Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Lara

Lara is the Russian pet form of Larissa. Larissa originated as a Greek female name (λαρισσα) briefly featured in Greek mythology. Larissa is variably described as the daughter of Pelasgus (who many ancient Greeks believed to be the first man and ancestor to the first indigenous people of Greece) or the daughter of Piasus (a Pelasgian prince). She is also sometimes described as a mortal princess of Argos and at other times a nymph. Not much is said about Larissa except that she became the object of desire of Poseidon (sea god) to whom she gave three sons: Akhaios, Pelasgos and Pythios later to become kings of various regional units of ancient Greece. In the 1980s, astronomers discovered a moon orbiting Neptune which they named Larissa in honor of Poseidon’s lover (Neptune is the Roman equivalent of Poseidon, the sea god). Aside from Lara’s connection to Larissa in Greek mythology, she also holds her own individual place in Roman mythology – Latin poet Ovid wrote about Lara, a nature nymph who tattled on Jupiter (see literary references below). Larissa is also a place name – both a city and a region located in east-central Greece (Thessaly) and named after the mythological Larissa. Finally, an acropolis known as Larissa Hill in Argos was named for her, existing many centuries before Christ. Apropos, Larissa comes from a Greek word meaning “citadel, stronghold” (a citadel is a fortress surrounding a town, like an acropolis usually positioned atop a hill); although we have also read that Larissa means “bright and cheerful”. As if this all isn’t enough – Larissa Feodorovna Guishar is a central character in Boris Pasternak’s 1957 novel “Doctor Zhivago” (known throughout the book by her diminutive form Lara) and one of the greatest (if tragic) literary heroines of modern times. Probably because of “Doctor Zhivago”, the name Lara has been embraced as an independently given name well beyond the Russian borders. Lara ranks high in places like Slovenia, Croatia, Austria, Hungary, Belgium, Australia and Spain. It’s on the Top 100 list in the nations of the Netherlands, Scotland and Northern Ireland. In other words, this simple four-letter, two-syllable name is quite fashionable and cosmopolitan, stretching all the way around the Western World.

All About the Baby Name – Lara



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Speaking of “Doctor Zhivago”, the whole reason why Lara found herself on America’s Top 1000 list of baby girl names for the first time in 1966 is because of “Doctor Zhivago”, a film based on the novel released at the end of 1965. The movie, starring Omar Sharif as Dr. Yuri Zhivago and Julie Christie as Lara Antipova, was an instant international hit (it remains one of the Top 10 highest grossing films of all time, after inflation adjustments). Audiences were not only drawn to the character of Lara, but they were also drawn to her name. In fact, Lara debuted at position #617 on the charts in 1966 and shot up to #277 in 1967. These may not seem like impressive numbers overall, but relatively speaking, this is a remarkable feat (especially because parents weren’t even using this name prior to the movie). Lara’s popularity as a girl’s name reached her peak in 1969. The name declined in usage during the 1970s and 80s and really dropped in popularity in the 1990s. You’ll notice from the graph below there was another blip on the screen when Lara shot-up the charts over 200 spots between 2001 and 2002. Her increased popularity as a baby girl’s name was again owed to a film; this time “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” starring Angelina Jolie as the beautiful, intelligent, athletic and female-empowering heroine. Today, however, Lara is back down at the bottom of the Top 1000 list and is barely given to 300 baby girls per year. Her fall from fashion is rather perplexing since Lara is embraced by so many other countries right now. It’s a name that has a lot going for it. It’s ancient and mythological. It’s literary and cosmopolitan. It’s simple and pretty. Perhaps today’s parents find Lara just a little too simple and plain against the more fanciful trendy names in style today.

Quick Facts











LAHR-ah; LAIR-ah


Citadel, stronghold










Cultural References to the Baby Name – Lara

Literary Characters


The Roman poet Ovid tells the mythological legend of Lara in his poem “Fasti” written in the early first century A.D. (Book 2, verses 533–616). In the story, Lara is described as a water nymph and the daughter of Almo, a river god. Beautiful yet chatty, Lara could not keep a secret. When she learned of Jupiter’s burning love for Juturna (Lara’s sister-nymph), she went directly to Juno (Jupiter’s wife) and tattled on the High King of gods. This sent Jupiter into a rage so he chopped off Lara’s tongue in retribution. As further punishment, Jupiter ordered Mercury (messenger of the gods) to deliver Lara unto Pluto in the Underworld. The only hitch? Mercury fell for the lovely nymph and ended up sleeping with her. Lara bore Mercury twin sons known as the Lares, household gods who presided over Roman hearths and homes. Tongue-less Lara thereafter became known as Muta (the mute one) or Dea Tacita (the silent one). We guess she stopped telling secrets after all that.

Larissa “Lara” Fyodorovna Guishar Antipova is a main character in Nobel Prize winner Boris Pasternak’s novel, Doctor Zhivago, first published in 1957, and later made into a highly successful movie in 1965, starring Julie Christie as Lara. Set against the tumultuous background of World War I, the Russian Revolution and the Russian Civil War, this is a soaring and lyrical love story played out against Maurice Jarre’s haunting melody, Lara’s Theme. Lara has already been mishandled by life when she meets Yuri Zhivago. She had been seduced as a young girl by her mother’s lover, and subsequently married a man whose first allegiance is to the Bolshevik cause. When he is reported missing, Lara takes a nursing position in the army in order to search for him. Here she meets the married Zhivago, and their connection is fierce and immediate, although not consummated at first. The vagaries of war separate and reunite them, taking their terrible physical and emotion toil of common humanity, yet allowing for a certain abandonment of the restrictive rules of a society that has gone mad. Lara loves as she lives, passionately and fully, but this love is doomed. It will be a victim of the cruel dehumanizing of an entire people that happens in the wake of the war and its aftermath. Ultimately Lara meets her fate at the hands of the Stalinists, but not before proving herself to be an enduring survivor of all that has been put in her path. One is assured that the daughter of such a woman will inherit the same will to survive as her mother exhibited in the face of overwhelming odds. As it is said of Lara” “She was here on earth to make sense of its wild enchantments.”

Childrens Books


We cannot find any childrens books with the first name Lara

Popular Songs


Lara's Theme
a melody by Maurice Jarre

Famous People


Lara Flynn Boyle (actress)
Lara Logan (TV news journalist)
Lara Fabian (Belgian-Italian singer)
Lara Bingle (Australian model/TV personality)
Lara Cardella (Italian writer)
Lara Jill Miller (actress)
Lara Dutta (Indian actress/former Miss Universe)
Lara St. John (Canadian violinist)

Children of Famous People


We cannot find any children of famous people with the first name Lara

Historic Figures


We cannot find any historically significant people with the first name Lara