Saturday, March 30, 2013

Good Things Are Happening

A slight departure from my usual posts today, as I thought I'd share with you a few of the awesome things that have been happening for me and Baby Name Pondering lately.

Firstly, I was delighted recently to learn that Baby Name Pondering had been included on a list of the best blogs for baby name inspiration at Disney Baby last month! As far as I know it's the first mention I've gotten on one of these types of lists, and it was very exciting to see my blog included with several of my favourites, including Baby Name Wizard, Nameberry, Appellation Mountain and Waltzing More Than Matilda to name a few. It's quite a comprehensive list, so worth checking out if you're after some extra inspiration.

Secondly,  the second issue of Matilda Magazine is ready for reading, and includes a story from yours truly! Check out page 30 for my article on Surname Names, which includes an A-Z guide on some popular, some not-so-popular, and some very rare choices. I'm loving surname names at the moment.

Matilda Magazine New Issue

It's a great second issue - I'm particularly liking an interview with little Arrow's mother on the process they went through in choosing her name. I remember reading the threads in the Nameberry forums before Arrow was born, and let's just say they were some of the more interesting (and long) debates I have ever seen on their site. I'm glad they stuck with the name they knew would work for them.

Unfortunately Kate and Sarah have been experiencing a few problems with their regular site lately, but you can find the new magazine at Matilda Magazine also has a Facebook page, so if you love the current issue be sure to drop them a line and let them know - they put in a lot of work and the result is a beautiful magazine.

Finally, you may have noticed that a new "Vote For Me Now" button has been added to the right hand side of the page. That's because I've entered the Best Australian Blogs 2013 competition, following a suggestion that one of my readers made late last year. If you love (or even just really, really like) Baby Name Pondering, please take a couple of minutes to vote for me in the People's Choice round of the competition. It's super easy and you don't have to be an Australian to vote. I'm also fairly sure I'm the only naming blog in the competition - which is to say I didn't see any blogs that I recognise, or any with the word "name" in it - so it would also be great to get some more attention for naming blogs in general.

That's it from me for now - hope you're all enjoying your Easter holiday (if you celebrate it where you live), and I'll be back with more names for you soon.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Taissa Farmiga has a lot to smile about

Today I saw the news that Taissa Farmiga will be returning for season three of 'American Horror Story'. She didn't have a role in season two, but I remember seeing her name every week in the opening credits of season one and being intrigued. Mainly because Taissa is a very pretty looking name, but also because I was wondering how it's meant to be pronounced and where it can from.

Taissa pronounces her name as Ta-EE-sa. Her background is Ukrainian American, and she is the younger sister of Vera Farmiga. I loved Vera in 'Up in the Air' with George Clooney, and she is currently starring in the TV show 'Bates Motel' as Norman Bates' mother Norma. Taissa's first acting role was as a younger version of Vera's character in the 2011 movie 'Higher Ground', which was also sister Vera's directorial debut. Taissa also has four movies due out this year, including a role in the upcoming movie 'The Bling Ring' alongside Emma Watson.

Finding information about this name is kind of like tracing a family tree. Taissa is thought to come from the Russian name Taisiya, pronounced tah-EE-see-yah. In turn, Taisiya comes from the Greek name Thais. The meaning of Thais is uncertain, with some sources saying it means 'bandage', some saying 'bond' and some saying 'beloved' (although this may actually be related to similar name Thaiz instead).

Thais was the name of a famous companion (well, technically courtesan) of Alexander the Great in the fourth century BC. However she repented, converted to Christianity and was made a saint. Her saint day is October 8. Saint Thais has inspired and is the subject of a novel by Anatole France, an opera by Jules Bassenet, a play, a film and a statue. Perhaps because of the novel and opera, Thais is quite a popular name in France. It's also well known in Brazil, and in both countries is pronounced tah-EES. 

Thais is also thought to be the origin of the Character Thaisa in Shakespeare's play 'Pericles'. Thaisa (pronounced TAH-ee-sah) is Pericles wife, who appears to die on board a ship during childbirth but actually survived and entered a convent. Perhaps because they both share the same root, it seems that the names Thaisa and Taissa are quite similar, although in pronunciation they differ in their emphasis.

