The baby name Claire combines a classic sensibility with a shining meaning.
Our Baby Name of the Day is inspired by my mom.
In Latin, clarus means clear. It’s the root of our word clarity.
Though clear can, of course, imply other things. Fair weather. Innocence. Brightness, even splendor. Certainty. Perhaps intelligence.
That makes the baby name Claire almost a virtue choice, or at least a very auspicious meaning.
Another reason to find the baby name Claire virtuous?
Much of its fame comes from a saint.
Born Chiara Offreduccio in 1194, you might know her as Saint Clare of Assisi, an early follower of Saint Francis. She founded a religious order officially called the Order of Poor Ladies, but long known as the Poor Clares.
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.
By a twist of fate, in 1981, Mother Angelica founded the Eternal World Television Network, Catholicism’s cable network. She, too, was a member of the Poor Clares.
CLARA + CLARE
Chiara, of course, is simply the Italian form of the baby name Claire. It’s popular, too – a long-time Top 20 favorite in Italy.
Strictly speaking, Claire is the French spelling and Clare the English. Clara, the Latin version of the name, is heard in many languages, though it’s often spelled with a K – Klara. The Irish Ciara, however, has other roots.
Masculine form Clarus saw some use, probably by the 200s. Some list Saint Clarus – or Clair – as the first Bishop of Nantes around that time.
The surname Sinclair comes from the place name Saint-Clair.
Clare, Clair, and Claire all occur as surname spellings, too. Many come from the given name, but not all.
Richard Fitz Gilbert came to England with the Norman invasion in 1066 and was created the 1st Lord of Clare. His family enjoyed significant holdings in the centuries following, and they became known as the de Clares. He built Clare Castle in Suffolk, though it is no longer standing.
Between the surname and the original Latin form, there are male Clares – and Clairs, and perhaps a few Claires, too.
CLAIR DE LUNE
Of course, clarus gave us words as well as names. In French, clair means clear or light.
The phrase clair de lune means moonlight in French. Claude Debussy used the phrase as a title for part of a piano suite; it’s the name of a traditional French folk tune, too.
BY THE NUMBERS
Place name, word name, masculine and feminine … how does the baby name Claire fare in terms of numbers?
In the US, the baby name Claire has always ranked in the US Top 1000 for girls, and appeared on the fringes of the rankings for boys, too, well into the 1930s. The Claire spelling has always been reasonably well known, but it is most popular today. Claire entered the Top 100 in 1998, and sits at #55 as of 2019. It is no longer used for boys.
Clare’s story is similar. It’s nearly always ranked in the girls’ Top 1000 in the US, and appeared for boys as late as 1941. But the Clare spelling has been far less popular in recent decades. As of 2019, it stood at a frosty #800 for girls. This spelling held on slightly longer for boys, but is also nearly unheard of today.
And then there’s Clair. The numbers here are very different. It doesn’t chart in the US Top 1000 at all – and hasn’t since the 1960s. But when it did appear, it was almost exclusively masculine. The numbers flipped in the late 1970s. As of 2019, 40 girls and fewer than five boys received the name Clair.
The baby name Claire brings to mind dozens of famous figures.
Claire MacDowell starred in hundreds of silent films in the early twentieth century. Actor Claire Trevor scooped up a series of Oscar nominations from the 1930s into the 50s; she won Best Supporting Actress for 1948’s Key Largo. More recent celebrities include Claire Danes and Claire Foy.
The B-52s’ spaced-out single “Planet Claire” was released in 1979. And Molly Ringwald played Claire in classic 80s flick The Breakfast Club.
Television characters have ranged from Hayden Panettiere’s cheerleader on NBC’s early 2000s hit Heroes to the more recent Claire Dunphy, played by Julie Bowen, in ABC’s Modern Family. Series like Six Feet Under, Law & Order, House of Cards, and Lost have used the name, too.
Outlander and The Time Traveler’s Wife both use the name, too.
