City of Quimper
City of Quimper, in Brittany; Image via Wikipedia

Today’s choice is a rarity with French roots.

Thanks to Sara for suggesting Alair as our Baby Name of the Day.

Over the summer I spotted Allaire embroidered on a pink beach towel. It tends to shift this name feminine in my mind, but the truth is more complicated.

Alair, as well as Allaire and Dallaire, are French surnames with a few possible origins:

  • The most common explanation is that Alair is derived from the name Hilarius, itself borrowed from the Latin hilaris via a similar Greek word – cheerful;
  • Then there are places names in Brittany – I assume the “D” attached in typical French fashion to mean of or from – d’Allaire. DeLair appears in North America;
  • I’ve found a few references to Saint Aloire, also called Aldrus and Alorus. Apparently we don’t know much about him, other than that he lived in the 400s in Quimper, Brittany. Picturesque Quimper has more history than many a place, and Celtic influence is still evident in the region, hinting at a lost Celtic connection for Alair.

In the US, Allaire was almost certainly used as a borrowing of the surname. New Jersey’s Allaire State Park takes its name from James P. Allaire, the early industrialist who founded an iron works on the site in the 1820s.

But it seems possibly that the idea of Alair as a given name endured. After all, Hillary and Hilary have long histories of use. Alaire was spotted as a masculine name in medieval England, and Aloire appears as a woman’s name in nineteenth century Canada.

None of them are in use in modern France, and they’ve never cracked the US Top 1000.

But they’d be right at home with current favorites, for either gender. Consider Alexander and Elijah, and even Oliver – all names that open with a vowel paired with an l. On the girls’ side, there are fading choices like Alexis as well as Alyssa, as well as rising picks like Ella. And ends in -r names are equally opportunity, from Carter and Archer to Harper and Jennifer.

On balance, I’d say that the popularity of Claire tips Alair into girl territory, and the more elaborate Allaire seems decidedly feminine. Still, Alair has enough in common with stylish boys’ names that it could pass as a masculine moniker – or even as a contracted form of Alistair or Alasdair.

If you’re after a name that your child will never have to share, but that doesn’t sound too out there, Alair in any spelling could be a viable option.

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. As the mother of Alaric and woman who also has also championed Alistair in past name discussions, Alair definitely reads male.

  2. I agree with a lot of others, Alair reads masculine while Alaire or Allaire reads feminine.

    It’s nice, but I much prefer Alasdair and Claire.