Taissa has quite an international background, and has rarely charted in the US. Admittedly, some people might find it a little hard to pronounce, and be tempted to say it TAY-is-sah or TYE-is-sah, especially since similar looking name Kai is often pronounced KYE or KAY. This would probably be fine, and could open up different nickname possibilities such as Tai. But the original just feels so prettily exotic it'd be a shame to change the pronunciation.

It may be a rare name to most of us currently, but I have a feeling that Taissa Farmiga's star is on the rise - which will mean more and more exposure of this name. It would probably be best to use this one now before she's a household name and everyone will just assume you used it because you love the actress, not simply because Taissa is a gorgeous and distinctive name.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

80's Fantasy Favourites

I grew up in the 80's and have very fond memories of some of the fantasy adventure movies from that decade. Movies such as these were an early introduction to a different style of naming. Sometimes they were a slight twist on an old familiar, other times they seemed fantastical. But one of the great things now is that they remind you of those old favourite movies and bring a smile to your face. Here are 20 of my top picks in alphabetical order:

Atreyu  (The Neverending Story) - This is probably one of my favourites on this list. Pronounced ah-TRAY-yoo, he was the warrior boy of the story. It is thought that the name has both Indian/Hindu origins - where it means 'warrior' - and German origins in the name Atreju, which means 'son of all'. Both are quite apt for this character, who was raised by a village when his parents died. The name is still quite rare, but has slowly been gaining in popularity since the early 1990's. In 2011 it was ranked #1339 in the US.

Aquila (Ladyhawke) - Aquila is traditionally a male Latin name meaning 'eagle', but is more often used as a girls name in America. Pronounced either ah-KEE-la or ah-KWIL-la, it was the name of the land in 'Ladyhawke' and is a pretty but rare name.

Auryn (The Neverending Story) - The Auryn was the name of the amulet Atreyu wore to protect and guide him in his quest. It was also on the cover of the book Bastian was reading 'The Neverending Story' from. This name could go either way, as it sounds similar to girls name Lauren and boys name Oren, and has only recently started appearing on the US charts for both. I love the sound of this - it's kind of like Aura but with the benefit of being more "namey" and less "wordy" feeling.

Bastian (The Neverending Story) - One of the most recognisable names on this list, Bastian comes from the Latin boys name Sebastian, meaning 'from Sebastia'. Actor Jeremy Sisto named his son Bastian Kick in 2012, and while the name is growing in popularity in America, it was still ranked just #2387 in 2011. It's much more popular in Chile, where it is a top 20 name, and Germany and Norway.

Buttercup (The Princess Bride) - A name that would sound at home on one of Jules and Jamie Oliver's offspring, Buttercup is a super-cutesy floral name that have never charted in America, despite being the name of the well loved bride of this tale. Probably better left as a term of endearment.

Cherlindrea (Willow) - Pronounced SHER-lyn-dree-ah, she is the fairy queen of the forest who tells Willow that he has been chosen to save the child who will bring about the downfall of the evil queen. I'm not sure how the writer came upon this name - it's like a mixed bag of Cher, Cheryl, Lyn, Linnea and Andrea all rolled into one. Perhaps a little too fantastical to use, this name has never charted in the US.

Elora and Danan (Willow) - Elora Danan was the child Willow was charged with saving. Either of these names are great - fans will appreciate where you got it from and everyone else will just think they sound great.

Elora is thought to be a variation of the Hebrew name Eliora, meaning 'the Lord is my light', or the Greek Eleanor meaning 'bright, shining one'. It's likely though that the writer - himself a Canadian - got it from the Canadian town Elora. Elora has a long history in the US charts, however the movie has certainly helped to boost it's popularity. Prior to 1988 it charted irregularly, but since 'Willow' was released that year it is a regular on the charts. Understandably so - it's a pretty but not overly frilly choice for a girl.

