Depending on your age and interests, the letters I-R-A might signify a retirement account, the Irish Republican Army or a Colombian punk band. But it’s also a boy’s name, and one that’s seldom heard in the US circa 2008.
Thanks to Katharine for suggesting today’s Name of the Day: Ira.
Ira is a name with no margin for error. With just three letters, it’s completely nickname-proof. For some parents, that’s part of his appeal.
Pronounced EYE rah, he was once a staple. In the late 19th century, he was as common as Oliver, Theodore or Alexander – a top 100 choice. But he’s slipped a little with every passing decade, until he left the ranking entirely after 1992.
But Ira fits in with a group of unlikely names that are gaining in popularity – the Biblical boys. In the Old Testament, Ira was a priest and advisor to King David. While there’s limited etymological information, the consensus is that the name means “watchful” and comes from the Hebrew. If Eli and Gideon can be rediscovered, Ira starts to sound he’s due for a rebirth, too.
In fact, Ira came into common use during the Protestant Reformation, when parents sought to avoid saints’ names in favor of monikers they discovered in the pages of the Good Book.
There have been a flock of notable Iras:
- Ira Glass can be heard hosting NPR’s This American Life.
- Along with brother George, Ira Gershwin contributed to some of the most memorable Broadway tunes – I Got Rhythm and Someone to Watch Over Me are among his hits.
- Ira Allen, brother to Ethan, was a founder of Vermont and the driving force behind the establishment of the University of Vermont. He donated the original 50 acres that are part of the campus at Burlington today.
- Writer Ira Levin penned such memorable suspense novels as The Stepford Wives and Rosemary’s Baby.
Ira also pops up as a feminine moniker from time to time. It’s an established nickname for the Slavic Irina and the Indian Indira.
Vowel names are hot and ends-in-a for boys is a growing category, too. So for parents who find Noah overexposed, and feel that Ezra hasn’t gone far enough, Ira might be the logical choice – extremely uncommon, but still familiar.