Spotlight on: Chiara

One of you wonderful readers emailed me recently asking for a spotlight on Chiara, and it’s kind of been on my mind now as we prepare for Christmas because of the carols It Came Upon a Midnight Clear and Silent Night: the title of the former (“clear”) and these lyrics from the latter, “All is calm, all is bright” (the “bright” part).

What is going on in her head? you’re likely asking yourself, but wait! It does make sense! Chiara is the Italian form of Clara, and Clara is from the Latin for “clear, bright” (Claire is the French form of Clara, and Clare the English form). So I personally think, if Christmas carols make you think of a certain name, there’s something Christmas-y there. Therefore, Chiara can be a Christmas name. 🙂 (Once again, I *am* the dad in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, where everything turns out to be originally Greek. “Kimono, kimono, kimono. Ha! Of course! Kimono is come from the Greek word himona, is mean winter. So, what do you wear in the wintertime to stay warm? A robe. You see: robe, kimono. There you go!😀 )

Anyway, Chiara: did you know it was St. Clare of Assisi‘s actual name? I mean, we call her St. Clare because that’s how you say Santa Chiara in English, but her name was actually Chiara. And our recent, beloved, and oh so relevant for today’s young girls Bl. Chiara Luce Badano (died 1990 at the age of 19) is another amazing namesake. I’ve also read recently about Chiara Corbella Petrillo, who died in 2012 at age 28 for Jesus and her own child in St. Gianna fashion. Beautiful beautiful role models and intercessors for a little girl.

Likely the first question one would have is how the heck do you pronounce Chiara? The Chi- is said like “key,” the -ara is said like “ah-rah.” key-AH-rah. So pretty, right? It can sound a lot like Keira when said quickly, I think, but it’s definitely three syllables. And like Gianna, I think it’s one of those names that transcends ethnicity, as does the Church — St. Chiara of Assisi and Bl. Chiara Luce Badano are ours, whether we’re Italian or not, so I wouldn’t hesitate to suggest this beautiful name to any family.

As for nicknames, it’s one of those names that might not feel right to nickname, if that makes any sense. Kind of like Siena — also a name I wouldn’t think to nickname. But maybe Chi (said “Key”) or Kiki? Kind of like Gigi for Gianna?

What do you think of Chiara? Do you know any Chiaras, especially non-Italian Chiaras? Do they ever go by a nickname, and if so, what is it? Do they like their name?

ETA: I’d also be interested in hearing if you’ve heard other pronunciations besides key-AH-rah. This may be a Gianna situation, where the authentic Italian pronunciation is JOHN-nah but we’ve anglicized it to jee-AH-nah.

ETA2: Gah, sorry! I forgot I’d wanted to reference the art term chiaroscuro — it’s said like Chiara (key-AH-rah) with “scuro” added on, if that helps with pronunciation. (And the chiar– bit references light, it’s the same root as Chiara.)

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25 thoughts on “Spotlight on: Chiara

  1. Thank you SO MUCH for this post! My great-grandmother was Chiara. When she came to the US from Italy, her name was recorded as – wait for it – Katie! Crazy, right? No one is sure how that happened, though she used Chiara with her family. (And no one in the family knew about Katie until an aunt was researching our family tree and found her name recorded as Katie in census records.)

    My mother was named after her, and my daughter is named after my mother. There were lots of other Clare/Chiara-inspired named cousins after that great-grandmother, too. It’s *such* a meaningful name to my family for so very many reasons, and St. Clare of Assisi is a great inspiration.

    I thought about using Chiara as part of our daughter’s name for about 30 seconds. But I knew I’d cry tears of frustration as her name was misheard/misspelled as Kyra, Keira, Ciara, and so on.

    Strangely enough, if she’d been Chiara, she wouldn’t have been the only one! My daughter had a classmate called Ciara in her nursery school through PreK – but her mother is Irish, and that’s yet another saint’s name!

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    • You are SO lucky to have Chiara in your family tree Abby! And Katie for Chiara is pretty crazy! Although, I kind of like it because it helps makes sense of the pronunciation — when I was poking around to see if others say it a different way, I found a lot of angst by Chiaras who get mispronounced chee-AH-rah. So funny that your almost-Chiara has a Ciara in her class, and with the Irish connection rather than Italian. Hilarious! Thanks for sharing this!!

