What is it about mermaid baby names?
Mermaids captivate us. Almost inevitably, they’re fish-tailed enchantresses, something like Disney’s Ariel. At other times they’re ferocious, even dangerous. (Think Harry Potter’s ferocious merpeople.)
They combine our love for the sea and an appreciation of the fantastic. Mermaid baby names aren’t nature names, necessarily, but many of them do bring to mind the briny deep.
Of course, not all mermaid baby names are created equal. Some are borrowed from famous mermaids – names that didn’t have anything to do with the ocean until a movie, television series, or book made it so. Others just plain sound mermaid-appropriate. And some come from legend and myth, the names given to creatures and minor goddesses associated with water across time and place.
Walt Disney Studios first considered adapting the Hans Christian Andersen tale of a mermaid who trades her fins for feet – and true love – way back in the 1930s. But it wasn’t until 1989 that we went under the sea with red-headed Ariel. The character is unnamed in the original story. It’s not clear how Disney chose Ariel for King Triton’s daughter. One theory: Shakespeare’s sprite from The Tempest could’ve provided inspiration. While Ariel is a Hebrew name meaning lion of God, it also resembles aerial – as in air, as in light and graceful. With a live action remake in the works, Ariel might appeal to a new generation of parents.
In both the original fairy tale and the Disney version, Ariel is the youngest of seven sisters: Attina, Alana, Adella, Aquata, Arista, and Andrina. Their mom’s name? Athena. But we don’t meet them – or learn their names – until the spin-offs and sequels started. All of the names might earn a spot on this list of mermaid baby names, but Adella means noble, and a handful of historical princesses have answered to the name, so let’s call the best pick for an underwater royal.
Nearly every list of mermaid baby names includes Aerwyna or Aerwynna, with the powerfully appealing meaning “friend of the sea.” It’s nearly always said to be Old English in origin. And it’s true that –win and –vin elements often come from the Old English word for friend. (Think Edwin, Alvin, and Winifred.) But Aerwyna is a mystery; the first syllable tends to refer to air in English, not the sea. So while it is broadly accepted as a mermaid name, the name’s story is unclear.
Over fifty sea nymphs – minor goddesses – occur in Greek mythology, the daughters of sea god Nereus. Homer lists Amatheia among them. They’re also known as Nereids. They’re not exactly mermaids as we know them, but the description – saving sailors, having a fish tail – comes pretty close in some accounts. The nymphs’ names vary from the very accessible to the not-so-much. Amatheia combines the rising Thea with the popular Am- sound, so it has some potential.
Nearly every ancient religious associates a god or goddess – or a dozen – with water. In Persian mythology, that was Anahita. The name probably means immaculate.
Another ancient goddess, Asherah means “she who walks in the sea” or possibly “lady of the sea.” In the 1960s, archeologist George F. Bass used a submarine called the Asherah to explore underwater sites.
It’s a place name, first and foremost, the biggest continent on Earth. But Greek myth also gives the name to an Oceanid. Like the Nereids, they’re the water-dwelling daughters of a god. In this case, they’re the daughters of the Titan Oceanus. The continent probably takes its name from an Akkadian word meaning sunrise, named by the Greeks. That puts Asia with the mermaid baby names with great meanings.
We know Athena as the goddess of wisdom, clad in battle-gear, owl on her shoulder. It doesn’t suggest much time for swimming. Except Athena is also the name of Ariel’s mother, the queen of Atlantica.
Fictional mermaid queens include Atlanna, mother to Arthur Curry, better known as Aquaman. Nicole Kidman played the regal refugee in 2018 big screen adaptation starring Jason Momoa as the superhero.
A paradise from Arthurian legend, Avalon sounds like it belongs with mermaid baby names. It means “island of apples.” While it’s never ranked in the US Top 1000, it fits right in with Ava and Evelyn.
Names associated with water seem just right for mermaid baby names. Since a brook is a small stream, Brooke seems like a subtle choice for a daughter.
She’s the nymph who keeps Odysseus captive – and captivated – for seven years, prolonging the Odyssey. It’s also a type of music originating with African slaves in the Caribbean, now the sound of the islands.
