This post was originally published on April 9, 2012, for my mother, Clare. It was substantially revised and re-posted on October 3, 2014 for her namesake’s sixth birthday.
In my Italian family, children were traditionally named after grandparents. When you reached girl or boy #3, it was time to move on to honoring great-aunts and great-uncles.
The result? Those big families with lots of cousins named Tony.
In my family, one of the biggest names was Chiara – the Italian form of Clara, doubly important because of Chiara Offreduccio, better known as Saint Clare of Assisi, one of the first followers of Saint Francis.
Forms of Chiara and Clare are all over my family tree, from my mother to my daughter.
But it’s not just our family in love with the name.
The French Claire has been a Top 100 favorite for more than a decade. The Latinate Clara is a stylish up-and-comer, climbing from #354 in 2000 to #131 in 2013.
Those aren’t the only forms. Plenty of others have had their moment in the sun. And a handful of new, bold Clar- names could catch on in 2014.
Read on for all of the Clara-Claire names.
Claire – She’s the stand-out, the star, currently in the Top 100 for the first time in history. This spelling hasn’t always been the most common, but Claire blends several trends: Claire offers a trim, tailored, frills-free feminine option. The name is effortlessly French. Today’s parents grew up with supermom Clair Huxtable and the luminous Claire Danes. No wonder we’ve embraced this name.
And oh, there’s this, too – early B-52s single, “Planet Claire:”
Clara – If Claire is the star, Clara is the up and comer. The original feminine form of Clarus – worn by several early saints – Clara remains the preferred form in many European languages. You might think of the little girl in The Nutcracker, or possibly flapper extraordinaire Clara Bow. (That’s her in the picture, giving Clara a shot amount of Hollywood glam.) Ranked #131 in 2013, the name was a Top Ten pick in the nineteenth century – suggesting Clara might keep on climbing.
Claretta, Clarette – A rare diminutive form, Clar- plus the French -ette ending, or Italian -etta. Even in the age of Annette, Clarette was seldom heard. The same goes for Claretta. And yet, they’re both perfectly possible options.
Chiara – The Italian form of the name was popularized by the thirteenth century Chiara Offreduccio, better known as St. Clare, founder of a religious order and colleague of Saint Francis of Assisi. There’s also unrelated Irish saint name Ciara, as well as modern monikers like Kiara. The original is something of a pronunciation challenge, but if you’re already considering extravagant Italians like Fiammetta or Elettra, why not Chiara?
Chiarina – Little Chiara, and Italian diminutive. It isn’t well-known in English, and would multiply the pronunciation problems of Chiara. But this one figures in the my family tree, so I can’t resist including her here. My Italian family Anglicized Chiarina to Clarina. Clunky, and yet clever, too.
Clarice – Yes, there’s the whole creepy Hannibal Lechter connection, but wasn’t Jodie Foster’s character in Silence of the Lambs admirable? Since Patrice and Denise are out on the outs, Clarice might not sound promising. But if you like Reese for a girl, Clarice could be a feminine formal name for the birth certificate. And something tells me that Clarice sounds less dated than, say, Bernice, making her wearable for parents seeking a slightly off-trend, but still very wearable, name. Plus, she’s Rudolph’s sweet girlfriend in the 1964 stop motion Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Clarion – No one is really naming their daughters (or sons) Clarion. And yet, there’s possibility here. It recently came up on this list of musical names. Originally, clarion was a term for a trumpet – from both clarus, clear and clario, trumpet. A clarion call is a request for action, making Clarion part-musical, part-virtue name. And maybe wearable, thanks to sharing sounds with Claire.
Clarissa – She’s frilly and girly, a pink tutu of a name. But she’s no cotton candy, easily dismissed appellation. From literary ties to television’s Clarissa Explains it All, there’s something romantic and resilient about this one.
Clarity – A modern possibility that would’ve sounded at home on Plymouth Rock, Clarity is an option if you fret that Amity is too horror story. Though Clarity feels more cowgirl than Pilgrim, a capable-sounding choice for a modern girl.
Claribel – Yes, Clarabelle is a cow and a member of the Thomas the Tank Engine cast. But in our age of Gabrielle and Isabelle, is Claribel really impossible?
Clarinda – A sixteenth century elaboration of Clara used for a minor figure by Edmund Spenser in The Faerie Queene, Clarinda feels a bit clunky today.
Clarencia – The elaborate Clarencia is an obscure feminine form of Clarence. At first glance, this name is way too much. Except that Isabella and Olivia have worn just fine, so why not Clarencia? Caleta Clarencia is a port in Chile.
Klara – Depending on your native language, Clara and other C- names might take a K. Klara is common in German, as well as Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.
Sinclair – The surname spin that puts classic Claire in the same camp as Madison, Sinclair has yet to crack the US Top 1000. Just a handful of children have received the name at all, and they’re split between boys and girls. While Clare has some history as a masculine moniker, these days Sinclair is probably the best bet if you’re looking for a version of Claire that would suit a son.
What’s your favorite form of Clara/Claire?