The Origin and Meaning of the Name Maya

The name Maya has many origins and meanings. For example, in Hindi, it means "the girl of dreams and illusions". Learn more!
The Origin and Meaning of the Name Maya
Marcela Alejandra Caffulli

Written and verified by the pediatrician Marcela Alejandra Caffulli.

Last update: 10 October, 2022

If you want a beautiful and elegant name for your daughter, then Maya will make you fall in love. This way of naming girls has the particularity of being very original, strong, and has a harmonious sound. In this article, we’ll show you the origin and meaning of the name Maya.

Maya has several origins, has been used as a feminine name in most cultures, and is pronounced My-ah. Let’s continue learning more about this name!

Know the origin and meaning of Maya

Maya has several origins and, therefore, different meanings. The most used are Indian, Greek, Spanish, and Hebrew. As for its Indian origin, in Sanskrit, which is the language of Hinduism, its meaning is “dream” or “illusion”. It’s also considered an alternative name for Laksmi, the Hindu goddess of beauty, wealth, love, and joy.

In Greek, Maya means “good mother”, “godmother”, or “wet nurse”. According to mythology, she was the mother of the god Hermes, son of Zeus, and the eldest of the seven daughters of the titan Atlas.

The next origin Maya has is Hebrew, meaning “water” and derives from the word mayim, which means the same. A second Hebrew equivalent is “of God” or “coming from God”.

The Romans also claim this name as theirs. In this case, they believe that Maya was the mother of the earth and the goddess of spring. In addition, her name is the inspiration for the month of May.

Meanwhile, in Latin America, the name Maya refers to the Mayan culture, which was a Mesoamerican civilization that developed in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, part of Honduras, and El Salvador.

Finally, in the Basque Country, Maya is the short form of Amalia, Amaia, and Amaya.

A photo of Maya Angelou laughing during a speech.
The American writer, poet, and singer, Maya Angelou, was a source of inspiration for hundreds of parents who chose this name for their daughters.

The popularity of the name Maya

If there’s a country where the name Maya has been very popular, it’s the United States, where it’s on the list of the 100 most popular names for girls. According to data from the Social Security Administration, by 2020, it ranked 61st among preferences, and in 2021 it was positioned at number 55.

However, this name wasn’t always popular among parents. In fact, it was in the early 1980s when it began to experience an increase in popularity. It then declined, only to rise again in the name rankings in 1990. It reached its highest peak in 2006.

The love for this name is attributed to writer and poet Maya Angelou, who was actually named Marguerite Johnson, but who, due to her brother’s inability to pronounce the name, decided to call herself Maya.

Variations of the name Maya

There are different variations of Maya that you may want to consider when choosing a name for your baby. Here are the most common ones:

  • Maya (Greek)
  • Maia (Greek)
  • Maiya (Japanese)
  • Maj (Swedish / Danish)
  • Maja (Danish / Croatian / German / Norwegian)
  • Meya (Scandinavian)
  • Mía (Spanish)
  • Miya (Japanese)

Famous people with the name Maya

An image of Maya Hawke.
Maya Hawke is an American singer, model, and actress. She’s the daughter of renowned actors Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke.

Famous women or women recognized for their talent in the arts, show business, sports, or politics, mostly American, are named Maya. Let’s see who they are!

  • Maya Angelou: Marguerite Johnson, known as Maya Angelou, was a writer, poet, singer, and civil rights activist in the United States, recognized for her series of seven autobiographies. She passed away in 2014.
  • Maya Mishalska: Miroslava Maya Mishalska is a Polish actress, violinist, and conductor. She’s a naturalized Mexican citizen.
  • Maya Hawke: Maya Ray Thurman Hawke is an American actress, singer, model, and daughter of actors Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke.
  • Maya Jama: Is an English television presenter, radio host, and DJ.
  • Maya Henry: American model and influencer with a large following on social networks.
  • Maya Rudolph: American actress, comedian, and singer.
  • Maya Rockeymoore: Consultant, politician, and former chairwoman of the Maryland Democratic Party in the United States.
  • Maya Mikhailovna Plisetskaya: She was one of the greatest Russian ballet dancers of the Bolshoi Theater. She was awarded the title of prima ballerina assoluta.
  • Maya Di Rado: Madeline Di Rado, better known as Maya Di Rado, is an American swimmer who won four medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
  • Maya Lin: American designer, sculptor, and architect.
  • Maya Moore: Is an American athlete who excels in basketball. She plays for the Shanxi Xing Rui Flame and the Minnesota Lynx of the WNBA.
  • Maya Wiley: American lawyer and civil rights activist.

Maya, the girl full of dreams

If we take the Hindu origin, Maya is “the girl of dreams and illusions”, a beautiful meaning for the one who will bring happiness to your home. Now that you know its origin and meaning, decide on this beautiful name for your little girl and you’ll see that she’ll love it when she grows up!

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.