Quick Facts on Barbara
- Greek, Latin
- Number of syllables:
- Ranking popularity:
Foreign woman, strange and wild
Characteristics of Barbara
Etymology & Historical Origin - Barbara
Barbara comes from the Latin meaning “foreign women, wild”. It is borrowed from the Greek βαρβαρος (barbaros) meaning "foreign” referring to the unintelligible chatter of foreign people to the Greek ear – sounding like “bar-bar” to the Greeks – and reflective of the word “barbarian”. The name was popularized by the early Christian Saint Barbara also known as The Great Martyr Barbara within the Eastern Orthodox Church. Born somewhere within the Roman Empire in the 3rd century to a pagan father (Dioscorus), Barbara was locked up in an effort to protect her from the outside world. She angered her father by refusing an arranged marriage and then when she announced her conversion to Christianity she was horribly tortured (although each morning her wounds were miraculously healed). She was finally sentenced to death by beheading, a cruel punishment carried about by her father. After Dioscorus killed his own daughter, he was struck by a bolt of lightning and consumed in flames. Her legend and cult grew in the 9th century, but since she did not appear in early Christian writings there is some doubt as to her existence. In any case, she became a very popular saint in the Middle Ages when her name came into general use. St. Barbara is the patron saint of architects, geologists, stonemasons and artillerymen. Among English-speakers, the name Barbara became rare after the 16th century but was once again revived in the 19th century. Today Barbara is a popular name in Hungary, as well as the Slavic nations of Poland and Croatia. However, it is most popular in Chile.
Popularity of the Name Barbara
Barbara was considered a relatively popular name in the United States at the turn of the 20th century. Not quite a Top 100 favorite, she hovered close for most of the late 1800s and early part of the 1900s. She finally achieved a spot on the Top 100 in 1913 and then soared to the top of the charts by the late 1920s when the name landed in the Top 10. The height of Barbara’s popularity was during the 1930s and 40s when she was either ranked in the #2, #3 or #4 position on the charts. Not many names can claim this triumph. In 1940, for instance, Mary was the only name that had her beat. Over 35,000 baby girls were named Barbara in that year! Barbara would maintain a Top 10 position on the charts for more than 30 consecutive years between 1927 and 1958. That’s about the time she started her slow and steady decline in usage, finally falling off the Top 100 in 1977. By the 1990s, Barbara’s decline on the charts became more pronounced and she pretty much went into free-fall. Today, the name is barely used at all. Born in 1925 (when the name was quite popular), Barbara Bush is a former First Lady and mother of a President. In fact, her son George W. named one of his twin daughters Barbara in honor of his mother. The Beach Boys also released a hit single in 1961 called “Barbara Ann”. As a defining mid-century name (like Patricia, Judith, Linda, Nancy or Sandra), people often associate this name with older or middle-aged women. Somehow, people don’t see it on children anymore. Still, the name’s “foreign” meaning and her international usage makes for a very interesting choice. This one is for the non-conformist parents who don’t care about current naming trends. Nicknames include Barb, Babs, Barbie and even Bobbie.
Popularity of the Girl Name Barbara
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Cultural References to the Baby Name - Barbara
Literary Characters of the Baby Name Barbara
Barbara (Major Barbara) Major Barbara Undershaft is the title character in George Bernard Shaw’s 1905 play, Major Barbara. (This was made into a British film in 1941, with Wendy Hiller in the title role.) Barbara is a major in the Salvation Army. She is a well-meaning, enthusiastic and idealistic doer of good deeds – in other words, charming and charmed. Her reunion with her estranged father forces her to reassess her values and priorities, for he wishes to make an enormous donation to the Army. The only drawback is that all his money comes from his munitions factory. This is a dilemma for poor Barbara – how can bloodstained money not taint the cause of true and good Christianity? Barbara’s supervisors at the Salvation Army, however, have no such restrictions upon their ability to accept this windfall and accept they do, with alacrity. Barbara’s fiancé, Adolphus Cusins, a scholar of Greek literature, is as idealistic as she. Nonetheless, when he and Barbara visit her father’s factory, which includes a model socialistic village for the workers, they are both impressed at what Undershaft has done. Since the business must be left to an orphan, since Adolphus qualifies, and since he and Barbara are engaged – well, problem solved. Major Barbara will simply leave the Army and bring her proselytizing skills to a new venue, the factory workers. Yes, we get the Shavian point, but that doesn’t mean we have to agree with it.
Popular Songs on Barbara
Barbara - a song by The Temptations
Barbara Allen - a song by The Everly Brothers
Barbara Ann - a song by The Beach Boys
Barbara H. - a song by Fountains Of Wayne
Barbara on Your Mind - a song by Dolly Parton
Major Barbara - a song by Aerosmith
Please Don’t Ask About Barbara - a song by Bobby Vee
Santa Barbara - a song by Meg & Dia
Children's Books on the Baby Name Barbara
Barbara - We cannot find any children’s books featuring a character named Barbara.
Famous People Named Barbara
Famous People Named Barbara - Barbara Bush (U.S. First Lady); Barbra Streisand (singer); Barbara Stanwyck (actress); Barbara Walters (journalist, new anchor); Barbara Eden (actress); Barbara Hershey (actress); Barbara Mandrell (country music singer); Barbara Michaels (author); Barbara Boxer (politician); Barbara O'Neil (actress); Barbara Harris (actress); Barbara of Austria (royalty); Barbara Meier (German model); Barbara Gordon (actress)
Children of Famous People Named Barbara
Famous People Who Named Their Daughter Barbara - Bette Davis (actress); Florence Henderson (actress); George W. Bush (U.S. President); Mario Andretti (racecar driver); Ted Williams (baseball player)
Personality of the Girl Name Barbara
The number Seven personality is deeply mystical and highly in tune with their spirituality. They operate on a different wavelength than the average joe. Spending time alone comes easily to Sevens, as it gives them time to contemplate philosophical, religious and spiritual ideas in an effort to find "real truth". Sevens are wise, but often exude mystery as if they are tapped into something the rest of us don't understand. They love the outdoors and are fed by nature. Sevens are constantly seeking to understand human nature, our place in the universe, and the mystery of life in general. This makes them quite artistic and poetic, but they are also keen observers with high intellect - so they are equally scientific-minded. Sevens are charitable and care deeply about the human condition.
Variations of the Baby Name - Barbara