She’s short, simple, vaguely French – and a very popular pick for girls born in recent years.
With a happy birthday to my mother, our Baby Name of the Day is Claire.
Claire’s not a virtue name, but her meaning – from the Latin clarus, or clear – makes for an appealing, virtue-like quality. Add in that the first famous bearer of the name was a saint, and this single-syllable name carries a lot of meaning.
Born in 1194, Chiara Offreduccio is better known as Saint Clare of Assisi, an early follower of Saint Francis and founder of a religious order she called the Order of Poor Ladies, but long known as the Poor Clares.
The Italian Chiara is a traditional name in Italy, and a popular one, too – it’s currently in their Top Ten. Clare was the original English language version and Claire the French, but Claire has consistently outranked her sparer sister in the US. In the nineteenth century it was Clara, the Latin version of the name, who outranked them all, appearing in the US Top Ten.
But back to the saint. When Clare fell ill, it was said that she could see mass projected on her bedroom wall. In 1958, she was named the patron saint of television. In 1981, a member of the Poor Clares, Mother Angelica, founded the Eternal World Television Network, Catholicism’s cable channel.
A handful of men have answered to Clare, Clair and Claire, like World War II aviator and commander of the Flying Tigers, Lieutenant General Claire Chennault. A pair of early male saints wore the name Clarus, and Clare is a surname, too.
There’s also Eau Claire, Wisconsin and the phrase clair de lune – French for moonlight – used by Claude Debussy as a title for part of a piano suite, and the name of a traditional French folk tune, too. History gives us no queens Claire, but a current princess of Belgium, married to Prince Laurent, wears the name. And there’s also Oscar-winning actress from the 1940s, 50s and 60s Claire Trevor and silent movie staple Claire McDowell.
Claire has a big presence on the small screen:
- Before she was Juliet, Claire Danes starred in 1990s’ one-season wonder My So Called Life;
- Law & Order featured Assistant District Attorney Claire Kincaid in the mid-90s;
- One of the survivors of Oceanic 815 was Claire Littleton, part of ABC’s Lost;
- In 2006,”Save the Cheerleader, Save the World” was the tagline that launched NBC’s hit Heroes. Played by Hayden Panettiere, the cheerleader is named Claire;
- ABC’s hit mockumentary Modern Family includes Julie Bowen as everymom Claire Dunphy.
Today’s parents grew up with Claire, including:
- Claire’s, the accessory store in nearly every American shopping mall;
- Rich girl Claire Standish, Molly Ringwald’s character in The Breakfast Club;
- The B-52’s spacey 1979 single “Planet Claire.”
More recently, Rachel McAdams played sensible sister Claire Cleary in 2005’s Wedding Crashers.
Claire manages to be both strong and feminine at once – a difficult combination, especially for a short name. At #62 in the US, she’s already found favor with many parents. That’s her only potential drawback. But if you aren’t searching for a name your child will never share, then Claire remains a solid option.