The characters second name is spelled Danan, but is quite often thought to be Dannan or Dannon. Interestingly, Danan has only ever charted for boys, Dannan only for girls, while Dannon can be seen on boys and girls. The original form is most likely Danann, as in the Irish legend of the Tuatha De Danann, which I only say because Willow uses the word tuatha when he is trying to cast a spell. This would give the name the meaning of 'people of  Dana'. Personally I prefer this name for a boy, with the spelling of Dannon. It reminds me of the strength of a cannon, but without the negative weaponry connotation.

Falkor (The Neverending Story) - Falkor was that fluffy flying white luck dragon in the movie. A very cool name, like Falcon but less "birdy". Falkor (or Fuchur in the original German text) has no accepted origin or meaning, and has never charted in the US.

Isabeau (Ladyhawke) - I love Isabeau, it is such a romantic name. Pronounced IS-ah-bo, it's a variant of Isabel and means 'God is my oath'. It's likely that it's less popular than Isabelle or Isabella variants because although Belle/Bella and Beau all mean 'beautiful', the first two are usually the feminine version while Beau is masculine. Beau is also a term used for a male suitor. Nevertheless, it's a beautiful (no pun intended) name and would be stand out from the Isabels and Isabellas, and ensure that you avoid the nickname Bella. Isabeau entered the US charts in 1987 and has maintained a constant but quiet presence.

Jareth (Labyrinth) - This is one name that would be instantly associated with the movie it comes from. But in a good way - Jareth the Goblin King was played brilliantly by David Bowie, and is iconic within 80's movies.  Inevitably it would be confused a lot with Jared, but it carries a massive cool factor that would probably go a long way towards making up for that. Jareth hit the US charts the same year the movie was released - 1986 - but again has never been super popular.

Kael (Willow) - Like the sound of Kale, but not the less than flattering association with cabbage? Then you may want to spell it Kael. This variation first cracked the US top 1000 in 2006, and was still there in 2011. Kael is a variant of the Gaelic name Kaelen, meaning 'uncertain'. It's also used in 'World of Warcraft' (Kael'Thas Sunstrider) and is generally seen as a name for a dark, strong and forbidding type. I can't help but think that it would make a good name for a love interest in a romance novel. Hmmm, maybe someone should write one featuring lead characters called Isabeau and Kael?

Kira (The Dark Crystal) - Kira is one of those names with many multiple spellings. This is one of the sleeker  versions, and also the one worn by Olivia Newton John in 'Xanadu' and female officer Major Kira on 'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine'. Each of the variations have different origins and meanings, therefore meanings vary from 'dark' in Gaelic to 'throne' in Persian to 'glitter' in Japanese. Kira has been in the US top 1000 since 1979 - and the top 500 for most of those years - but has been declining slightly in the past few years.

Ludo (Labyrinth) - Also the name of a board game, Ludo was the lovable friendly monster in 'Labyrinth'. It has never charted in America, but did appear as a minor character name in 'Harry Potter'. Ludo is assumed to be a nickname for any number of boys names starting with Lud, such as the German Ludwig or the French Ludovic, both meaning 'famous warrior'. But I see no reason to have a long version name with this one - Ludo could fit in quite well with current hot names Milo and Arlo.

Rylan (The Last Starfighter) - It sounds kind of like Riley and kind of like Ryan, and in this movie it was the name of the people on the planet Rylos, which the star fighter is recruited to protect. Rylan is English in origin, means 'land where rye is grown' and is a top 1000 name in the US for both boys and girls. Which I was surprised to hear. Guess this isn't quite as "undiscovered" as I thought it would be. Makes a good different-but-not-too-different name.

Sorsha (Willow) - I've also seen this one pop up as a hero name in the video game 'Heroes of Might and Magic'. I quite like the sound of it - it's an alternative spelling of the Irish name Sorcha, meaning 'bright, shining'. Sorsha has rarely charted in the US, possibly because the character was nasty for most of the film which might have discouraged parents. It's a great fantasy sounding name though, and you would be extremely unlikely to meet another one if you chose this name.

