You might know her as a passenger aboard sci fi cult classic Firefly, but this goddess name’s roots run deep.

Thanks to Fran for suggesting Inara as Baby Name of the Day.

Joss Whedon is an intrepid namer of characters. He called his vampire slayer Buffy, which didn’t catch on with parents. But her sidekicks, witch Willow and an ordinary Joe called Xander, are much in fashion a decade after the last vampire bit the dust. His cowboy western/space odyssey, Firefly, didn’t have as long a run on the small screen, but was adapted as a movie in 2005’s Serenity. The character names – Mal, Shepherd, River, Simon, Kaylee – haven’t been quite as influential, but they’ve attracted their share of attention.

Morena Baccarin played Inara Serra, a courtesan in an era when being a courtesan was among the highest, most respected professions available. In the first episode, she’s referred to as “The Ambassador.”

Whedon borrowed the name from an ancient empire. The Hittites had their day in the sun back in the 1300s BC. They owed much of their culture and custom to an even older civilization, the Hurrians, who flourished a thousand years before.

In their mythology, Inara was something like the Greek Artemis and Roman Diana. She was the goddess of wild animals and a clever strategist, too.

Somewhere between ancient history and the twenty-first century, a handful of others adopted the name. Little Feat founder Lowell George named his daughter Inara Maryland all the way back in 1974, well ahead of the fashion for both goddess names and place names. She’s a singer, too.

All the way back in the nineteenth century, we can find a handful of women named Inara in the US census records, but never enough to register in the Top 1000. That’s not necessarily about the goddess, though – there are other names from the era that suggest Inara might be an elaborated form of Ina, or even a riff on Lenora, Nora, and Norma.

So how would an ancient goddess name worn by a fictional starship geisha play on the playgrounds of today?

It’s hard to say. She’s exotic, but so are plenty of popular picks, from Ayana to Imari. If parents can take inspiration from Ancient Rome to name little Julius and Aurelia, then why not go even farther back BC? And while she’s without a convenient nickname – Ari might work – plenty of girls answer to Tabitha and Georgia and Madeline without ever needing a short form.

She’s been much neglected by parents for generations, but if you’re trying to pick out a name with some backstory, but without a lot of baggage, Inara could just be the one for you.

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. Hmmm, i was named Inara back in 1970, after a family friend from Latvia, who by the way, is who Inara George was also named after….

  2. I know an Inara. She’s an adult, well older than the show, but I have to admit that Firefly was the first thing that popped into my head when I heard it. On a mostly unrelated note, Morena Baccarin is over-the-top pretty.

  3. thank you for doing this.
    on aug 29th i had my daughter and her name is inara. my son is macolm 🙂

    i love this name

  4. I loved Firefly, but I’m really reluctant to use any names that are almost exclusively related to a figure from pop culture. Malcolm, Simon, Willow and River don’t have the same fangirl/fanboy nerd factor. However, if I met a little Inara, my inner geek would do a shiny dance.

    I just realized I have a whole bunch of Inara George’s music on my I-pod (The Bird And The Bee).

    1. I love The Bird and the Bee! That’s why her name sounded familiar… it was bugging me, but not enough to google. Thanks!

      I find Inara a bit out there… And how is it said? I’m never sure.

  5. I have an aunt named Marlinara, but didn’t like either Marlie, or Mary or Lina as nicknames so she goes by Inara. I like both names (Marlinara and Inara).

  6. Inara is actually quite pretty. It does have a sci-fi vibe, but I also love the ancient history behind it.

  7. Inara is nice. And such a great fit for the Firefly/Serenity character.

    Most of Joss Whedon’s character names are favorites of mine, and loads of them are on our list. Not *because* of the characters, but because the characters brought them to my attention [that makes sense, right?]. Jayne for a boy/man is my very favorite right now [whom Adam Baldwin played in the show/film].

    My cousin likes Whedon’s choices too — he named his youngest daughter Tru Serenity [the first name being after Tru Davies from Tru Calling — Eliza Dushku played her, as well as Faith on Buffy and Angel, and she was his favorite character].

    1. I forgot about Tru Calling! I only saw an episode or two, but I loved the concept – and I was always wondering if they’d ever reveal the origin of her character’s name. Did they?

      1. No, they didn’t, which I thought was strange. Especially since her siblings were Harrison and Meredith, and their parents were Richard and Elise. Tru doesn’t fit there.

        Another thing they never mentioned on the show — the closeness of their surname, Davies, to the given name of the morgue worker, Davis.

        I suppose that’s how you can tell it’s not a Joss Whedon show — his characters’ names would’ve made more sense. 🙂

  8. thanks for running this! it’s not a name i’d use on a child (one of our cats is actually named inara after the character in firefly 🙂 ) but i love goddess names and find the backstory to this fascinating