Our Name of the Day was worn by Clio’s great-great-grandmother: Chiara.
I don’t know much about Chiara Nobile, but I do know that the name she was given in Naples didn’t transition well to New York. At Ellis Island, the clerk called her Katie. In official records, she is sometimes Chiara, and sometimes Chiarina, a diminutive form.
As Italian families often do, Chiara’s name was handed down to many of her American descendants. They became Claire, Carina and eventually Clarina. While honoring family mattered, and my forebearers fearlessly bestowed heirlooms like Filomena and Francesco, every one of my extended seems to have agreed on one thing: Chiara just plain didn’t translate.
They weren’t alone. Despite plenty of immigrants who arrived with the name, Chiara has never charted in the US Top 1000. Derived from the Latin clarus, she means clear or bright. The thirteenth century noblewoman Chiara Offreduccio is remembered to history as Saint Clare of Assissi – St. Francis’ associate and the founder of the Order of the Poor Ladies, better known as the Poor Clares.
Plenty of related names have fared well:
- At #62 in 2008, the gently French Claire is at her highest point of popularity, though she easily qualifies as a classic;
- The austere Clare charts in the Girls’ Top 1000 most years. Until the 1940s, Clare also regularly charted on the boys’ side;
- Clara was a Top 10 pick in the nineteenth century and a Top 100 mainstay right through Clara Bow’s reign as the It Girl.
But none of these sound anything like Chiara. Pronounced with three syllables, kee AR uh is undeniably pretty. Similar names have actually done quite well in recent years:
- Kiara appears to be a phoentic variant. But her first appearance in the US Top 1000 was 1988 – the same year that Disney’s sequel to their smash hit The Lion King was released. This time, Simba’s daughter is the hero of the tale, and her name? Kiara, of course. After peaking at #78 in 1999, she’s fallen to #241 as of last year;
- Kyara appears to be an ever more creative take on Kiara;
- Here’s where it gets fuzzy – Ciara might also be a simplified spelling of Chiara. Or a riff on Kiara. Or she could be related to the Gaelic masculine name Ciar – think Ciarán or Kieran, as well as the seventh century Saint Cera. Or Saint Ciera. Or one of several other spelling variants. She’s usually given a two syllable pronunciation – KEER uh;
- There’s also Keara, Kira, Ceara, Kierra and more – though it is possible to link some of those variants to other names. (Kira, for example, is often listed as a feminine version of Cyrus.)
And that’s her drawback. Style-wise, she fits in seamlessly with Isabella and Alexandra. But she’s so very unusual that a Chiara born in 2009 might find herself answering to she AHR ah, CHEE rah and other manglings.
But if you can overlook that, Chiara could be an intriguing import for those seeking something unexpected.