baby name DareThe baby name Dare is wildly, incredibly rare – but not unknown.

Thanks to Sarah for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.


Before we get to the baby name Dare, let’s begin with the word.

It comes from the Middle English daren or durren, meaning “to have courage.” or “to venture.”

There’s a boldness to this name.

Depending on its exact use, the word can also suggest confidence, or even audacity; a challenge; a triple-dog dare.

“How dare you?” is raw indignation.

But if you “dare say” it’s softer, a signal that you’re guessing or thinking out loud.

So that’s the word. It turns out the surname is totally separate.


Dare, Dere, and Dear are all mingled together, from an Old English word meaning beloved.Of course, it’s possible that some Dares were daring. Or possibly were named because of the animal – doe, a deer.


It’s tempting to link the Irish Daire – or Dáire – to the baby name Dare.

Except it’s pronounced more like Dara, and is often spelled Daragh or Darragh.

Still, it’s a masculine name from Irish legend, and perhaps informs a handful of the uses.


In the United States, this name is familiar for one primary reason: the enduring mystery of the Lost Colony of Roanoke, and the story of Virginia Dare.

The first English child born in the New World, Virginia was the granddaughter of Roanoke Colony governor John White. His daughter, Eleanor, married Ananias Dare, and the couple set out across the Atlantic.

Born in 1587, she was an infant when her grandfather sailed for England to collect more supplies.

But remember the Spanish Armada? As Governor White arrived in England, the country went to war. It would be three long years until he was ablet o sail back to Roanoke.

On his return, he found … nothing.

The settlement was clearly deserted, and had been for some time. The 80 men, 17 women, and 11 children disappeared without a trace – including his granddaughter, Virginia Dare.

The only clue: the word “Croatoan” carved on a post.

Croatoan was the name of a neighboring island, as well as a native tribe. Did it mean they’d been attacked? Been rescued? Or something else entirely?

Despite constant speculation and investigation, no answers have ever been reached. It remains the earliest mystery in the European settlment of America.


Despite Virginia Dare’s recorded history ending in the earliest years of her life, a mix of stories and artistic depictions present her as a much older girl, or even a young woman.

Some stories lend her supernatural powers. In a 1901 tale, she’s transformed into a white doe by a scorned suitor; more than a century, Neil Gaiman gave her similar gifts for his comic series 1602.

Places are name in her honor, including Dare County, North Carolina – site of the doomed Roanoke settlement.

Her image has been co-opted to sell vanilla extract.

Uglier causes, too, have embraced the idea of the poor innocent white girl, lost in a brutal world.


All in all, it must’ve been just enough to make the baby name Dare feel like a viable option for a given name.

As early as 1916, five girls received the baby name Dare.

In 1923, five boys were named Dare.

A tiny, steady drip of children – more girls than boys, but both – have been named Dare ever since.

As of 2021, the name does not appear in the US data set – but no doubt it will again.


Dar Wiliams is  a folk singer-songwriter. In her case, it’s short for Dorothy.

After a long career, she’s enough of a household name that Dar lends support to the idea that Dare might just work as a given name.


It’s Dare Wright, though, who often piques our curiosity.

Born in 1915 in Ontario, and spending her childhood in Ohio, Dare Wright grew up to be a talented photographer and storyteller. Using her doll, Edith, and two teddy bears, she created the children’s book, The Lonely Doll, in 1957.

Sequels followed, and it remains a beloved classic. It made the New York Times children’s books bestseller list of publication. Decades later, it regularly graces best-of lists.

Dare herself started out as a model before focusing on her photography. Several of her later books feature Dare as a character, too.


It’s possible that Dare sometimes emerges as a diminutive of Darin, Darren, Darrell, or another Dare- name for boys, of which there are at least a dozen.

Darrell comes from the French surname d’Airelle. It’s also the source of Dariel.

All of the Dar- names had a good run in the mid-1900s, but the numbers don’t track. There’s no meaningful uptick in the use of the baby name Dare during the names’ peak use.


Another reason Dare might have failed to catch on as a given name? Beginning in California in 1983, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program launched, aimed at preventing drug use among minors. Their mascot? Daren the Lion.

Now that the program is no longer in the spotlight, it’s easier to think about Dare as a given name.


Between the colonial mystery and the mysterious storyteller, the baby name Dare emerges as a beguiling rarity.

It could have roots, most likely in a surname. Or maybe from a boy name  like Darren.

But this is the age of bold word names, of Journey and Legend and Blaze. Dare fits right in.

Girl names like Sloane and Quinn also suggest that sleek, single-syllable surnames make great choices for our daughters.

Family names probably explain a few of the people named Dare over the years.

But today? It’s the kind of big, bold possibility that deserves more consideration – especially since there’s enough story here to make it more than just a borrowing from the dictionary.

What do you think of the baby name Dare?

baby name Dare baby name Dare

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. Your childhood BFF must have been a lovely and unique character! I bet her Aunt Ginny’s name is Virginia Dare.

    “You can’t make new old friends” 🙂

  2. My childhood BFF’s middle name is Dare, so it’s always been on my radar! I believe she was named after Virginia Dare, although she also has an aunt Ginny, so perhaps they share the name?