It just so happens that one of ApMtn’s biggest supporters bears a very strange name, indeed. It’s not Clarinda, but it’s quite close.

She’s always maintained that her name is without precedent, invented by her parents. But we weren’t content with that answer, and unearthed today’s Name of the Day: Clarinda.

While we often despair of elaborations like Julissianna and Caliandra, the simple fact is that parents have always been tempted to gussy up simple names. Clarinda emerged in the 16th century as a fancier version of Clara. Edmund Spenser may have invented it for use in Canto V of The Faerie Queen; in any case, it’s not found in the historical record prior to the late 1500s.

The Faerie Queen was a monster hit in its day. Each of the epic’s six books dealt with one virtue: holiness, temperance, chastity, friendship, justice and courtesy. Clarinda shows up in the book about justice. She’s not a major character – just a trusted servant – but her name does fit beautifully well in Spenser’s rhythm.

Go now, Clarinda, well thy wits advise …

What now is left, Clarinda? What now remains, that we may compasse this our enterprise?

It’s a lyrical, flowing, feminine name. The meaning is usually given as “clear, bright” from the Latin clarus.

While it never caught on in a big way, it was used occasionally throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, even making a mark on the map. Clarinda, Iowa was founded in 1851 and a few decades later was the birthplace of Glenn Miller. Clear on the other side of the globe, we find Clarinda, Victoria, just outside of Melbourne.

In the late 19th century, Clarinda appears in the Top 1000 in the US. While it never charted higher than #688, it would have fit with some fashionable choices for daughters from the same era: Henrietta, Estella, Augusta. It has not cracked the Top 1000 since 1897.

Today, we think the name sounds a bit clunky. But Claire has been back in the Top 100 for nearly a decade. Clara, a Top Ten choice in the 1880s, seems well on her way to a resurgence, too. And so we can’t help but think that Clarinda might appeal as option for parents hoping for something slightly more obscure and poetic than the tailored Claire or simple Clara.

And it must be said that with Arabella, Aurora, Gabriella and other frilly, fanciful girls’ names enjoying returns to use, this one might just be poised for discovery.

But be forewarned: our C. detests her name. A smart, practical and tailored type, the ruffles and lace of this Victoriana moniker have always sat awkwardly on her shoulders. Choosing a hyper-feminine name for a daughter works out just fine if your little girl is dainty. But if you get yourself a tree-climbing, hockey-stick-wielding girl prone to shoving frogs in her pockets?

We suppose you can call her Claire.

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. My name is Clarinda. I was named after my Italian grandmother, Clorinda. Apparently the “o” was mistakenly recorded as an “a” and it remained. I also dislike my name and as a young girl, all I wanted was to blend in like my friends who were Susans, Kathys and Lindas. My third grade teacher mispronounced my name all year and called me Clarindeena. Very upsetting to a 9 year old.

  2. I really like Clarinda. I think she has a nice lyrical sound. I wouldn’t use it myself, but would be really pleased to meet one. I also like the Italian, Clorinda.

  3. I just had to come back and comment on this one. I recently found out that my friend’s mom’s real name is Clarinda. Apparently she hates it, too, because everyone knows her as Binky.

    It’s a pity — I think Clarinda’s pretty, though it’s a little more overdone than the names I usually go for. I hope a little daughter named Clara wouldn’t have the same reaction to her name as your Clarina and my Clarinda.

  4. I can’t quite see Clarinda on a modern girl, either! Clarissa is far easier to wear, and Clara is the coolest of them all.

    But then, I’m surprised at how many parents name their daughters Arabella and Gabriella and Alexandria, so it’s not a vibe that I really understand.

    There are some really cool feminizations out there, exactly for the reasons you’ve mentioned. One of my faves doesn’t quite fit the “multiple nicknames” mold – it’s the French Severine (say vuh REEN). But how could you ever give your child a name that means stern? Still, I think it is surpassingly pretty.

  5. And that’s why I adore Femininsations! Josephine, Henrietta, Roberta, Philippa.. they’re all frilly but have multiple nickname options ranging from frilly to downright masculine. Gives a girl many a choice!
    Clarinda feels a bit stiff to me, I think I’d rather Clarissa, myself but either way, Claire makes a very no-nonsense type nickname I would think. I would love to be a Clara myself, but I can see Claire appealing as well. As far as “place names” go, Clarinda’s actually not half bad! Beats Madison in my book!