Cascata is the Italian word for Cascade, as in waterfall. The former might sound slightly more name-like, but both have potential.
The name of one of Ariel’s sisters in the new live action Little Mermaid movie, Caspia is almost certainly based on rising boys’ favorite, Caspian, borrowed from the sea.
Cleopatra ruled Egypt, but this name earns a place on the mermaid baby names list thanks to an Australian television series. H2O: Just Add Water introduced us to a trio of ordinary teenage girls … who also happened to be mermaids with superpowers. Cleo is among the popular series’ main mermaids.
Maybe the creators of H2O knew that Cleo had watery origins. The name belonged to a water nymph beloved of the ocean god Poseidon.
Coral, as in reef, inspires a long list of names: there’s Coral, of course. (She’s Nemo’s mom in Finding Nemo.) Coraline works, but it feels strongly associated with the Neil Gaiman character. Coralia is an option, too. But for mermaid baby names, Coralie seems like a great choice – a mix of underwater appeal with the same style as Rosalie.
Debate surrounds the meaning and origin of Cordelia, but one mermaid-worthy meaning is “daughter of the sea.” That comes from Creiddylad, a character from Welsh legend. She’s something of a Persephone figures, but the meaning puts it on this list.
DARIA and DARYA
Darya means ocean or sea in Persian. Daria, on the other hand, means “possessing goodness.” Appealing meanings, both – though one says mermaid, and the other? Not really. Still, it feels like a fit for this list.
The small screen strikes again! Deema belongs to the Bubble Guppies, a Nick Jr. animated series following the adventures of preschool aged merpeople. Character names range from the un-oceanic (Molly) to the subtly seafaring (Gil) to the truly rare (Zooli). Deema feels just fantastic enough to belong under the sea. In Arabic, it means downpour, as in a rainstorm.
Delphine might bring to mind delphinium flowers. But there’s an aquatic tie-in, too. In Latin, delphinus means dolphin. That feels like a perfect name for a mermaid.
In Greek mythology, Aphrodite is the daughter of Zeus and Dione. Dione is an ocean nymph, daughter of Oceanus. That’s not quite the same thing as being a mermaid, but it comes close.
Maybe Doris sounds old-school, and not in a stylish way. After all, Doris Day’s career peaked in the middle of the twentieth century, too recently for this name to feel ready for revival. But Doris was yet another sea nymph, one of the more famous ones. Her name means abundance, and she’s associated with rich fishing grounds. As names go, it’s hard to imagine Doris on a child … but if Frances is on the rise, maybe it’s only a matter of time.
Yes, it’s a boy name. But it’s been given to girls in small but steady numbers since the early 2000s. The meaning – great tide – earns it a place on this list.
More than one mermaid has answered to Emerald. There’s a children’s book character, as well as a 2017 movie called Scales: Mermaids are Real. (It’s on Netflix.) But even without namesakes, the color Emerald is associated with the sea.
The name of more than one figure in Greek myth, one of the Oceanids answered to Electra. She was associated with storm clouds.
Esther comes as close to a real life mermaid as possible. In the 1940s and 50s, champion swimmer Esther Williams starred in a series of aquamusicals. 1952’s Million Dollar Millionaire was one of them; Williams would later borrow the movie name for the title of her autobiography.
Gal Gadot puts this name on the superhero roster. But it means wave in Hebrew, making it a nature name first. The elaborated Galia is another option.
It’s the name of the statue in Pygmalion, but ages before that, Galatea was a sea nymph. When a Cyclops kills her boyfriend, Galatea transformed him into a river spirit. The story inspired plenty of Renaissance-era paintings.
How’s this for a mermaid-perfect possibility? In Greek myth, Halia personified sea salt. It literally means “briny,” which makes it seem even more perfect.
It’s the Greek word for violet, and also the name of an ocean nymph.
Another Little Mermaid live action name, Indira means beauty in Sanskrit.
