Rev Patrick Woulfe

MUIRE, genitive idem (the same), Mary; Hebrew — Mrjám, which can be read Mirjám, or better Mariám, a name of difficult interpretation, as are all names which appear in a very contracted form and in which it is difficult to discover the root-word from which they are derived. About seventy different meanings are given to Mary, in great part suggested by devotion to the Mother of God rather than by solid critical sense. Historically and grammatically examined, it seems very likely that it is a Hebrew name signifying 'bitterness,' in the sense of grief, sorrow, affliction, either in reference to the pains of childbirth, or to the moral condition of the mother and family, oppressed by some great misfortune, or perhaps to the sad period of the Egyptian bondage, to which the Israelites were subject at the time of the birth of the first Mary, the sister of Moses. It was afterwards the name of several Jewish women, including the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus Christ, but was very slow in creeping in to the Western Church. It is only about the middle of the 12th century that we find the first instances of its use in Europe, whither apparently it had been brought by the devotion of the crusaders. Even in Ireland, there were few Marys until comparatively recent times. I find only a few instances of the use of the name before the 17th century. At present one-fourth of the women of Ireland are named Mary. The ordinary form of the name, however, is Máire, Muire being used exclusively for the Blessed Virgin Mary, and, therefore, the most honoured of all names of women. Latin — Maria.

Alphabetical Index to Names of Women (Irish-English)

English-Irish Index

Note: The old Irish letters used in the original text* have been converted to the Roman alphabet for this online version, and the lenited (or dotted) consonants changed to their aspirated equivalents, i.e. the dotted 'c' has been altered to 'ch', the dotted 'g' to 'gh', and the dotted 'm' to 'mh', etc. For example, in the name Caoimgin (Kevin), where the 'm' and 'g' are both dotted (ṁ, ġ) in the old Irish lettering, the name has been converted here to the modern Irish equivalent of Caoimhghin.

* Sloinnte Gaedheal is Gall: Irish Names and Surnames by Rev. Patrick Woulfe, 1923.