Mira: Baby Name of the Day

by appellationmountain on May 7, 2013

The Cetus constellation from Uranographia by J...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

She’s a short name on the rise in recent years, an alternative to Mia, a competitor for Mila.

Thanks to Kari for suggesting Mira as our Baby Name of the Day.

There are multiple possible origins and meanings for Mira, and they’re all delightful.

  • First, mir means peace in Slavic languages.  (Think of the Russian space station.)  Mira can be used as a short form of names containing the element, like Miroslava, or she can stand on her own.
  • An ancient Hittite kingdom was known as Mira.
  • Then there’s a Sanskrit version of the word, meaning ocean.  Princess Mira – or Meera – lived in the sixteenth century.  She wrote bhajans - sacred songs – devoted to Lord Krishna.  She’s still an important figure in Hinduism.
  • In Hebrew, Meir and Meira mean light.  But this name has a three-syllable pronunciation: meh EE rah or meh EER ah.  In other cases, I’ve heard it said may RAH.
  • Fulke Greville wrote a poem to Myra in the seventeenth century.  There are two possible ideas about where Greville got the name.  The first is that he was inspired by fragrant myrrh.
  • This would track with another possible reason for Myra’s use.  She could be a feminine form of Myron, which comes from myrrh.
  • Myra is also a re-arranging of the letters in evergreen girls’ name Mary.
  • On a related note, it is easy to see Mira as a short form of Miriam.
  • She might be related to the Scottish form of Margaret, Mairead.
  • It is tempting to link Mira to the Latin miraculum - the source of our word miracle – or mirus and mirabilis - wonderful.  It’s the origin of the name Mirabelle.

While I can’t confirm that any girls were named Mira for the Latin, there is one notable namesake: the star Mira, located in the constellation Cetus.  That’s Cetus in the illustration.  The astronomer Johannes Hevelius named the star for the word in 1662.  Cetus is a sea monster, or possibly a whale.  Mira – a variable star that disappears for months at a time but also shines brightly at other periods – appears to be worn as the beast’s necklace.

This lends Mira a hint of sci fi sensibility, and if you have a child of the right age, you might think of another celestial Mira: the princess Mira Nova from the Disney animated series Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, a Toy Story spin-off.

Mira and Myra have been used steadily over time in the English-speaking world, with the y spelling slightly more popular.

Gore Vidal’s Myra Breckenridge might come to mind as one notable use.  It’s a scandalous bestseller and was adapted for the big screen in 1970.  The story is explicit – among other things, Myra turns out to be Myron.  In our Shades of Gray age, it might not seem quite so shocking.  But somehow I think it would have been unlikely to inspire parents forty years ago.

There’s also Mira Sorvino.  The actress scored an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 1995’s Mighty Aphrodite, and has a quartet of nicely named kids of her own.

Mira’s recent rise probably has more to do with our affection for M names: Mia, Mila, Minna, Mischa, Maya.

Whatever the reason, she’s back today.  Myra ranked #791 in 2011, and Mira stood at #785.

If you’re after a name that feels both vintage and space age at once, Mira could be one to consider.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Sherri December 1, 2014 at 10:30 PM

Hi,
I saw this when looking up the origin of the star named Mira as my 10 yr. old son is into astronomy, and my his sister, my 13 yr. old is named Mira. She was born in 2001 and I named her Mira Rose, besides just being a beautiful combination, Rose is after my mother, Rosemary, and also her Great grandmother Rose. At the time I chose it because I was looking for something different and was reading a name book popularized by Oprah, and saw it was short for the Hebrew “Miriam.” After people heard her name I got comments from people from India about their saint Meera, and that Mira was “look” in Spanish. Over time I heard it hear and there associated with Jewish and Eastern European origins. Frequently it was mispronounced Myra, which I didn’t care for – sounds old fashioned, no offense to fans of that name.

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Jen September 7, 2013 at 2:49 PM

We named our February baby Mira Athena! Several of the girls in my husband’s family are named after stars, and my own grandmother was Estella (pitched and vetoed), and Mira felt right, feminine yet strong. I also liked ties to “light” in Hebrew, and peace. I have noticed a few websites list the Hebrew meaning as “bitter,” shouldn’t that be Mara? Also, we live in a high Spanish-speaking population, and it did give us pause, but ultimately it was the name we kept coming back to. I remember finding your website while pregnant and loving it, but wishing you had written about Mira so I could see what you found!

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appellationmountain September 8, 2013 at 8:09 AM

Mira Athena is SUCH a lovely name! And the idea of being named after stars is charming …

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April August 28, 2013 at 6:42 AM

Our little girl is due in October. Her name is Ember Mira, our little burning star. I am so in love with the name.

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Shaya July 27, 2013 at 9:16 PM

Our little girl is Mira Love. I am Indian and love having a traditional but easy to pronounce Indian name! We went through years of struggle before Mira Love came to us so when our young nephew announced, on her arrival, “Oh! Mira. Because she is a miracle!” it suddenly made sense. It all does really – she is our light, our peace, our world.
The Love part comes from my husband’s family. His grandmother was Mary Love and there are many Loves scattered through their family tree. I love them together!

