About Names: Marisa: from “Star of the Sea” to Hollywood Stars

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his December 4th column, he looks at the history of the name Marisa.

 Marisa is an Italian, Spanish and Portuguese blend of Maria and Luisa, though in Iberia it’s also from “Maria Isabel.” Italians often interpret it as being from Stella Maris, “Star of the Sea,” a title of the Virgin Mary. Marisa was rare in the United States before the film “The Rose Tattoo” debuted in December 1955. It starred Italian actress Marisa Pavan (born Maria Luisa Pierangeli in 1932) as Rosa Della Rose, a high school senior dealing with a distraught, overbearing widowed mother, played by Oscar winner Anna Magnani.

In 1994, 2,187 Marisas were born, ranking the name 146th. In 1994, girls named Marissa also peaked; 6,245 were born, ranking it 53rd. Originally, Marisa rhymed with Lisa (the pronunciation Berenson uses) and Marissa with Melissa, but they’ve inevitably been confused. Tomei herself rhymes Marisa with Melissa. Marissa is a blend of Mary and Melissa created in 19th-century America. The oldest Marissa I’ve found in more than one census is Marissa Cays, born 1877 in Michigan, but it was probably created decades before.

Want to know more? Read on to find out more about Marisas in American history!