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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.