Baby Name of the Day: Claire

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.

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40 Comments

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”.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!