|Photo Courtesy of Unposed Kids Photography|
Today's nature name Zaria was plucked from Waltzing More Than Matilda's debut book 'International Baby Names for Australian Parents', which is full of good ideas even if you're not in Australia.
Zaria has a few possible pronunciations, which include ZAHR-ee-ah (my favourite), ZAHR-yah; or zah-RY-uh. And just as she has multiple pronunciations, she also has multiple origins in Russian/Slavic, Arabic, Swahili and Hebrew.
In Russian Zaria (or Zarya) means 'dawn' or 'sunrise'. It may also have links to the Zorya, who in Slavic mythology are two (or three) guardian goddesses known as the Auroras. They represent the Morning Star and the Evening Star, the third one being the Midnight Star, who is sometimes omitted. They watch over the doomsday hound who would bring on the end of the world if his chain were to break.
This is not the only link Zaria has to Slavic mythology, either. Zaria (separate to the Zorya) is the goddess of beauty, who was known as "the heavenly bride" and associated with the morning. According to Wikipedia, people prayed to her at dawn and thought her to be "the brightest maiden, pure, sublime, honourable". She was also known as a water priestess who protected warriors and was invoked to protect against death in battle.
Another popular belief is that Zaria comes from the Arabic name Zahrah, meaning 'blooming flower'. Similarly, the Swahili name Zahra also means 'flower', giving this name a lovely floral connection that is far less literal than options like Flora or Fleur or the wide range of floral word names like Rose and Lily.
It's also possible that Zaria is a variant of Sarah, a Hebrew name meaning 'princess'; or perhaps Zara, meaning 'radiance'. Which brings us full circle back to the Russian association with sunrise.
Zaria fits in well with todays' namescape - a little less popular than Zara (who feels quite popular in Australia) but without the "dingoes took my baby" association we Australians have with the name Azaria. In the U.S she was positioned at #857 on the charts in 2012, putting her in company with names such as Lara, Sky, Alyvia and Elliot; all of which seem comparatively much more recognised and/or "trendy" at the moment. So she's popular enough to be liked by many, but not so commonly discussed that she feels like she's much more commonly used than she actually is. Anecdotally, much of it's American popularity seems to be amongst African Americans, as a nod to their African heritage via the Nigerian city of Zaria.
I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking that Zaria has a beautiful, lovely exotic sound and feel. I love the rich history and varied associations - it even has dual nature meanings! Zaria seems to me to be an understated name that nevertheless makes a statement, and a stylish one at that.