Where did the baby name Irasema come from in 1953?

Actress Irasema Dilian (1924-1996)
Irasema Dilian

The unique name Irasema first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in 1953:

  • 1956: 19 baby girls named Irasema
    • 6 born in New York, 10 in Texas
  • 1955: 15 baby girls named Irasema
    • 7 born in New York, 6 in Texas
  • 1954: 18 baby girls named Irasema
    • 7 born in New York
  • 1953: 5 baby girls named Irasema [debut]
  • 1952: unlisted
  • 1951: unlisted

Notice how usage was particularly high in two states that had (and still have) a large number of Spanish speakers.

This makes me think the inspiration was actress Irasema Dilián, who was popular in Mexican cinema during the 1950s.

She was born Eva Irasema Warschalowska in 1924 in Brazil to Polish parents. She first became a film star in Italy during the 1940s. After moving to Mexico with her Italian screenwriter husband circa 1950, she ended up becoming a film star in Mexico as well. These Mexican films were then played in certain American cities, introducing Irasema (and her name) to Spanish-speaking U.S. audiences.

So where does the name come from?

Though several sources claim it’s from mythology, it seems to have originated in literature — in a novel by 19th century Brazilian novelist José de Alencar that just seemed mythological.

Alencar’s book Iracema was published in 1865. Set in the early 1500s, it told the tale of Indian maiden Iracema and her Portuguese lover Martim:

At a deeper level, the relationship between Iracema, the “virgin of the forests” whose name is an anagram of “America,” and Martim, “the warrior of the sea,” is a national Genesis; Iracema dies at the novel’s end, symbolizing the inevitable destruction of the Indian world, but she first gives birth to their son Moacir, whose name means “child of pain.” Moacir […] is the first Brazilian.

In the book, Alencar offers a potential Guarani definition/etymology of Iracema: “lips of honey,” from the words ira, “honey,” and tembe, “lips.”

What are your thoughts on the Brazilian name Irasema/Iracema?


  • Haberly, David T. “Alencar, José de.” Concise Encyclopedia of Latin American Literature, edited by Verity Smith, Routledge, 2013, pp. 7-8.
  • Irasema Dilián – IMDb

Image: Irasema pictured in the Tampa Tribune, 13 Jul. 1952, page 68.

2 thoughts on “Where did the baby name Irasema come from in 1953?

  1. Unlisted My name is irasema Delian from Panama City 1959 and Irasema Jesus my daughter 1977 and 3 more other people the I know younger the me in my daughter the leaves in the USA in St. Louis Mo the is not listed

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