She sounds a little bit like an Avon fragrance from the 80s, but is actually an intriguing international choice, with roots from Africa to Romania and beyond.
Thanks to Laney McDonald for suggesting Amara as Name of the Day.
As it happens, the name Amara has multiple origins. Options include:
- The African connection refers to the Igbo people. Their traditional home is in modern-day Nigeria, and the culture has ancient roots. Trouble is, the slave trade and colonization by the British decimated their ranks. I can’t confirm if Amara – said to mean “grace” – is a traditional name or a 20th century development;
- The Ethiopian Amhara people often attribute their name to the word amari – again, meaning gracious or beautiful;
- Some have linked it to a Greek word for beautiful or a Greek word for eternal;
- It’s tempting to link Amara to the Latin amor or amare – to love;
- Some list Amara as a deity in Cambodian mythology, while others list it as the place name for paradise among Ethiopian cultures;
- On a very different note, amara beetles can be found in many parts of the world;
- You might hear Amarah or Al-Amarah on the news – it is the name of a city in Iraq, as well as a lake in Romania;
- Venture back to the fourth century and Amara Sinha was a poet – a male poet;
- In the sixteenth century, another male Amara ruled Sennar, in the north of Sudan.
And that Avon perfume? Actually, it was Imari – named after a town in Japan famed for its porcelain wares in the 1600s.
But none of these alone seem to explain Amara’s rise. She entered the US Top 1000 for the first time in 2000, at #798. She’s shifted since then, but slowly climbed to #578 as of last year.
Amara also appears as a character name in both Sailor Moon and the X-Men, lending her a sci-fi vibe. You might’ve spotted actress Amara Karan in 2007’s The Darjeeling Limited. It seems likely that Amara came out of this pop culture soup, rather than any single source.
In fact, it is probably Amara’s international vibe that pushes some parents to choose her. When a child’s roots are, say, Jamaican and Greek, or Honduran and Scottish, sometimes choosing something that feels tied to no specific heritage is the best compromise.
Amara also fits well with other names in vogue. She’s an exotic version of Amelia or Amanda, and a fresh take on Amy or Amber. The similarly international Amaya is also on the rise. Amari, Amira, Amiyah, Amya, Amani, Amirah and Amaris probably appeal to the same parents.
While Amara is a bit rootless, that may be her very appeal.