Originally (in form maia): the common spider crab of Europe, Maja squinado, having a spiny red, reddish brown, or yellowish carapace. Later (in forms Maia, Maja): a genus of decapod crustaceans (family Majidae), comprising this and various other spider crabs.
Adopted as a genus name in Lamarck Système des animaux sans vertèbres (1801) 154. Maia was commonly used in the 18th and 19th centuries, but Maja is now considered to be the correct taxonomic form.
Early 18th century; earliest use found in Phillips's New World of Words. From ancient Greek μαῖα, the name of a kind of large crab, as specific application of μαῖα midwife.
In Spain and Spanish-speaking countries: a woman who dresses gaily; a pretty young woman; (in early use sometimes) specifically †one from a lower social class (obsolete).
Late 18th century; earliest use found in 1st Earl of Malmesbury (1746–1820), diplomatist. From Spanish maja, feminine of majo.