Failure to Launch Names: Lara in the 1970s

This series is a subset of Spotlight Names dedicated to names that had potential to become huge for a certain decade. They represented a certain era well, but for whatever reason never made it to the top 100. Perhaps for these names, their time is yet to come.

Lara in the 1970s

At a time when Laura and Sarah were being resurrected and Tara was hitting its peak, a name sharing the same quaint sound peaked at 224 in 1969.

I’m talking about Lara in the 1970s. Name enthusiasts at the time may have seen potential for Lara back in the preceding decade, if they had access to the Social Security Name data available today.

Lara had never even been in the top 1000 until 1966, debuting at 617. Then something amazing happened. The following year she shot up to 277, then 227, then 224. After her peak, she declined slightly and seemed to plateau in the 300s for most of the 70s.

She continued to decline through the 80s and 90s, but has not yet left the top 1000. Why did Lara miss the mark? Maybe she was too similar to Laura, and parents liked Laura better at the time. Laura does have a more established history (in the U.S.) than Lara, which gives her a leg up for many parents.

The alternate Lora is even more like Lara. And even Lora, which looks like a modern variation, is the more established name (again in the U.S.), never ranking below the top 500 since 1880. Perhaps parents reasonably feared Lara would get confused for Laura or Lora.

Some feel Lara’s time is now. Lara was on the list of predicted top names for 2015, the Freakonomics list I often reference, published back in 2005. Making Lara more susceptible to discovery is her interesting and relatively modern history. She has two qualities appealing to many parents in 2012, exotic and literary roots. Lara is the Russian short form of Larisa introduced to the U.S. as a character in the novel Doctor Zhivago.

The book was published in 1957 and the movie was released in 1965. Lara entering the top 1000 just a year later is surely no coincidence. Perhaps a movie is the kind of connection that makes a name seem immediately fresh and then suddenly stale. Now enough time has passed since the movie’s original release that Doctor Zhivago could be considered a classic, giving Lara more credibility and long-term appeal.

She did see a slight increase in 2010, up 51 spots to 881. As I mentioned before, there’s no telling what a name will do next. If I was alive back in 1969 and a betting woman, I would have bet Lara was bound to reach the top 50, possibly the top 25 by 1979 and I would have lost. Lara’s numbers from the late 60s seem more promising than the numbers from today, but she could take off out of nowhere. No one knows.

As Laura hits her lowest rank ever at 275 and Lauren, which started to take Laura’s place in the 80s and 90s, starts to decline, perhaps Lara will be poised as the fresh simple alternative. Time will tell.

Readers: Do you think Lara is poised to take off? Which decade best represents Lara’s style: the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010 or is Lara timeless, with a sound not tied to a specific time?

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  1. Lara’s Theme from the movie is a timeless piece of music. You’ve probably heard it without knowing what it is.

    I had a college classmate named Lara, and one of the girls in our preschool is named Lara. I think it’s the pronunciation of the first A in the name that makes it a little tricky in English.

    • I had to google Lara’s Theme to find the You Tube video – and yes I am familiar with the song, but never knew it was called Lara’s Theme. You learn something new everyday. Here’s the link:

    • As someone actually called Lara I guarantee that it is an accent thing, not at all about pronouncing it in English.

      I am Australian, we pronounce the first A with an ‘Ahh’ sound – Lahh’ra. Americans pronounce it as ‘Air’ – Lair’ra. I do not like this pronunciation of my name (not as much as I hate being called Laura – because it is not my name!).

      I can appreciate why it didn’t take off in America based on my experiences. Apparently the way Aussie pronounce R sounds like ‘i’ to Americans too. đŸ˜› I had no end of problems trying to spell both my first and surnames when in the states.

      Lara’s theme is one of the prettiest pieces of music. I had a music box with it.. I thought for most of my childhood that my family were teasing me by telling me the tune was lara’s theme and they were refusing to tell me the truth – o r they didn’t know the real name of the song!

  2. Lara has been a Top 100 name here since the start of the 2000s, although is now falling since its peak in the late 2000s.

    It’s funny it didn’t take off in the US, as it’s a prettier name than Laura really. We don’t have any problems pronouncing it, even though we speak English – we do have a lot of popular names with an AH sound in them though. I think it must be more an accent issue rather than a language issue.

    • I don’t have any problems pronouncing it because I just think of Lara as either Tara or Cara with an L. I think some Americans may be looking at Lara in reality, but because they are used to seeing Lora, their minds trick them into thinking they are looking at Lora. People’s minds seem to get used to seeing certain things and become intimidated by the unfamiliar. Another example, is my long last name that is really phonetically spelled, but because people get tripped up on the length, few can pronounce it. My husband was so impressed that I pronounced it right the first time. I think the same phenomenon is at work when people assume they are looking at Lora when in reality they are looking at Lara, but that’s just a guess.

  3. I wouldn’t be sure if it was pronounce the same as Laura or to rhyme with Tara. I do lik Lara’s Theme. It’s very pretty.

    • Lara is like Tara with an L. But I will admit at first I thought Lara Flynn Boyle was Laura Flynn Boyle. But I knew Lara Croft was always Lara Croft.

  4. When I see the name Lara it makes me think of “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.” Not that I ever played the game and maybe saw the movie once. thinks it’s a nice name. I never saw or read “Dr. Zhivago.” But it makes sense that there would have been an upsurge of popularity around the release of a popular novel/movie. I think Isabella is really high up in popularity now (like Bella in Twilight).


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