Tyrian (Dragonslayer) - I personally prefer Tyrion as in the 'Game of Thrones' character, as this spelling brings it just that little closer to looking like tyranny and tyrannical, which aren't exactly positive attributes. Tyrian is also the name of a dark reddish purple that was once prized for it's rarity and ability to become richer with exposure to sunlight, rather than faded. 'Tyrian' is also the name of a video game, or spelled Tirian is the final king of Narnia in CS Lewis' 'The Last Battle'. Both spellings are rare but have charted at least once in America.There is no information on the history or origins of either names - best guess is they might be  variations of Welsh girls name Tirion, meaning 'gentle', which seems a little at odds with it's appearance.

Westley (The Princess Bride) - Looks like Wesley but has more of a cowboy feel to it. Westley is an English name meaning 'western meadow'.  Westley has a long history in the US charts, but is more often outside the top 1000 than in it. Boys names ending in "ley" such as Bentley are pretty popular right now- Westley would be a great choice if you're looking for current sounding but not over-used.

Willow (Willow) - This is by far the most popular name on this list, but 'Willow' would have to be one of my favourite ever movies of 80's, so I couldn't really do this list without including it. Willow was man whose self doubt held him back from being the sorcerer he desperately wanted to be. When he accepts the challenge of protecting Elora Danan he finds the courage to be a truly great sorcerer. Willow is a great unisex name, although far more popular for girls, particularly in the US.

Valerian (Dragonslayer) - Yes, Valerian may be a most often recognised as a herbal remedy for sleeplessness. But it can also be argued that this is a very regal sounding nature name, one that would work for both genders. It has been the name of a Roman emperor and several saints, and is a Latin name meaning 'healthy, strong'. Valerian is a rare name, and likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future.

Did you see your favourite on this list? Would you use a name inspired by your favourite movie? Or maybe you already have......

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Stephen Peacocke portrays Darryl "Brax" Braxton on 'Home and Away'

If you've visited Waltzing More Than Matilda recently, you would have seen Anna's great analysis of what names are doing state by state here in Australia. It's a great way to see what names moved up, down, and in during 2012. And it seems that one name in particular has emerged as the mover and shaker of boys names in the past year - Braxton.

Braxton is an English name meaning 'Bracca's town' or 'Brock's settlement'. It was a top mover last year in all of the states that have released 2012 baby name data - in South Australia alone it moved an impressive 57 places to become their 44th most popular name. As a big mover in individual states, I'm sure this will be reflected in the results for Australia when they are released.

So what is it about Braxton that gave it such a boost in 2012?

Well, it's probably benefiting from a great combination of the "X" factor and the 2-syllable-ends-with-an-on/en-sound trend that has proved to be popular with boy names in recent years (think Jaden, Mason or Camden). But it's not the only name that benefits from these features. And my first associations with this name were Braxton Hicks contractions, or former Victorian State Premier Steve Bracks. Not exactly great baby naming inspiration.

Then I realised what I was missing. I don't watch 'Home And Away'! For the benefit of those of you who have not grown up or lived in Australia, 'Home and Away' is a long running Australian soap based in a fictional beach side town called Summer Bay. And in 2011 Darryl "Brax" Braxton (played by Stephen Peacocke) became a central character on the show. I can't tell you much about Brax as I don't watch the show, but basically he is a tough surfer type. He's fiercely loyal, a bit of a local hero, and determined to make a better life for himself and those he cares about. I can see how qualities like this would appeal to people, and must admit the nickname Brax is pretty cool.

Braxton has also been quite popular in the US - it's been in the charts every year since 1908, entering the top 1000 in 1985. It's popularity continues to grow, and in 2011 it was the 153rd most popular boys name in America. It also started charting for girls in 1994, but still remains quite rare for girls, positioned at #5048 in 2011.

Some people may dislike the sound of it, saying that all they can think of is Braxton Hicks, but clearly this is not a problem for everyone. I personally think it just sounds strong and cool, and almost preppy (I think that's the ton ending speaking to me). I can also see it working for girls similarly to the way names such as  Alex, Alexis or Max do.

