|Photo Courtesy of JME Portraits
Isn’t this a pretty one? I was talking to someone today who mentioned a lady she knows with this name, and it struck me that I had heard it before and forgotten about it. But one mention and I remembered how lovely I thought it was back then too. To me it has a softly exotic, peacefully lilting feel that makes me think of vanilla, cinnamon and cloves.
If it seems familiar to you, you’ve probably heard of it in one of two ways. One, you’re Indian or familiar enough with Indian culture to immediately think of the famous Hindu poet/princess who devoted her life to the worship of Krishna. Or if you’re Australian you may be thinking of Mirabai Peart, a violinist who appeared as a contestant on the second season of ‘Big Brother Australia’ back in 2002.
Of course they aren’t the only Mirabai's, but it seems this name is relatively uncommon. It has only charted once in the U.S back in 2006 when it was given to just 5 girls. You’re much more likely to meet a Mira (ranked 613 in the U.S in 2014) or a Meera (ranked 1353). Even in India where Mirabai originated from Meera is much more popular, with Baby Center stating it was the 32nd most popular Indian girls name amongst parents registered with their site in 2014.
Which brings us back to the aforementioned poet. She lived from 1498 to 1547 and was more commonly known as Meera, with MiraBai (pronounced Meer-ah-bye) seemingly her formal name. Bai indicates a feminine name, but there is a little more confusion as to the meaning of Meera or Mira as it seems to have origins in many cultures. Some sources claim that in its’ Sanskrit/Hindu (Indian) origin it means ‘ocean’ or perhaps ‘limit’ or ‘boundary’, or even ‘prosperous’. An alternative explanation I’ve seen is that Meera means “saintly woman”, but I can’t help but feel that this is more of an association with the poet, rather than an actual meaning. Which in a case like this probably makes more sense anyway. The original Mirabai is considered to be a saintly heroine, a great inspiration, and this in itself imbues the name with meaning for those who love her story.
Parents already considering the similar names Mirabel or Mirabella might consider Mirabai as a way to escape the “belle/bella” suffix and nickname option that has proven to be so popular in recent years. On the downside, it might take a little work to get people unfamiliar with the name to say it correctly (is it Meera-Bay? Myra-Bye?). But I think that once most people hear it they will be intrigued and enchanted. And your daughter would be extremely unlikely to ever meet another one.