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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About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. I like that Aristotle means the best end. If you have a son last you could tell him it means saving the best for last. I prefer nn Aristo to Ari. Love this with sibling brother Phinneus nn Fin.

  2. Love the name Ari for a boy, never heard it on a girl! Since naming our son Ari every second person in Australia seems to know a boy named Ari. It’s great as it can’t be shortened and is not highly common.

  3. I’ve liked this name since I first heard it on Arye Gross. Ariana is way too popular in my area for Ari to catch on for boys, I’m afraid.

  4. I grew up with a multitude of Arianas, Ariannas, and Aryannas so the name definitively reads female nickname to me. But I can see it as a nickname for a guy, too. It’s cute.

  5. I’m surprised at how much I like this one. I just wish there was better potential “long forms” for it as Ari alone is a little short and nicknamey for my tastes.

    1. What about as short for Arthur or Arturo? Much nicer than Art.

      I like Ari a lot on its own, admittedly.

      I also love Ariel for a boy… and I’ve known masculine Ariels who’ve worn it well… but its probably not as easy as just Ari itself.

  6. I was very keen to get this on our list for a boy, and to my amazement, my husband agreed straight away and seemed quite enthusiastic.

    He asked what it meant, and I said “eagle”; unfortunately he misheard and thought I said “evil”. It took us quite a while to sort that one out, with me not really getting why he was so horrified about the word “eagle”, and although we did eventually get it straightened out, the whole mess seemed to put him right off the name.

    Sorry Ari!

  7. I have Ari on my short list, since I had a Great-Uncle Arne and my husband also has an Arnold on his family tree.

    To me Ari has the same solid, simplicity of Henry… without the crazy popularity… all pluses for me.