|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
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........