosia and Małgośka.
A Hungarian diminutive is Manci, a Spanish pet form is Tita and a Manx diminutive is Paaie.
A Swiss-German dialectical diminutive is Gretli.