The baby name Claire hits all the right notes. It’s nearly as classic and enduring as Katherine or Elizabeth, but with a spare simplicity. More elaborate Claire names abound, but the single-syllable remains among the most enduring.
In a world of Quinns and Sloanes, Isabellas and Sophias, Claire falls exactly in the middle. It’s sweet for a child, sophisticated for an adult. The shape-shifting name feels instantly familiar, but not too common.
What do you think of the baby name Claire? Do you prefer Clara, Chiara, or Clare instead?
First published on April 9, 2010, this post was revised substantially and re-posted on February 20, 2021.
I’ve always wondered this about Clair for males – my grandfather was a Clair, which I’ve thought was somewhat unusual. He was the first son of a William, and somehow he actually went mostly by Bill, and later his youngest brother was William called Billy, so lots of family confusion there! My grandfather Clair/Bill also grew up with another male Clair who later had a daughter named Claire, so I always thought Clair was for males and Claire was for females! My husband was smitten with the idea of Clair for our baby boy since it has the backing of a family name, but I wasn’t quite brave enough.
Alison Doherty says
My middle name is Clare – for Clare Michigan where my dad grew up. I’ve often thought about using it for a future baby, but am totally unsure if I would want to change the spelling to Claire since it is way more popular.
I was on this site looking for baby names and couldn’t resist searching my own…. ‘strong but feminine’- yes, exactly! I’m in my mid 30s now ( like basically every other Claire in England…) and it’s taken me years and years to like my name. As a child I thought it was borderline cruelty that my parents had given me a name which was a) so plain ( I wanted something frilly and girly) b) so common ( there were four in my class at school, so I got used to hearing my name but assuming it wasn’t me they were after’…)
But now I love it. I love how neutral it is socially- no princess or peasant connotations at all. I’m so glad my parents didn’t go for something frilly and silly- ‘Claire’ stands up as a proper grown-up name but can still sound romantic and feminine… And I like the one- syllable nature and the fact that everyone I know calls me the same thing- no weird pet names etc.
OK there are millions of us, but I can live with that!
So based on my experience, I’d say it’s a great name for a baby girl if you don’t mind her moaning about it for a few years!
I’m a ‘Clare no i’ but its not been too big of an issue for me. I’m named after the wine town in South Australia (Clare Valley) which I believe gets its name from the Irish county
Abby, I’ve been wondering something. How did you decide on Claire for the spelling of Clio’s name over Clare? I do believe you recently said that you would have considered sticking Clare in as a middle name had Clio been a boy, right? Well, I like both – they’ve got the same crisp, clean sound and slightly romantic, but sufficiently sturdy image. But, the spellings are throwing me off! Claire seems like the natural choice, as it’s the more popular, and thus more familiar, option. But Clare? Seems perhaps a little more light and airy and just a bit more, I don’t know, fresh? I’ve recently found a knackering for established nickname names, and Clare seems to fit that bill perhaps more than Claire, as it can be seen as a nickname for Clarissa, Clara, even your mom’s Clarina. Sure, it’s also a surname and whatnot and maybe not as nickname-y as Molly, but it fits. And, with my other favorites, names like Eliza, Lucy, Tess, Toby, and Jude, it just seems to “go.” Could you talk me through this spelling dilemma? Claire versus Clare, in your most unbiased – though it has to be hard seeing as Claire is your daughter – perspective, please? Much thanks.
I’ve wondered about the spellings of Claire/Clare as well. I have always thought of the Clare spelling first, because that’s how the first Clare I knew spelled her name. Plus growing up Irish-American, I heard a lot about County Clare, Ireland. But, it would be a little easier to have the most popular spelling of a name rather than constantly reminding people that it’s without an “i”.
Sarah A says
This is a really beautiful name! I have friends who just named their daughter Clara June (yes, she was born in June!) I think they would have gone with Claire but their last name is one syllable and so it might have been too matchy. You forgot the character Claire Fisher from the HBO drama Six Feet Under. Because of that show I now associate the name Claire with redheads.