It will be interesting to see if Braxton has staying power, especially here in Australia once the character inevitably leaves 'Home and Away' and is no longer a part of viewers daily lives. For now though, there's no denying that Braxton's star is on the rise.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


Shailene Woodley

Last year I read 'The Hunger Games' trilogy, and like many others I fell in love with the books. At that time, I was perhaps a little behind the eight ball. I pretty much discovered them when promotions for the first movie started, and as the books are almost always better I wanted to make sure I read the books first so that watching the movie wouldn't give me any spoilers.

Then recently I read a post by Laura at Baby Name Wizard about why some book franchises such as 'Twilight' spark a naming trend, while others such as 'The Hunger Games' contain great names that don't seem to make the transition to birth certificates. It's a good article, but the best thing was that it introduced me to a new dystopian series to read - 'Divergent', by Veronica Roth. The central character of this series is named Beatrice, which she changes to Tris after a life altering change gives her the opportunity to adopt a new name and new persona. Laura notes that this "new" nickname of Tris could see Beatrice take off in leaps and bounds, particularly if the film adaptation is successful.

Yes, the movie adaptation is looking certain, with casting underway for the first movie even before the third (and as of yet untitled) book of the trilogy hits our shelves. And I agree that 'Divergent's strong yet vulnerable lead character Tris will help increase the popularity of Beatrices - and probably the name Tris, too. But just as Isabella was already on the rise when the first 'Twilight' movie was released, Beatrice has already been rising in the US, going from position #1107 in 2005 to #707 in 2011, meaning the author Veronica Roth may just be smart at tapping into a current trend, rather than causing one.

I'm instead thinking that the surprise name hit of this franchise could be the name of the young actress that has been cast as Tris, Shailene Woodley. Shailene has been busy for a young actress, with her most notable roles to date being in the TV series 'The Secret Life of the American Teenager' and as George Clooney's elder daughter in the Oscar winning movie 'The Descendants'. The latter role in particular has gained Shailene much positive attention as a young actress with a bright future.

Shailene (I think pronounced Shay-leen) is one of those names that is hard to find detailed background  information about. It's interesting to note that her parents names are Loni and Lori, and her brother is named Tanner, so her name is quite unique even within her own family. According to one fansite, Shailene's name was chosen when her mother saw a numberplate with 'SHAI' on it and liked it so much that her parents played around with different endings to lengthen the name. I'm not sure how true that is, but considering the lack of history on this name, it sounds like a reasonable possibility.

The name Shailene first charted in 1991, when it was given to 5 girls. This happens to be the year that Shailene Woodley was born,  so I guess that makes her one of those 5 babies! Since then it has appeared on the charts sporadically, "peaking" in 2009 when it was given to 14 girls. This shows there is interest in this name, but perhaps people are hesitant to use it due to the lack of information about its' origin and meaning.

Alternate spelling Shaylene comes from the Gaelic Shea, meaning 'admirable' or 'from the fairy fort', so these could be possible meanings. Other theories are that it comes from the Hebrew Shai (traditionally pronounced Shy) meaning 'gift', and Lene. The second half of Lene has several origins and meanings, with the most likable combinations with Shai being:

  • Shai (Hebrew, 'gift') + Lene (Greek, 'light') = 'gift of light'
  • Shai (Hebrew, 'gift') + Lene (Norse, 'illustrious, distinguished') = 'illustrious gift'
  • Shai (Hebrew, 'gift') + Lene (Hebrew, 'of Magdala') = 'gift from Magdala'

Shailene has a fairly attractive sound, a fresher alternative to the somewhat dated Charlene. I'm interested to see how the actress will influence the popularity of this name, both with the 'Divergent' movies and the future work she does. I don't think it quite has the familiar/friendly/classic feel of past movie mega hits Jennifer, Madison or Isabella, but I could see it finding a place in the top 100.

Or maybe the stealth hit-name-waiting-to-happen will be one of the other characters or actors in the movie. Sometimes you can't quite tell what will capture people's attention and inspire their imagination.....