Isla comes from the Islay, the name of an island off Scotland’s coast. It also means island in Spanish, though we pronounce it “eye-la” – the Scottish way. It’s a fast-rising favorite with a clear, but subtle, tie to the ocean.
Rubies and emeralds and diamonds are found on earth, of course, but something about glittering Jewel has always felt mermaid-appropriate, too. Australian television series Mako: Island of Secrets – a spin-off of H2O: Just Add Water – includes a young mermaid called Jewel.
Like Dylan, this name belongs to the boys. Except Kai comes from lots of sources, and with multiple meanings, making it a little more unisex. The meaning suits a mermaid – or merman – well. In Hawaiian, Kai means sea.
Another of Ariel’s sisters in the rebooted Little Mermaid movie.
A mermaid in a children’s book, the name Lola also belongs to a mermaid statue in Norfolk, Virginia. Norfolk is one of several cities claiming a mermaid as its symbol; statues can be found all over town.
LORELAI and LORELEI
We know Lorelei from television’s Gilmore Girls, a mother-daughter duo who share a name (though the younger one answers to Rory) and a closer-than-close relationship. But it’s originally the name of a siren who tempts sailors to wreck on the rocks with her alluring song. That’s not exactly a mermaid, but it’s close.
When Daryl Hannah’s mermaid character in 1984’s Splash needed a name, she ended up borrowing one from New York’s Madison Avenue. It quickly caught on. And, after over thirty years of popularity, Madison remains among the most popular mermaid baby names.
Another sister name for Ariel from the live action movie, Mala sounds a little like Molly, but maybe too close to mal, meaning bad.
Disney fairies, Mermaid Lagoon 2006 chapter book Tinker Bell universe, Never Land
The deepest oceanic trench on our planet is called the Mariana Trench, in the Pacific Ocean. It’s named for the nearby Mariana Islands, in turn named for a Spanish queen. But it feels like an accessible, traditional, and feminine choice that wears well for mermaids.
From the French word for sailor, as well as the name of a California coastal community, Marin resembles tailored – and rising – Maren.
Since the fourteenth century, marine has referred to the seacoast. Marina might have alternate origins, but it certainly brings to mind the ocean.
Maris means “of the sea,” and unlike Marina and Marin and Mary, it’s the Mar- name most clearly tied to the ocean.
Okay, Mary doesn’t seem like a mermaid. It’s a classic girl name, associated with lots of storied women, from the saint to Mary Poppins to so many Marys we all know and love. But one of the many meanings for the name is sea.
Melia’s meaning is earth bound – ash tree. But the name belongs to another ocean nymph.
MERA and MIRA
Mira means sea in Sanskrit. In Slavic languages, it often means peace. If you know your DC Comics heroes, then you’ll recognize Mera as Aquaman’s love interest, played by Amber Heard in the recent movie adaptation.
Long before Splash transformed Madison into a mermaid name, British actor Glynis Johns starred in Miranda, as well as sequel. She meets a human and persuades him to take her to see London.
The Little Mermaid is a Disney movie, so naturally, there’s a happily ever after. And a sequel, in which we meet Ariel and Eric’s daughter, Melody. She starts out life with legs, but opposite to her mother, longs for the sea.
MELUSINA and MELUSINE
European folklore tells of Melusine, a half-woman, half-fish. Sometimes she’s pictured with two tails – just like on the Starbucks logo.
Disney’s heroine travels the ocean to save her people. Her name means, appropriately enough, ocean, in Maori, as well as other related languages.
An Old Welsh name, Morgan comes from words meaning “sea” and “circle.”
Wildly rare as a given name, Morvoren means sea maiden in Cornish. Writer Kitty Lee Jenner used it as a pen name in the early twentieth century. In 1964, British composer Philip Cannon debuted an opera about a mermaid titled Morvoren.
With Gaelic roots, Muriel comes with a mermaid-ready meaning: bright sea.
In Basque, Naia means wave. It also brings to mind Naiads, the water nymphs of Greek myth, and, fittingly, Diana Nyad. Nyad became the first person to swim from Havana to Key West without a shark cage.
In Latin, nāra means mermaid. If Lara and Kara are names in American English, Nara seems like it could fit right in.
