Zara is a rarity boosted by the royal family, and more recently, by our affection for the letter Z.
Thanks to Sophie for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
Zara Anne Elizabeth Tindall is the second oldest grandchild of the current Queen of England. She’s sixteenth in line to the throne, but she’s not a princess. Her mother, Princess Anne, declined titles for her children. She’s now Mrs. Mike Tindall, and the mother of Mia.
While the chances of her inheriting the throne are slim, graphic novel V for Vendetta imagined a queen by the name, ruling a dystopian version of the UK.
Where did Princess Anne find inspiration for her daughter’s unusual name? According to Hello! Magazine: “The baby made a rather sudden and positive arrival,” recalled Princess Anne, “and my brother (Prince Charles) thought Zara (a Greek name meaning ‘bright as the dawn’) was an appropriate name.”
Zara: Other Origins
I’m not sure Charles is right about the name’s origins and meaning. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that there are many possible sources for the name, including:
- The Arabic Zahra or Zahrah, meaning bloom or flower.
- It could be a spin on Sarah, which means princess.
- The Old Testament masculine name Zerah, which means shining.
- The Arabic feminine name Zahra means brilliant.
- Zora means dawn in some Slavic languages.
- Zaire is the former name of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Years earlier, Voltaire gave the name Zaire to a character in one of his tragedies. In English, Zaire became Zara. (It also became Zaria in Italian.) Voltaire may have been inspired by another name on this list.
- Zahara, chose by the Jolie-Pitts chose for one of their daughters, is related to Zahra.
- Zahira comes from the Arabic zahir – helper.
Other variations, like Zarina and Zaharina, have also been in use. Greta Garbo played a Budapest bar owner named Zara in 1932’s As You Desire Me, and Gilbert & Sullivan gave the name to a princess in their 1893 musical Utopia, Limited. William Congreve used it for the heroine of his 1697 tragedy, The Mourning Bride.
In other words: it’s a culture-spanning name that’s impossible to pin down, with many an appealing association. Take your pick!
Zara: On the Map
It’s also a place name in Croatia, Turkey, Eritrea, Iraq, and Tibet. There’s a Zaria in Nigeria.
As for Spanish clothing retailer Zara, it’s said that founder Amancio Ortega planned to name his first store Zorba – as in Zorba the Greek. But their first store was set to open in La Coruña, Galicia, back in 1975 – right down the street from a bar called Zorba’s.
To avoid confusion, Ortega made a list minute change to Zara instead. There are now more than 2,000 stores on six continents.
Zara: By the Numbers
A handful of women have worn the name over the years. Actress Zara Cully played Mother Jefferson on television’s The Jeffersons in the 1970s.
The name didn’t crack the US Top 1000 until 2005. Today it stands at #402. Zariah, Zariyah, and Zaria also rank as of 2015.
If you’re after a name that’s straightforward, but feels nicely international, a name both modern and storied, this is one that should be on your list.
Would you consider Zara for a daughter?
This post was originally published on June 4, 2009. It was substantially revised and re-posted on May 16, 2016.