What do you think of when you hear the word 'Mercedes'? If you're like many people, a luxury car is the first image that pops into your mind; the Mercedes-Benz is a well-known, high-performance brand of automobile that has been in production since the very first years of the 20th century.
But Mercedes didn't originate as a car name. Mercedes is actually a traditional Spanish name that means "mercies." It refers to one of the titles of the Virgin Mary: "Maria de las Mercedes," or "Mary of Mercies." (The Spanish names Dolores, Remedios and Milagros -- meaning sorrows, remedies and miracles -- have similar origins.)
The name Mercedes has been moderately popular in the U.S. for well over a century. In terms of past few decades, the name reached an apex in the early 1990s and has been declining slowly in popularity ever since. Here's how the name has ranked over the last ten years:
2006 - 440th most popular name for U.S. baby girls
2005 - 385th
2004 - 339th
2003 - 333rd
2002 - 293rd
2001 - 284th
2000 - 285th
1999 - 263rd
1998 - 224th
1997 - 241st
How did Mercedes become so inextricably connected to cars in the first place? Through a little girl named Mercedes Jellinek (1889-1929), who happened to be the daughter of wealthy Austrian automobile entrepreneur Emil Jellinek (1853-1901).
Emil commissioned the German company Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft to create a line of racing cars with a custom-designed engine. The engine was officially dubbed the Daimler-Mercedes, after Emil's daughter. The racing car model that utilized the engine was consequently named the Mercedes 35 hp.
Daimler legally registered the name Mercedes in 1902, meaning that 'Mercedes' has officially been owned and used by Daimler for over a century.
Mercedes is so strongly associated with automobiles that its original link to religion has been largely eclipsed. Because of this, Mercedes is a name that tends to polarize expectant parents: some find the car connection unappealing, while others see it as modern and fun.
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