Looking for an alternative to Top 100 picks like Lily, Leah and Layla? This is one for you to consider.
Thanks to Muppy for suggesting Lyra as Name of the Day.
Lyra has a lot to offer. She’s classical and futuristic. Plus she has a musical and mythological backstory, too.
Greek myth tells us that sun god Apollo and the muse Calliope passed on their musical talents to a son called Orpheus. Dad also gifted Junior with his very first lyre – a stringed instrument, sort of a small harp. In Ancient Greece, a performer would strum his lyre as he recited poems. Orpheus was aces with the instrument, so good that they said he could charm the birds and the beasts.
When Orpheus’ beloved Eurydice died, he ventured to the Underworld to convince Hades and Persephone that his beloved should be released. Thanks to Orpheus’ lyre-work, the gods relented, on one condition. Orpheus couldn’t look back as Eurydice followed him back to life. Predictably, poor Orpheus snuck a peak – and his love was lost forever.
The story has inspired writers, composers and artists for generations, right up through the 20th century. Tennessee Williams, Nick Cave and Rufus Wainwright have all referenced the myth.
The origin of the lyre itself is a bit of a mystery. While the Ancient Greeks mastered it, the word is clearly foreign – and its origins are also lost to time. Thrace, Lydia and Egypt are all possible sources of the instrument and its name.
Today, we pronounce Lyra LYE rah while the small harp is LYE uhr. But the Latin and Greek for lyre was lyra. You could argue that it is sort of like naming your daughter Mandolin or Tuba – a simple use of the instrument’s name.
But few of us have lyres in our living rooms. And the Greek lyrikos, meaning “singing to the lyre” gave us the word lyric. Lyric ranked #551 for girls in 2007 and #951 for boys. By comparison, Lyra looks downright subtle.
For many, Lyra conjures up the night sky. The details vary, but once Orpheus died, his beloved lyre was retired to the heavens as a constellation. (Some say Zeus sent an eagle to fetch it; others claim the Muses were responsible.)
In the first century, Ptolemy listed Lyra among the 48 constellations in his second century Almagest. It remains among the 88 modern constellations today.
As a given name, Lyra got a boost from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. Lyra is the heroine of the fantasy epic. The first book was originally published in 1995 and served as the basis for 2007’s The Golden Compass. While the movie wasn’t a huge hit, thanks to its controversial portrayal of organized religion – and big screen stars Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig – it attracted quite a bit of attention.
So while Lyra had not appeared in the US Top 1000 as of 2007, it is a safe bet that she charted in 2008.
And why not? Unlike creative respellings of Madisyn, Lyra’s “y” seems sophisticated. She’s not too different from girls’ staples like Laura and Leah, and fits in nicely with emerging choices like Luna and Lila, too.
On the “master list names for girls”, Lyra was the last name beginning with “L” in alphabetical order. I think that Lysette should be on there as well. My friend is called Lysette (we call her Lizzie) and I think that it’s a lovely name.
* lyra is actually a little star (fyi) my grandma told me that. 😛
my name is LYRA , and i often found myself arguing with people who mispronounced and misspelled my name! :))
my name is supposed to be pronounce as LEE-RAH but then others read it as LIE-RAH.
Emmy Jo says
Lach — Lira is actually an Albanian girls’ name. At least, I knew an Albanian girl named Lira and I don’t think she was named after the currency. When you get around the currency association, it’s rather pretty, isn’t it?
I think Lyra is a really pretty name. I love the sound of it and i think its a forgotten winner! Thanks for suggesting it as i myself had forgotten what a cute and understated name it is! i love the pullman series too Lola 😀
Baby Name Brainstorm says
I didn’t like Lyra to begin with, but the story of Orpheus has cast a different light on it. I like the musical connotations. When I see it written down though, I want to say ‘Lira’, as in currency. Conjures images of bartering in flea markets.
I do like Lyra. She’s a great alternative for the increasingly popular (in Australia, anyway) Lila, and her musical and mythological history is intruiging! She’s soft, almost whimsical to my ear.
Personally, I probably wouldn’t use it, but with two out of my four ‘god-children’ named Melody & Aria, perhaps a Lyra wouldn’t be too far off!
Laney McDonald says
Lyra is another favorite name of mine. I love it! I’ve heard people pronounce it as Lee-rah instead of Lie-rah too. I sing all the time so I really like musical names and I love the astronomy and mythology references too.
Lyra is beautiful. Melody and Aria are high on my list too.
Laney – I also like Melody, but it’s kind of my deep-dark-secret-choice…
It’s a really pretty name – but it sounds like something someone in a sci-fi future novel might be named. That would be the only reason I’d avoid it. I think it has a pretty, musical sound.
Emmy Jo says
I like Lyra. I had her on my list for a short moment until she got replaced by names that seemed more like they belonged to me. I’m not particularly musical or very familiar with the story of Orpheus. I do think musical and constellation names are beautiful, though. She’s still on my long list of names I think are really cool.
Perhaps this would be a good one for my sister to use someday. She’s very musical and her name, incidentally, is Melody.
Just because Lyra reminds me of Daniel Craig, it’s on my extended list. Ooh! I like her musical link, really. A lot of my friends are musicians, in a variety of arenas (classical & rock are the two biggest) . So I know if I used Lyra, even in the middle my friends would love it! The constellation link is a lovely one and anything mythological based rings nicely with me as well.
The Pullman series is a wonderful read. But then I enjoy anything with a complicated religious or political background. Luna’s nice but I like Lyra better. 😀