Beguiling, international Amara claims roots from Africa to Romania and beyond.
Thanks to Laney McDonald for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
Amara: Global Citizen
I counted no fewer than eight possible origins for this name. Ready? Let’s run through them:
- In Igbo, a language spoken in Nigeria, it is literally the word for grace. I can find the name, as well as names where it occurs as an element, on Nigeria websites. What’s less clear to me is if it’s traditional, modern, or somewhere in between.
- Amar means immortal in Sanskrit; add an ‘a’ and this could easily be the feminine form.
- In Greek, amarantos means unfading. It gives us the name of the amaranth flower, as well as feminine given names Amarantha and Amaranta.
- The Latin amor or amare – love – could also be a source.
- Add an ‘h’ and it’s a city in Iraq, founded by the Ottoman Empire in the nineteenth century.
- In Italian, it means bitter – think of the liqueur amaretto.
- In Paradise Lost, John Milton mentions Mount Amara. It’s based on a real mountain, likely mis-named by early European explorers.
- In Romania, there’s a large salt lake by the name, known for its healing properties.
More possibilities exist, and while they’re tough to confirm, there’s a good chance I’m missing at least a few bona fide origins.
Amara: Sailor Moon and X-Men
But here’s the thing: it’s not about the name’s origins.
The name debuted in the US Top 1000 in 2000; it was virtually unknown in the US prior to the 1960s.
Amara owes its success to pop culture.
There’s a member of the X-Men, Magma – real name Amara Juliana Olivians, a native of the fictional Nova Roma. The character debuted in 1985, and there’s a corresponding jump in the name’s use.
Then came Sailor Moon. The Japanese manga debuted in the 1990s and arrived in the US not long after. But it didn’t catch on until the animated series starting running on Cartoon Network in 1998. Sailor Uranus is Haruka in Japanese; Amara in English.
I’m not certain exactly where the Sailor Moon character appears in the series, but the timing seems right.
The superheroes combined to tip the name into the US Top 1000.
Amara: By the Numbers
Still, two relatively minor characters alone don’t explain the rise of the name.
A handful of multiple minor uses throughout the last decade or so helped. Bulgari released a fragrance called Aqua Amara, introduced in 2014. A handful of international celebrities and movies followed, too.
The biggest boost may have come from The Vampire Diaries. Season five debuted in 2013, introducing us to the very first immortal woman – Amara. Series lead Nina Dobrev played the part, as one of many incarnations of her main character, Elena. While the character appeared in only a handful of episodes, it seems to have had an impact.
Between 2013 and 2016, the name more than doubled in use. It now stands at #208.
Amara: 21st Century
With truly international roots and multiple, positive meanings, Amara is likely to appeal to many parents. While pop culture pushed it into the mainstream, it doens’t feel overly tied to any fictional universe.
If you’re after a name that’s modern with roots, and feels at home across many cultures and languages, Amara is one to consider.
What do you think of Amara? Will it continue to catch on?
Originally published on September 30, 2019, this post was revised substantially and re-posted on January 23, 2019.