Shakespeare named a character Nerissa in The Merchant of Venice. She serves as Portia’s maid. Odds are that the Bard borrowed it from Nereus, a Greek god of the sea. His name comes from neros – water.
Netflix recently gave us Cursed, a re-telling of the Arthurian legend of the Lady of the Lake. Her name, in this and many other versions, is Nimue. One hurdle: the pronunciation used by the series is Nim-way, which seems like one of the less appealing possibilities. She’s also been called Viviane, Niniane, Niviana, and more over the centuries. And while she’s not a mermaid, exactly, her lake-adjacent identity puts it on this list.
In German folklore, nixe were water sprites, women with the tail of a fish.
The French word for ocean – pronounced oh-say-ahn – or just another appealing nature name.
Sometimes seen as the feminine form of Odysseus, Odessa reads as daring and adventurous, and at home on the water. While the ties to the legendary figure remain, world events might make this name harder to wear.
ONDINE and UNDINE
In Latin, unda means wave, making it a natural source of inspiration for mermaid baby names. Undine is the original; Ondine is French, and perhaps slightly more wearable. Renaissance author Paracelsus posited that Undines were elemental being associated with water; it’s likely the origin of many mermaid tales.
Another preschool-aged mermaid, Oona is one of the animated stars of Bubble Guppies.
A gemstone found in the sea, it makes an obvious mermaid choice.
The Spanish word for pearl, and an equally logical choice for a mermaid.
The Slavic term for a mermaid is a rusalka. It has some potential as a given name, except they’re often considered quite dangerous.
If you know your Sabrina the Teenage Witch, you might think of the one where Sabrina goes to Australia, falls for a merman named Barnaby, and saves his colony. (It’s a post-series made-for-TV movie.) But long before Melissa Joan Hart answered to the name, Geoffrey of Monmouth gave us a very different Sabrina. A princess, she drowned in the river Severn. John Milton borrowed the character and made her a water nymph in his masque, Comus, in 1634.
It’s a straight-up word name, one that seems just right for a mermaid … or anyone who loves the ocean.
The Portuguese word for mermaid, Sireia is rare as a given name. But in American English, it resembles favorites like Serena and Sienna.
The Spanish word for mermaid, Sirena has slightly more history as a given name, probably thanks to an early twentieth century play. They also appear in Philippine folklore, as beautiful women with fish’s tails, luring sailors to their death.
Strictly speaking, Stellamaria refers to Mary, Star of the Sea – as in the Catholic title. That’s the translation of the Latin phrase. But Stellamaris also seems like a great concept for a mermaid name.
One more from the Little Mermaid.
A baby girls’ name from Pashto, a language spoken in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Tanima means wave.
A Greek word meaning sea, and an early personification of the ocean, Thalassa feels like an elaborate and appealing Greek goddess name, too.
In much of Europe, Disney’s Moana is known as Vaiana. It’s from a Tahitian phrase meaning “water cave.” The meaning is close to Moana, so it works for a young, daring sailor – or a mermaid.
From the Albanian word for wave.
A Lithuanian name, Vandenė literally means mermaid. It looks like Arlene or Maureen, but the final ‘e’ is pronounced, too.
Remember Nimue? This is one of the Lady of the Lakes’ many names, and a more accessible one for American parents.
An English surname name, Waverly probably means something like “from the brushwood meadow.” But since the word “wave” appears at the top, it feels nicely aquatic, too.
If you hear Yara and think butterfly, you’re not alone. But Yara also refers to a beautiful river nymph in Brazilian folklore.
With roots in the Yoruba religion in Africa, Yemaya is a water spirit, associated with rivers as well as the ocean and sometimes the moon. There’s so much more to her story, particularly as knowledge of Yemaya spread into Latin America and beyond. Perhaps it helps explain why Maya is so often chosen as a mermaid name.
What are your favorite mermaid baby names? What would you add to the list?
First published on August 20, 2020, this post was revised and updated on June 8, 2022 and again on May 18, 2023.
Image by lordpeppers from Pixabay
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