The lineage of Laura: A lyrical name’s journey through time
Laura, a name that’s both classic and lyrical, carries with it a sense of elegance and poise. This name first garnered attention through the poetic musings many centuries ago, and has since woven its way through history, adorned by queens and saints alike.
You might have noticed its gentle but strong presence in various forms, hinting at its enduring popularity. As you read on, you’ll uncover its beautiful history, the nuances of its pronunciation, and its ebb and flow through the tides of fashion.
The history and origin of the name Laura
The name Laura derives from the Latin “laurus,” which means “laurel.” (The bay laurel plant, scientifically known as Laurus nobilis, is commonly referred to as laurel.)
It is an aromatic evergreen tree or large shrub with green, glossy leaves, native to the Mediterranean region. The leaves are often used as a seasoning in cooking, and historically, its branches were woven into wreaths to crown victors and poets, which is the connection to the name Laura.
The laurel tree was a symbol of victory and honor in ancient Rome, as victors of both athletic and poetic contests were crowned with wreaths of laurel leaves. This association with honor and victory likely contributed to the name’s appeal over the centuries.
The transformation from “laurel” to “Laura” is not documented with a specific timeline, as the evolution of names often occurs gradually over centuries and through the influence of different languages and cultures. However, it is known that the use of “Laura” as a given name was popularized by the 14th-century Italian poet Petrarch, who wrote extensively about his love for a woman named Laura.
Petrarch’s sonnets, written in the 1300s, were addressed to this Laura, and are considered one of the greatest love poems in literature, which immortalized the name and ensured its continued use through the Renaissance and beyond.
Over time, as Latin evolved into the various Romance languages, the name Laura became common in countries like Italy, France, and Spain, as well as in England and other parts of Europe. Each culture adapted the name to fit their own language and pronunciation preferences, giving rise to the variations we see today.
The exact point at which “Laura” became the preferred given name over “Laurel” is uncertain, but by the Middle Ages, Laura was well-established in various forms across Europe.
Pronunciation and basic details
Laura is pronounced as ‘LORE-uh’ or ‘LAU-ra’, with emphasis on the first syllable. It’s a two-syllable name, akin to the word ‘aura’, which might help in getting its melodious sound just right. Although generally well-pronounced, some might mistakenly stretch it to ‘Lar-ah’.
Popularity trends for the baby name Laura
In the United States, the popularity of the name Laura has seen significant variation over the past century. Peaking at rank 10 in 1969, Laura remained within the top 20 names for girls through much of the 1970s. It held a strong position in the top 100 until the early 2000s, when it began a gradual descent.
In recent years, Laura has seen a decline, dropping from rank 315 in 2013 to 363 in 2022, indicating a steady but modest presence in the naming landscape.
Pop culture: Famous faces & characters named Laura
- Laura Ingalls Wilder: An American writer known for the “Little House on the Prairie” series, which was based on her childhood in a settler and pioneer family.
- Laura Bush: The former First Lady of the United States, married to George W. Bush, the 43rd President.
- Laura Dern: An award-winning American actress who has starred in many films and television series, known for her roles in “Jurassic Park” and “Big Little Lies.”
- Laura Linney: An esteemed American actress known for her roles in movies such as “The Truman Show” and the Netflix series “Ozark.”
- Laura Prepon: An American actress and author recognized for her roles in “That ’70s Show” and “Orange Is the New Black.”
- Laura Palmer: The character (played by Sheryl Lee) who was the central mystery in the cult classic TV series, “Twin Peaks.”
- “The Mysteries of Laura” was a TV show that aired from 2014 to 2016, and starred Debra Messing as the titular character, Laura Diamond. She was a skilled NYPD homicide detective balancing her demanding job with a chaotic family life.
Nicknames, variations, and adaptions
A fairly common alternative spelling is Lora. These two names, while beautiful in their simplicity, offer a canvas for creativity with nicknames like Laurie, Lauri, Lori, Lory, Lolly and Laure.
Foreign versions and adaptations in other languages
The name variations of Laura, such as Lara, Laurita, and Laure, have connections to various countries and languages:
- Lara: This variation is common in English-speaking countries and is also popular in Russia, Italy, and Spanish-speaking countries.
- Laurita: This is a diminutive form of Laura, often used in Spanish as a term of endearment.
- Laure: This is the French version of Laura, pronounced slightly differently, with a more delicate sound at the end.
While Laura is predominantly feminine, Laurent or Lawrence can be considered masculine forms.
Beyond merely having the same language origin, the given names Laurel and Laura are derived from the Latin word “laurus,” which describes the laurel tree.
Is Laura a good baby name for your family?
When considering Laura for your child, think about the classic feel it brings, along with its ease of pronunciation. It’s a name that’s easily coupled with many middle and last names, and could to grow alongside your child, from the playful days of youth to the dignified grace of adulthood. For a sibling, names like Emma or David might complement Laura beautifully.