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A literary invention, first appeared in the Swedish novel Kyrkoinvigningen i Hammarby (1840-1841) by Emilie Flygare-Carlén, [1] translated into English as "The Magic Goblet" (1845). Similar names of ambiguous origin, Elma, Selma, Velma, appeared in the 19th century.

By folk etymology explained as Ancient Greek θέλημα ‎(thélēma, will). Notice also the Spanish and Portuguese Telma, a rare feminine form of Telmo, ultimately from Santelmo or Saint Elmo.

Proper noun[edit]


  1. A female given name.
    • 1887 Marie Corelli, Thelma, a Norwegian Princess, R. Bentley 1896, page 14:
      "Just the sort of name to suit a Norwegian nymph or goddess. Thelma is quaint and appropriate, and as far as I can remember there's no rhyme to it in the English language. Thelma!"

Usage notes[edit]

Popular in English in early 20th century due to Corelli's novel. The name has been little used in Scandinavia.


  1. ^ 1841 Emilie Flygare, Kyrkoinvigningen i Hammarby, Andra delen, N.H.Thomson, Stockholm 1841, page 468:
    - - - och följande söndagen förkunnades högtidligt från predikstolen i Hammarby kyrka, att grefve Albano v. H. skulle trädä i äktenskap med högvälborna fröken Thelma v. Rawenstein.