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Elise edwards June 9, 2013 at 1:17 AM

I have a daughter, Mira Brynn. Fun to see the name celebrated!

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Jamie May 9, 2013 at 4:52 PM

We are considering Miro for our third boy. We have a daughter and two sons already with Polish names. Just wondering if anyone has any thoughts on Miro? I know usually it’s Miroslav, but that full length version seems a little cumbersome in an English speaking country… Your thoughts are much appreciated!

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Mira February 13, 2014 at 3:03 AM

Miro sounds lovely! :) I am just choosing a name for myself as I want to change my Michaela (that never felt right) to something else and my top pick is Mira, closely followed by Mea. I am from Slovakia where Mira would be Miroslava, just like Miro would be Miroslav – but I live abroad in Finland and being Miroslava would make me so so so visibly foreign and Slavic :D Miro/Mira are beautiful and usable in any language and in any culture :)

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Patricia May 9, 2013 at 1:31 AM

I agree with those who say Myra and Mira are two different names. Except for 5 recent years (2004-2008), Myra has been in the SSA Top 1000 every year since 1880, when it had its highest ranking, #158. Myra is an old name. Wattenberg classifies Myra (which she pronounces MIY-ruh) with “solid citizens”.

Wattenberg classifies Mira differently — “short and sweet” and says of Mira (“MEER-uh”): “Like many simple, feminine names, Mira arose independently in different cultures. …the current preferred pronunciation is with a strong ‘e’ sound. If you prefer the strong ‘i’ sound, consider the spelling Myra to avoid confusion and gain a Scottish flavor.” Mira wasn’t consistently in the SSA Top 1000 until 2003 (and just twice before that) and so far has only risen to #787.

I’ve never liked Myra, but find Mira very appealing.

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Jess May 9, 2013 at 1:49 AM

I’m so happy to read all the comments that you ladies think Myra is a separate name. I correct people quite often that our daughter is Mira not Myra.

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Kristin May 7, 2013 at 11:20 AM

I must say, I’ve never really considered Mira before today. Your write-up has changed all that! Suddenly, Mira seems positively sparkly.

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Kristin May 7, 2013 at 11:21 AM

And, also, feminine and whimsical, while still tailored and sophisticated. ;)

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C in DC May 7, 2013 at 10:27 AM

I pronounce Mira and Myra differently. Meer-a (like mirror) and My – rah (long I). Myra is firmly “old lady” to me, but Mira sounds fresh.

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Julie May 7, 2013 at 5:32 PM

Like C in DC, I don’t pronounce Myra and Mira the same. I didn’t even get similar vibes from Myra and Mira… Mira feels like a sibling for Katja and Annika, while Myra feels like a sibling of Avis and Hazel.

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appellationmountain May 8, 2013 at 12:06 AM

That’s a very good point …

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Kaeli May 8, 2013 at 11:19 PM

I agree! In fact, I do know a sweet elderly lady named Myra, pronounced MY-rah (long I). Two different names to me!

Mira reminds me of Amira. My friend’s baby is named this, pronounced Uh-MEER-ah, and so it seems natural to pronounce Mira the same way, without the A.

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Katybug May 7, 2013 at 9:57 AM

Mira is beauty! I love all the great associations–peace, ocean, star, miracle. It would also make a great short form for Miranda, which I think means wonderful? Another good association. I live in a city with a huge Spanish-speaking population so it also reads as a conjugation of the verb mirar, to look. Not sure if that’s a plus or a minus for the name.

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Patricia May 7, 2013 at 9:01 AM

I was surprised that you didn’t mention Mira as a short form of Miranda. I have a 6-year-old granddaughter Miranda Elizabeth (shared middle name with her mom, our daughter) who is called “Mira” almost exclusively. Her dad loved the name Miranda; her mom wanted something short and sweet. This was the perfect name for them and their daughter. I love the Miranda/Mira combination.

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Jess May 7, 2013 at 4:27 AM

Abby, I’m so thrilled you featured Mira. I requested Ian over a year ago while we struggled to get pregnant. I’m thrilled to report that I’m commenting while
my sweet baby Mira James sleeps. All my worries over a boy name and we have a perfect daughter. I first thought of Mira after seeing Mirabel on your blog and loving it while it did not work with our last name. But we think Mira is perfection. We loved the association with peace and the sea. I meant to send in a name story but life happens. We chose her name as soon as we knew she was a girl. We noted the connects to miracle but I never thought much of it until my water broke at 34 weeks. Babies are born much earlier but I was worried to say the least. After a scary labor and worried she would be taken to the NICU, we took our little miracle home. Thank you Abby for providing inspiration for her perfect name.

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appellationmountain May 7, 2013 at 5:35 AM

Oh my goodness – you’re welcome, Jess. So happy for you and your little one – congrats!

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