Is Mario A Male Maria?

One aspect of my interest in language is names.  Tonight, as I drove home from work, I saw a restaurant sign that included the name Mario, and it hit me for the first time: this name seems to do the opposite of what I usually notice names do.

Many female names are clearly adapted from older male names: 

  • Stephanie is a female Stephen
  • Paulette is a female Paul
  • Andrea is a female Andrew
  • Roberta is a female Robert
  • Michaela is a female Michael
  • Patricia is a female Patrick
  • Joan is a female John
  • Christina is a female Christopher

Notice that most of these examples are from men in the Bible.  This is important.  As those names are very old and very influential in Western cultures, it’s natural that female versions would evolve.

Mario, however, seems to have gone the other way: if Mari-o and Mari-a are related, the older name is Maria, which in English is Mary.  It makes sense that if names get adapted across genders because of age and cultural influence, especially Biblical names, then the name of the ultimate woman in the Bible would naturally produce a male version. 

This is all just speculation, though–I’m not a linguist.  But I’d like to look into this to see if I’m right.


3 comments on “Is Mario A Male Maria?

  1. It would be great to be able to find sources, wouldn’t it?

    Mary is, naturally considered to be a development from Latin Maria, and I am under the impression, that Mario is just as much a male form of that, as Paula is a female of Paulo.

    But then go to names like Marion, Marlo, Marlon and such (all of which are more or less male names, although the English pronunciation of Marian has confused many to think that Marion is a female name), and you will need to question whether they could have more roots than just Indo-European ways of “translating” the original Mary, which is, I guess, Miryam (Miriam?). Transliteration from old Hebrew is tricky.

    Anyhow, as I’ve seen Asian forms of the Hebrew root name, that could have been just as easily spreading because of geographic proximity (say, Meryem, to take the most obvious one, that is almost as such found in Arabic and Persian, we’re more or less stumped. We do know, in any case, that Christianity used to be much more common in what in “Asia Minor” than it is today, so the Mary cult could have influenced.

    Oh, that I were omniscient…

  2. Oh, and I mean “cult” in the dictionary way, which makes no value judgment on what I think of the Mary cult. “Cult” is just a certain distinct system of religious observance, including what is worshiped and how.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s