Baby Name Amara: Global and Graceful


Beguiling, international baby name Amara claims roots from Africa to Romania and beyond.

Thanks to Laney McDonald for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.

GLOBAL CITIZEN

At least eight possible origins exist for the baby name Amara. Ready? Let’s run through them:

  • In Igbo, a language spoken in Nigeria, it is literally the word for grace. While it’s used as a name – or at least a name element – it’s not clear if it’s traditional, modern, or somewhere in between.
  • Amar means immortal in Sanskrit; add an ‘a’ and this could easily be the feminine form.
  • In Greek, amarantos means unfading. It gives us the name of the amaranth flower, as well as feminine given names Amarantha and Amaranta.
  • The Latin amor or amare – love – could also be a source.
  • Add an ‘h’ and it’s a city in Iraq, founded by the Ottoman Empire in the nineteenth century.
  • In Italian, it means bitter – think of the liqueur amaretto.
  • In Paradise Lost, John Milton mentions Mount Amara. It’s based on a real mountain, likely mis-named by early European explorers.
  • In Romania, there’s a large salt lake by the name, known for its healing properties.

More possibilities exist.

SAILOR MOON and X-MEN

But here’s the thing: none of these meanings or origins explain the name’s rise.

The name debuted in the US Top 1000 in 2000. It was virtually unknown in the US prior to the 1960s.

Amara owes its success to pop culture.

There’s a member of the X-Men, Magma – real name Amara Juliana Olivians, a native of the fictional Nova Roma. The character debuted in 1985, and there’s a corresponding jump in the name’s use.

Then came Sailor Moon. The Japanese manga debuted in the 1990s and arrived in the US not long after. But it didn’t catch on until the animated series starting running on Cartoon Network in 1998. Sailor Uranus is Haruka in Japanese; Amara in English.

The superheroes combined to tip the name into the US Top 1000.

BY THE NUMBERS

Still, two relatively minor characters alone don’t explain the rise of the baby name Amara

Bulgari released a fragrance called Aqua Amara, introduced in 2014. A handful of international celebrities and movies followed, too.

The biggest boost may have come from The Vampire Diaries. Season five debuted in 2013, introducing us to the very first immortal woman – Amara. Series lead Nina Dobrev played the part, as one of many incarnations of her main character,  Elena. While the character appeared in only a handful of episodes, it seems to have had an impact.

And then there’s Amara La Negra. The aspiring singer joined the cast of Love & Hip Hop: Miami in 2018. Her career has risen dramatically since, fueling the popularity of the name.

Between 2013 and 2016, Amara more than doubled in use. It stood at #208 in 2017, and entered the US Top 200 a year later. As of 2019, the baby name Amara ranked #140. That feels pretty mainstream.

21st CENTURY NAME

With truly international roots and multiple, positive meanings, the baby name Amara is likely to appeal to many parents. While pop culture pushed it into the mainstream, it doesn’t feel overly tied to any one fictional universe.

If you’re after a name that’s modern with roots, and feels at home across many cultures and languages, Amara is one to consider.

What do you think of the baby name Amara? Will it continue to catch on?

Originally published on September 30, 2019, this post was revised substantially and re-posted on January 23, 2019 and again on January 17, 2021.

girl name Amara

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