Shailene Woodley to star as Tris (Beatrice) Prior 
in the movie adaptation of Veronica Roth's 'Divergent'

Saturday, March 9, 2013


Katie McGrath portrays Morgana in TV's 'Merlin'

Morgana has often been shunned as an "evil" and "witchy" name, due to it's common association with legendary witch Morgana Le Fay. In many versions of the Merlin, Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table tales, Morgana is an antagonist, working against Arthur and Guinevere and usually trying to orchestrate their (particularly Arthurs') deaths. Usually she is said to be a half sister to Arthur, the daughter of Arthur's mother from her first marriage.

You often hear "not like Morgana Le Fay!" when someone discusses the merits of the name Morgana. It's possibly  this reaction that has kept Morgana a rarity - in the US, she's never been bestowed on more than 19 girls in any one year. In 2011, she was positioned at just #10127. And I'm not sure she has fared any better in other countries.

However Morgana Le Fay was known by several different variations of this name, with the other well known (and many would say better known) one being Morgan. Unlike Morgana, Morgan's popularity has not suffered very much at all by its association to the Morgan Le Fay character, and continues to be well used for both boys and girls. In fact for boys the lowest position Morgan has held on the US charts since 1888 was #636, and for girls it has been a top 100 name since 1987. So what is it about Morgan than makes it more user-friendly?

Morgan is a Welsh name meaning 'circle; sea; bright'. It is thought that the use of Morgan for the Morgan Le Fay character was inspired by the mythical Welsh water spirits known as Morgens. Perhaps for this reason, Morgan is also often used in modern supernatural fiction for magically inclined characters. For example, 'The Dresden Files' series by Jim Butcher had a wizard character named Morgan (full name Donald Morgan); and the main character of 'The Hollows' series by Kim Harrison is named Rachel Morgan. Perhaps it is due to this more general use - and the fact that it sounds like a "regular" surname name - that it is more readily accepted. Actors Morgan Fairchild and Morgan Freeman probably helped a lot to make Morgan more familiar and usable. It also sounds friendlier due to it's similarity in sound to the German word "morgen" meaning 'tomorrow'.

Morgan Le Fay
by Frederick Sandys
Morgana, by contrast, is almost exclusively thought of in relation to this one figure. She sounds darker; more exotic and mysterious. She also sounds like she fits right in alongside Disney villain names such as Cruella and Ursula. Disney must have thought so too, because they actually did name the villain of 'The Little Mermaid 2: Return to the Sea' Morgana. It was also the name of a villain in 'Power Rangers: SPD', and a pretty bad-ass looking champion in the video game 'League of Legends'.  For some, Morgana will only ever be dark and nasty.

I prefer to focus on the exotic and mysterious aspect to the name Morgana. She may not be conventionally pretty, but she's interesting.

We seem to be fascinated with supernatural beings these days, so it seems that it is not inconceivable that popular movies such as 'Beautiful Creatures' will spark a renewed interest in traditionally magical names. Who knows - Morgana may yet have her day in the sun. Just don't use it with the middle names Lee or Fay........

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Layana Aguilar

I'm a little bit behind with 'Project Runway' this season - to be honest, I hadn't even realised that a new season was underway until I saw Kelly's post about the great names of the older models featured on episode  six over at NameFreak. It is a great bunch of names, but the one that caught my attention was one of the contestants - Layana Aguilar.

Layana was born and raised in Brazil, currently lives in New York, and has her own fashion line. Her site states that a woman who ears her designs is wearing pure confidence and delicateness. The same description could be applied to her name, which feels strong and confident, but soft at the same time.

The Layana on 'Project Runway' pronounces her name Ley-AH-na, but you could probably get away with pronouncing it Lay-AH-na if you prefer because it's uncommon enough that most people wouldn't really know what the correct pronunciation should be. Because it's so uncommon, there's very little background information to be found about this name. It doesn't seem to be a super popular Brazilian name, as it didn't appear in their top 100 girls names in 2011. Besides, I'm guessing that if it is popular in Brazil I probably would have heard the name before now.

Layana has been seen on the American charts though. It first appeared on 6 girls in 1978, then faded to pop up again in 2002. Since then it has charted every year since 2004, so far peaking at #5155 in 2009.

