Ari: Baby Name of the Day

by appellationmountain on November 12, 2012

Lions & Lion Cubs Lions & Lion Cubs (Photo credit: fortherock)

Looking for a name with overwhelmingly positive associations?  Here’s one that fits the bill.

Today’s Baby Name of the Day goes out to a very special newborn Ari.

Many short names turn out to be pan-European or even pan-global, and it makes sense that Ari would be among them.

The best known meaning is lion, from the Hebrew, and the best known bearer is probably fictional super-agent on long-running HBO series Entourage.  Actor Jeremy Piven garnered three Emmys for the role.  While he might not be ideal role model material, Ari Gold helps establish the name as a mainstream masculine choice.

But beyond Hebrew, he has a long list of other possible origins, including:

  • An Old Norse name meaning eagle.  He had a good run in Sweden in the mid-20th century, and is common in Iceland today.
  • He’s used in Finland, though it seems to have evolved as a nickname for Adrian, Aron, or other names starting with Ar.
  • In Armenian, the name means brave.
  • The Greek aristos means the best, and appears in many names, masculine and feminine: Aristotle, Ariadne, Aristides He can be used as a short form of any of these names, as in shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis.
  • Back to the animal kingdom: in Albanian, Ari means bear.  Or possibly golden.  While it does seem to be a vocabulary word, I can’t confirm that it is commonly used as a given name.

There’s no etymological link, but he also makes me think of  Aries – the ram, and first sign of the zodiac.  Ari is the official abbreviation for the constellation, too.

It makes for a considerable list of positive associations.  How would it wear as a given name?

He’s ranked in the US Top 1000 every year since 1969, and came in at #509 in 2011.  He’s about as common as Brett, Nico, Justice, Gianni, Kendrick, Cannon or Sullivan.

He’s bolstered by a few other factors:

  • The sound is common in many a modern boys’ name: Jamari, Damarion.
  • We know the sound from traditional names, too: Mario, Darius, Zachariah.

A few decades back, ends-in-i names were reserved for teenage girls, respelling Tracy to Traci in order to dot the i with a heart.  As parents have embraced softer names for boys, with choices like Levi and Eli in the Top 100, boy names that end-in-i seem more approachable.

Besides Entourage, there was also:

  • Ari Ben Canaan, from Leon Uris’ novel Exodus, adapted for the big screen in 1960 with Paul Newman in the role.
  • In 2001’s The Royal Tenenbaums, Chas Tenenbaum had sons named Ari and Uzi.
  • Ari Fleischer was White House Press Secretary under George W. Bush.
  • Princess Martha of Norway is married to Norwegian author Ari Behn.
  • NPR listeners will recognize correspondent Ari Shapiro.

With all the little girls named Arianna, you might meet some girls answering to the name, but just as Sam and Alex are sometimes girls’ nicknames, I doubt that the occasional girl Ari will sink this one for boys.

Overall, Ari is truly a portable option for parents hoping their child will see the world – an unusual sound, with an overwhelmingly positive meaning.

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