Saturday, March 9, 2013


Katie McGrath portrays Morgana in TV's 'Merlin'

Morgana has often been shunned as an "evil" and "witchy" name, due to it's common association with legendary witch Morgana Le Fay. In many versions of the Merlin, Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table tales, Morgana is an antagonist, working against Arthur and Guinevere and usually trying to orchestrate their (particularly Arthurs') deaths. Usually she is said to be a half sister to Arthur, the daughter of Arthur's mother from her first marriage.

You often hear "not like Morgana Le Fay!" when someone discusses the merits of the name Morgana. It's possibly  this reaction that has kept Morgana a rarity - in the US, she's never been bestowed on more than 19 girls in any one year. In 2011, she was positioned at just #10127. And I'm not sure she has fared any better in other countries.

However Morgana Le Fay was known by several different variations of this name, with the other well known (and many would say better known) one being Morgan. Unlike Morgana, Morgan's popularity has not suffered very much at all by its association to the Morgan Le Fay character, and continues to be well used for both boys and girls. In fact for boys the lowest position Morgan has held on the US charts since 1888 was #636, and for girls it has been a top 100 name since 1987. So what is it about Morgan than makes it more user-friendly?

Morgan is a Welsh name meaning 'circle; sea; bright'. It is thought that the use of Morgan for the Morgan Le Fay character was inspired by the mythical Welsh water spirits known as Morgens. Perhaps for this reason, Morgan is also often used in modern supernatural fiction for magically inclined characters. For example, 'The Dresden Files' series by Jim Butcher had a wizard character named Morgan (full name Donald Morgan); and the main character of 'The Hollows' series by Kim Harrison is named Rachel Morgan. Perhaps it is due to this more general use - and the fact that it sounds like a "regular" surname name - that it is more readily accepted. Actors Morgan Fairchild and Morgan Freeman probably helped a lot to make Morgan more familiar and usable. It also sounds friendlier due to it's similarity in sound to the German word "morgen" meaning 'tomorrow'.

Morgan Le Fay
by Frederick Sandys
Morgana, by contrast, is almost exclusively thought of in relation to this one figure. She sounds darker; more exotic and mysterious. She also sounds like she fits right in alongside Disney villain names such as Cruella and Ursula. Disney must have thought so too, because they actually did name the villain of 'The Little Mermaid 2: Return to the Sea' Morgana. It was also the name of a villain in 'Power Rangers: SPD', and a pretty bad-ass looking champion in the video game 'League of Legends'.  For some, Morgana will only ever be dark and nasty.

I prefer to focus on the exotic and mysterious aspect to the name Morgana. She may not be conventionally pretty, but she's interesting.

We seem to be fascinated with supernatural beings these days, so it seems that it is not inconceivable that popular movies such as 'Beautiful Creatures' will spark a renewed interest in traditionally magical names. Who knows - Morgana may yet have her day in the sun. Just don't use it with the middle names Lee or Fay........


  1. I like the sound/flow of Morgana but ruled it out immediately because of the association. One of my cousin's daughter's names is Morgan and I think that it is cue and does not have the same association. But, IMO, if Serafina can be popular, than Morgana stands a chance because I very strongly think of Serafina as a "bad guy" name. It means "burning ones".

  2. I quite like Morgana. I agree that it is mysterious and exotic. Where most people think "witch," I think "Oooh, I like it!" probably because she wasn't just some random witch, she was an important figure in Arthurian legend. And I'm not bothered at all by her evil actions. I would love to see this on someone.

    In response to the above poster, Seraphina's meaning of "burning ones" was meant to describe the powerful fiery-winged angels of God, and is a known saint name. I think it goes the opposite way of being a "bad guy" name.

  3. I guess I associate it with the Marvel character, and then having recently read Beautiful Creatures, where Seraphina is the evil mothers caster, it was reenforced. It also makes me think Serpent.

  4. I love the name Morgana. But I read the mists of avalon when I was rather young (around 13?), so the name Morgana doesn`t make me think of an evil character.

    On the other hand I have always tought that the a bit ... unconventional (?) characters are far more interesting. The heros usually are rather shallow in my opinion.

    Morgana and Aquilina (my great-aunt`s name) are my favourite girl`s name.