English: High Cross on the Hill of Tara, Co.Me...

If this name hadn’t been a hit in the 1970s, surely we’d be hearing more of her today.

Thanks to Virginia for suggesting Tara as our Baby Name of the Day.

Long before Scarlett O’Hara called her graceful Southern plantation home in Gone With the Wind, Tara was a storied place name.

In the original Gaelic it’s Teamhrach or Teamhair – elevated place.  Not far from Dublin is a hill, said to be home to the Irish high kings.  In Margaret Mitchell’s novel, Scarlett’s dad is an Irishman who made his own fortune in the new world.  Only fitting, then, to call his home Tara.

Back in the 1910s and 20s, Edgar Rice Burroughs gave the name to a space princess in his series of space novels.  But the numbers suggest that the 1939 big screen version of Gone With the Wind gets credit for the name – that year, seven girls received the name.

The sound was big in twentieth century girls’ names:

  • In 1939, the #2 name in the nation was Barbara.
  • The Bible gives us Sarah and Sara.
  • Clara is nearly as enduring as Sarah.

By 1961, Tara ranked #300 – just under 1,000 newborns.  Cara was gaining, too, from the Italian for beloved, as in cara mia.

Fast forward to 1970, and:

  • Barbara remained in the Top 100, along with Tamara – though many of those girls were Tammy – and Doctor Zhivago-boosted Lara.
  • Sarah and Sara were both on the rise.
  • Kara was catching on, eclipsing Cara.
  • Tara had reached the Top 100, and would remain for the next two decades, peaking at #35 in 1977.

Fictional characters from The Avengers the 1960s and All My Children in the 1970s boosted the name, too.

Tara peaked at #35 in 1977, putting her squarely in mom-name territory today.  (Think of Toni Collette’s character in Showtime’s The United States of Tara.)

But if she wasn’t so big in the 70s, Tara could be a hit today, thanks to a pan-global vibe that takes her well beyond the kelly green fields of Ireland:

  • In Buddhism, Tara is a meditation deity, the mother of liberation, a symbol of hard work and achievement.  I’m oversimplifying – but suffice to say that Tara is as potentially meaningful as Bodhi.
  • There’s also a Hindu goddess by the name, which translates to star, putting Tara in the company of Stella and Luna.
  • It’s also the name of a Polynesian sea goddess, another link to the natural world.

Besides Margaret Mitchell’s fictional plantation, other memorable homes have borne the name:

  • During World War II a group of British special operations agents – and a Polish countess named Sophie – rented a villa in Cairo, and hosted glittering parties for European ex-pats.
  • The Who’s drummer Keith Moon bought a house in Surrey known as Tara, and the 1971 release party for Who’s Next took place there.

A handful of men have answered to Tara, including one of Bryan Ferry and Lucy Helmore’s four boys.  (His brothers are Otis, Isaac, and Merlin.)

Today, Tara is falling fast.  The name ranked a mere #907 in 2013.  And yet, it feels like we might be too quick to dismiss this globe-trotting, meaning-rich name.

Do you think Tara feels like a dated name due for a rest, or a global possibility just right for 2014?

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.

You May Also Like:

What do you think?


  1. Ever since reading of its Hindu use and the meaning “star” I’ve had more respect for this name. I think it could rise again, with that association in mind.
    In Britain it’s probably over-associated with socialite Tara Palmer-Tomkinson and will need at least a decade to return in any force of numbers, I’d say.
    Whenever I think of the name Tara, btw, I think of a girl I knew of called Tita – I assume iit’s a feminisation of Titus but it’s teasing potential is awful.

  2. Can’t forget the character of Tara Knowles Teller from Sons of Anarchy, played by the lovely Maggie Siff. She is a gifted surgeon who returns to her hometown and reconnects with her high school sweetheart, Jax Teller, heir apparent to the outlaw Sons of Anarchy motorcycle gang, and often has trouble reconciling the life she really wants with the one she has.