Where did the baby name Tiare come from?

Tahitian gardenia

Somerset Maugham’s novel The Moon and Sixpence (1919), which I finished reading over the weekend, introduced me to an interesting new name — Tiaré.

While in Tahiti, the narrator of the book meets a half-Tahitian, half-English woman named Tiaré Johnson. She was named for “the white, scented flower which, they tell you, if you have once smelt, will always draw you back to Tahiti in the end, however far you may have roamed” — in other words, the tiare (pronounced tee-ah-ray), or Tahitian gardenia (Gardenia taitensis).

Though tiare actually means “flower” in Tahitian, it seems to refer specifically to the Tahitian gardenia most of the time.

I’m not sure if Tiare is used as a personal name in Tahiti, but it sees regular usage in the U.S. — particularly in the states of Hawaii and California:

  • 2010: 15 baby girls named Tiare – 6 born in HI
  • 2009: 17 baby girls named Tiare – 6 born in HI, 5 in CA
  • 2008: 20 baby girls named Tiare – 10 born in HI
  • 2007: 30 baby girls named Tiare – 15 born in HI
  • 2006: 29 baby girls named Tiare – 10 born in HI, 9 in CA
  • 2005: 56 baby girls named Tiare – 18 born in HI, 16 in CA
  • 2004: 34 baby girls named Tiare – 9 born in HI, 8 in CA, 5 in TX
  • 2003: 31 baby girls named Tiare – 13 born in HI
  • 2002: 24 baby girls named Tiare – 8 born in HI, 5 in CA
  • 2001: 32 baby girls named Tiare – 14 born in HI, 7 in CA

The name first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in 1960. This could have been due to a character named Tiare on the TV show Adventures in Paradise that year, or to the song “Tiare” on The Surfers‘ album Tahiti (1960).

So far, the best national showing was 60 baby girls in 1992.

Source: SSA
Image: Adapted from Flower by Forest & Kim Starr under CC BY 3.0.

One thought on “Where did the baby name Tiare come from?

  1. In 1980 when my daughter was born I was looking for a very special middle name for her. My good friend was named Lei Lani and after visiting Hawaii and being a huge lover of flowers and their essence, I came across the name Tiare’ from her suggestion and after finding it’s meaning I was hooked to this beautiful name for my beautiful baby girl……

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