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  2. Love it! Especially Kiki as a nickname (what can I say I have a Gigi so clearly my style.) Chiara is so pretty and we love St Claire but know a TON of Claires. Doubt my husband could get over the spelling and pronunciation issues though. Oh well, there’s plenty of time before we will need another name, God willing. 😜

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  3. I love your thinking! My oldest daughter Clare was born during the Christmas season, but not being a name nerd back then I didn’t ever consider Christmas names. But maybe she’s had one all along.

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  4. Ugh, I LOVE Chiara!! It’s one of my favorite Italian names. St. Clare is also one of my favorite saints ever and my godmother who is wonderful is Claire, and I speak Italian, so it’s so perfect but I probably wouldn’t use it because of pronunciation/spelling issues (Kiara would break my heart). I mainly worry about people saying CHEE-ar-uh instead of KEY. Because the CH would I think be confusing for English speakers, though I worry less about Chiara than Ciara (with the correct Irish pronunciation).

    I think I would melt if I met a little Chiara honestly. Like please someone use it, lol.

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  5. I never knew all this about Clare…how lovely! Interestingly enough, I am writing this after a dear Family friend has just gone home after being with us for dinner…He has just returned from Italy and brought us a lovely gift…pictures of St. Francis and St. Clare…spelled Chiara…and I wondered why. I had not yet read this post.

    God works in mysterious ways…who’d a thunk it…

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  6. I’ve been following your blog for a while but this is my first comment. I had to, because my two year old daughter is named Chiara. You were right about it transcending a nickname, I couldn’t bear to call her Kiki! Sometimes strangers do mispronounce it, but all of our family and friends say it perfectly 🙂

    Her full name is Chiara Assunta. Assunta is my grandmother’s name, it is Italian for the Assumption.

    We get compliments on her name often… I love it because it sounds modern, but really is classic and in honor of a beautiful Saint. 🙂

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  7. Our 2nd child was born in June and we named her Chiara Marie! We named her after Bl. Chiara Badano. I first heard of her before I was married but I was determined that one of my children would have that name. And my husband was completely on board! I never made the connections about it being a Chirstmas name so that is really cool. I love having Bl. Chiara as a wonderful young woman our Chiara can look up to! 🙂

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  8. A little girl in our neighborhood is named Chiara and goes by Kiki for short. Her mom is Brazilian and always pronounces the name with a slight roll in the R (which I love).

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  9. There are a couple girls named Chiara in our Catholic homeschool community. One is about 12. Her family has an Italian last name and Italian-American heritage. It was interesting because that same year in our group there was a Kiera born – that is when I learned that they were all ethnic variations on Clare. I also know a 2 year old Chiara. The mom is very particular about Italian pronunciations and says key-AH-rah is the correct Italian way – she is a stickler for John-nah (Gianna), too. They do have problems with it being mispronounced. But to me it is familiar enough now – and I think that will come as we see more little Chiaras.

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    • I def think we will see more Chiaras — I love that you know a few already!

      Kiera’s a different name though — did the family who named their daughter Kiera intend for it to be a variant of Clare? Because Kiera, Keira, Ciara, etc. are all variants of the Irish Ciaran/Kieran, which is a totally different animal … I could see people thinking it was just an alternate spelling or variant of the Clare names …

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      • It has been 12 years, so maybe my memory is fuzzy, do think the family was intentional in making it an honoring of Clare. So, since you point out it really isn’t a variation, it must have been due to the similarity. I can totally see it and still think it fits. So I looked up Kiera since I hadn’t specifically done so before and see that is means “dark-haired, dusky” which is sort of the opposite of “bright”. LOL

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      • Haha I know! Kiera=dark, Chiara=bright! Yes, I can certainly see a family choosing Kiera because of its similarity in sound to Chiara. It reminds me of how Oliver and Olivia may not be related — behindthename says Oliver is related to the word for “elf” (Germanic) or perhaps even Olaf (Norse) (though perhaps later influenced by “olive”); Olivia being more likely originating in the “olive” meaning (the DMNES makes a stronger case for Oliver’s possible origin in the “olive” meaning though). But of course I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to honor an Oliver with an Olivia or vice versa. So interesting!

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