I’m so glad everyone loves Claire! I’ve always enjoyed being Claire because there wasn’t much competition. I only knew one Clare when I was growing up, and sometimes I got a Claire Danes reference, but for the most part just me. Around here, most people try to spell it Clair and I have to tack on the e for them. Also sometimes people hear “Clara”, especially since my last name starts with A. But that’s the worst I can say about my name, which certainly is gaining in popularity.
My oldest daughter, age 6, is named Clare. The other big cultural reference for today’s parents was the favorite TV mom Clair Huxtable from the Cosby Show.
Of course, Clair Huxtable! How could I forget? Thanks.
Charlotte Vera says
I really like Claire and would love to use it in the middle position, but it doesn’t really flow with any of my first name choices. My first introduction to a Claire-related name was Clara from the novel Heidi, so whenever I hear Claire, I think of Heidi — one of my favourite child-hood stories (I watched the five-hour miniseries every weekend at one point!).
Your daughter’s name is so beauiful! I love her nickname, Clio, as well! I think Claire is really pretty, I like he spelling Clair for a boy. I never got to see ‘My so called life’ but I first heard of it when I was looking up Jared Leto. Claire Danes is a real beauty.
I love the name Claire! I would totally consider it, too, if the only Claire I knew hadn’t completely ruined it for me.
I knew both a Claire and a Clare in grade school, but I think I like Clare a bit more. I wouldn’t mind using either them or Clara for a child!
One of my forever favorites. In The Breakfast Club, we’re told it’s the name of a fat lady, but I never believed that. I love Claire and Clara. Pretty, pretty names.
On Bewitched, Aunt Clara was the very sweet aunt who collected doorknobs.
Claire is a nice, polished classic. She has a very tailored and crisp sound, on par with names like Grace and Joy.
I also adore Chiara and Clarina is quite sweet as well.
Claire Caroline Wren is gorgeous.
Thank you, Sebastiane!
When I hear the name Claire, my first association is Claire Pike from the Babysitters Club books.
Speaking of Clairee, that was the name of Olympia Dukakis’ character in Steel Magnolias. I have a cousin with the name Emily Claire, although she has always been Emily. Claire is a very sweet name.
My daughters name is Claire. I met a little girl named Claire when I was a teenager and she was such a sweet and beautiful little girl. From then I knew that if I ever had a daughter I would give her that name.
Lady Gwyn says
I love Claire! This is one of my favorite names. It is a definate middle name contender as well. I think of Claire and I go to The Breakfast Club in my head, but I like that movie, so that’s okay. I would use Claire as a first or middle in a heartbeat.
Happy Birthday Abby’s Mom ! Isn’t Clio’s first name Claire, also – or am I mistaken?
I love Claire & have for years. There is something incredible appealing & fresh about it. I had Claire fever about 2 or 3 years ago. It’s my favourite name as a middle name & it’s ranked about 20th on my list.While it’s not my first choice to use as a first name for a future daughter, it’d be a first choice as a MN in a heartbeat. I could imagine being the mother of a Claire (FN) as well. I also like Chaiara & Clara (CLAR-ah).
I think Lost is the reason why I love it. I think Lost has caused an interest in a couple of names i.e. Sawyer & Evangeline as well (both of which I LOVE)
It is! She’s Claire Caroline Wren. My mother is actually Clarina, and answers to Clare and sometimes Clari, though I think she rather dislikes Clari.
I really like how your daughter’s name flows – the rise and fall of it
.Do you say Clari as clare-ee or clare-ree or claa-ree?
Thanks! And it depends on who is saying Clari, thanks to some serious Middle Atlantic vowel challenges. (I grew up drinking Flahrida ahrange juice.) I think the closest approximation would be clahr EE.
Lovely name. A little more tailored than the names I usually favor, but I do like Claire (and also Chiara). The sound and the meaning appeal. Happy Birthday to Abby’s mom!