Sunday, July 14, 2013


Currently I'm reading the first book in 'The Liveship Traders' series by Robin Hobb, and Malta is just one of the great names in the series. She may not be one of the main characters (at least, not yet in the first book), but the understated charm of this name definitely makes it one that sticks in your head.

It's actually almost surprising that this gem doesn't get more use, although possible deterrents could be an association with Maltese dogs, malted milk drinks, or the sweets named maltesers (which, in a completely unrelated note, taste fantastic when mixed with your popcorn at the movies). Yet it's not completely unheard of as a given name in America, charting in 9 separate years, the last instance being in 1970.

Somehow the time feels right for Malta to make a reappearance. Place names are arguably more popular than ever, and Malta is one country name that feels overlooked. The Republic of Malta is a Southern European country in the Mediterranean Sea. Its position has long made it an important strategic location, and at different times has been ruled by the Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Spanish, French and British.

This continual change of hands has contributed to the confusion behind the meaning of the name Malta. Its thought that it is possibly from the Phoenician word Malath, meaning 'a haven'. But the more commonly accepted explanation is that it comes from the Greek word Meli meaning 'honey'. The Greeks actually called the island Melite, meaning 'honey-sweet', and from this the Romans called it Melita. Whether it's meaning is 'honey-sweet' or 'haven', either are a lovely meaning for this name.

Malta would be an unusual choice - and a rare one - but would still fit in with the names being used today. Perhaps this overlooked place name is one worth considering.

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