You may never have thought much about this term. It probably seems fairly logical to you. It’s the name your mother had when she was a younger woman, before she was married, and maiden is an old word for a young woman, isn’t it? Yes, but as always, there’s a little more to it than that.
Maiden originally meant virgin, the idea being that a woman was a virgin before getting married. The idea anyway. This is why we refer to the maiden voyage of a vessel, it being its first time. Interestingly enough, in Middle English the word could equally be applied to a virgin or unmarried young man. It gradually came to be used solely to refer to young women. Maybe that’s because in male-dominated medieval societies, there was more of a focus on whether young women were virgins or not.
The word maid of course is also derived from maiden, probably because it was assumed that most young women working as maids were also maidens.
Usually, when you see a woman’s maiden name mentioned, it’s like this: Jane Smith (nee Jones). This curiously little word, nee, is derived from the French word née, the female version of the French word for born. Basically then, it simply means Jane Smith (born Jones) which makes a lot of sense, and has the added bonus of not making any assumptions about Jane’s sexual history!