Hi Duana,

I'm not pregnant but I have a name question or curiosity that I need to have some clarity on.

We had a baby girl in December and named her Kyra. One month before she was born an acquaintance had a girl named Kiera. Two months after out Kyra i heard of another Kira. A friend due in July said that name is on her short list. Plus Audrina Patridge (basically Z list) just named her daughter Kirra.

Now that we have that name, I know of three other families who have older Kira's (2-7 year old range).

My question is: Why now? In the quest for unique names, why is Kyra becoming so popular? I don't expect it to be the next Olivia or Ava but it's seems to becoming a little more known and I can't figure out why.



ps. Could it be that it can be spelled a gazillion ways? Kyra, Kira, Kirra, Keira, Kiera...


Thank you for sending one of my favourite kinds of questions—I love this kind of thing. Figuring out why a name that seems to rank super-low on the popularity lists can also seem to be everywhere ‘out in the world’, if not on paper, is one of the great amusing conundrums of names, full stop. In the case of Keira/Kyra/Kira, there are a number of factors which get us here, none of which you might see coming. (Plus, I love that even though you’re annoyed at the ‘basically Z list’ Audrina Patridge you still spelled her name properly).

The first is the K factor. Sniff all you want about the family I’m not allowed to type the name of here, the fact is that K is a stylish letter, and both the sound and look of it have always been appealing, especially for women’s names. Everyone from Anne Shirley on down agrees with me, and somehow even as names fall in and out of fashion, K is well-represented. Can’t say the same about D, we’ve fallen a long way since the high water mark of Donna, Diane, and Doreen in the 60s, you know?

The second is the Irish factor. Irish names have been on a popularity upswing for almost an entire generation now, so name enthusiasts keep digging deeper for names that feel old-but-new. The slightly awkward looking Ciara is that much more palatable as Kyra, and that bumps you up a few popularity notches too.

So those are pretty evergreen reasons for the popularity, but they get the name much more on the board than you might have realized. Then there are the more direct answers to your question, ‘why now?’

Part of ‘why now?’ is the boys’ fault. As we continue in the ‘on’ trend, every legit-and-made up name ending in that sound gets a lot of attention, one of which is Kieran. Which, yes, is a great name, and yes, I must admit, eminently adaptable for girls. But then someone along the way says “right, but why don’t we just call her Keira”, and there you are.

Then there’s the there-but-never-too-there career of Keira Knightley, who is not only super endearing, but the only Keira of her level of approximate fame. She’s a singular ambassador of the name, which never seems to feel exhausting because unlike Jennifer, or, say, Lola or Emma, when she’s not actively promoting a movie (or being maligned by a douchebag director), you don’t hear her name, especially on adults, except maybe on Kyra Sedgwick, who you also don’t usually hear about unless you’re actively hearing about her. The name isn’t a tabloid staple. It’s not attached to anyone notorious. It sounds fresh and pretty.

Which may be why she inspired the names of a couple of prominent TV characters.  Keira has all the qualities that make for great character names: it’s unusual but not unknown, it’s easy to read and to say, and it carries an image, maybe helped by Knightley and Sedgwick, of someone kind of clever and interesting.

There was a Kyra on Castle, who, okay, she was only on one episode, but she was played by Alyssa Milano, and there are a lot of men and women currently of baby-naming age who will never get over their formative crushes on Alyssa Milano but know they can’t choose the name “Alyssa” in good faith. Enter Kyra…

Or Kira. Because if you are a pop culture fan at all, you’ve heard of Orphan Black. And to know Orphan Black is to devour it, and consequently fall in love with the charming, innocent, intelligent-but-not-precocious Kira who is the motivator for a lot on that show. I bet there are a lot of people who look at that kid and go ‘well exactly, I’d move heaven and earth for my child too’, and then think ‘actually Kira’s kind of a lovely name’. 

Which it is, actually. I can’t pretend to understand the provenance of that extra ‘r’ Audrina Patridge put in the middle of it, but she’s not likely to create a wave of Keiras through her outsized influence, so I don’t think this is the beginning of a bigger wave, per se, but maybe the ‘right-sizing’ of a name that is pretty deservedly stylish and useable in the first place.

If you have a Kira, want a Kyra, or rejected the name Kiera, tell me all about it, please!