She’s a golden goddess with a musical air.

Thanks to Elta for suggesting Aura as Baby Name of the Day.

Elta actually asked about Aura Lee. It sounds like a good name for a dentist, but in fact “Aura Lee” was a Southern ballad popular during the Civil War, and it inspired plenty of parents. (Elta’s grandmother was named Aura Lee!)

While the song is mostly forgotten, you might catch it in an old movie – it was used at least twice, in the 1930s and 1950s. And “Aura Lee” lives on in Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender” – his enduring song uses the same tune. (You can listen to a recording of “Aura Lee” here – obviously, it is far from the original, but predates the King of Rock.)

The original Aura was a minor goddess, a personification of the cool breeze. And today, aura has a vaguely spiritual vibe. The word is sometimes used as a synonym for halo. It’s also a term for a wreath of color said to surround some people. (Or, in some cases, said to surround everyone, but only to be visible to those with a gift.)

This lends Aura an offbeat vibe, and further cementing her geek chic status, she’s a major character in the Flash Gordon universe. Princess Aura is bad guy Ming’s daughter, but she and pops are on the outs in most storylines.

One of the actresses to play the princess in recent years? The nicely named Italian actress Ornella Muti.

That’s already a lot to take in, but there’s more. Aura is also:

  • The personification of Finland. The young woman often depicted as the Maiden of Finland took her name from the Aura River in Turku. The river, in turn, comes from an old Swedish word which translates roughly to river;
  • Nearly all Auras are always given gold hair. There’s an irresistible tendency to link Aura with au – the symbol for gold, from the Latin aurum. While some names – Aurelia, for one – do mean gold or golden, in Aura’s case this is pure folk etymology.

Aura appeared in the US Top 1000 most years from 1880 through 1901. Her success at the tail end of the nineteenth century suggests that most Auras were, indeed, named after the song. You might also come across an Auralee, but the smoosh version never appeared in the US Top 1000.

Today, Aura is rare. The sci fi princess failed to revive interest in the name. But she could appeal to parents seeking a New Age spiritual choice, kind of like Trinity but without the Christian associations. Her sound is undeniably current, too.

If you love Lyra and Luna, but fear that they’re becoming too common, Aura might be an attractive 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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