So should I speculate as to where this name comes from and what it means? One theory I've seen (and probably the best one) is that it comes from the Arabic name Layan, meaning 'soft, gentle'. It's also quite similar to:

  • Lalana, a Sanskrit name meaning 'playing'; 
  • Liana, a Hebrew name meaning 'god has answered' or a French name;  
  • Lulana, reportedly a Zulu name meaning 'the winner'; 
  • Ayanna, an African name meaning 'flower blossom' or Hindi name meaning 'innocent'; 
  • or even Aiyana, a Native American name meaning 'forever flowering'.

I quite like the sound of Layana, although find myself saying Layani more often. I guess it just rolls off my tongue more easily. Either one is very pretty. Both were already recent newcomers to the US charts, and I can only imagine that the exposure the name Layana will now get through 'Project Runway' will boost its use. But as I'm only one episode into the season so far, I guess that's assuming that this Layana doesn't turn out to be the hated villain of the season. Although let's face it - unless the person is really, really heinous, a little villainy doesn't necessarily hurt a name whose star is on the rise.

The Cast of 'Project Runway' Season 11

Saturday, March 2, 2013


Name inspirations can come when you least expect it - and this beauty I spotted on a personalised number plate in traffic this morning! There are many things that raced through my mind when I saw this, with the uppermost one being that this is a very pretty name.

Tarabella is a quite rare name. It has never charted in America, meaning it has never been given to more than five girls in any one year. And a quick Facebook search shows that while Tarabella is not used as a first name, it has been used as a surname in Italy. However there is no information on its origin or meaning as a surname.

As a first name, Tarabella immediately strikes one as an unusual smoosh name - a combination of the spunky Tara and the sweetly girly Bella. Bella is popularly recognised to be an Italian name meaning 'beautiful'. In recent years it has followed the extremely popular Isabella up the charts, helped largely due to the (Isa)Bella Swan character from 'Twilight'. It's currently particularly popular in Australia, America and Canada, but deceptively is even more popular than the charts tell us, because it would commonly be sued as a popular nickname for many other Bella related names.

Tara on the other hand has a couple of different origins and meanings. In Hindu mythology Tara was an astral  goddess, and her name means 'star'. There is also a goddess named Tara in Buddhist mythology. Said to be the most popular goddess in the Buddhist pantheon, Tara is considered to be the Goddess of Universal Compassion, and she represents virtuous and enlightened activity.

But perhaps the best known origin of Tara is from Irish Gaelic, where Tara means 'hill' or more elaborately 'hill where kings meet'. Ancient Tara was the site of the 'stone of destiny', on which Irish kings lived. It has been theorised that this reference is what author Margaret Mitchell had in mind when she named the famous home of Scarlett O'Hara 'Tara' in her novel 'Gone With The Wind'.

Tara enjoyed a burst of popularity after 'Gone With The Wind' was released as a movie in 1939, first entering the American charts that year. During the 70's and 80's it was a top 100 name in America. It has dropped in popularity recently (#877 in America in 2011) although you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise judging by the popularity of Tara as a character name in TV shows ranging from 'True Blood' to 'Boston Legal' to 'The United States of Tara'.

Tara also does quite well in many other countries, such as Australia, Croatia, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Norway and Scotland. There are however some pronunciation variations - personally we pronounce it more like Tarr-aah here in Australia, while on American TV it seems to be pronounced Tah-RAH (or even Teh-RAH). Which I guess raises the question of how one would pronounce Tarabella. Would it be Tarr-aah-bell-ah or Tah-rah-bell-ah?

Pronunciation questions aside, I feel like Tarabella would be a great way to honour a Tara and/or Bella relative. Or to honour a combination of Italian/Indian/Irish heritage, or even a belief in Buddhism or Hinduism. And of course there are the two distinct and beautiful (excuse the pun) possible meanings - 'beautiful star' or 'beautiful hill'. 'Beautiful star' in particular is an almost swoon-worthy meaning.

I can definitely see Tarabella catching on. Maybe you're looking for an alternative to Isabella, but Arabella feels too frilly or vintage for you, or you're worried about it's current rising popularity. Tarabella could be a great way to stand out from the crowd.