Clarissa

Gender: Feminine
Origin: Latin
Meaning: “clear; bright; brilliant.”
Eng (kluh-RIS-sah); Germ (klah-HRIS-sah)

The name is possibly a modern English form of Clarice, which is an Anglo-French form of the Latin Claritia, a derivative of Clara.

Clarice was introduced into the English-speaking world through the Normans and was a fairly popular female name in Medieval England. It fell out of usage during the Reformation, and was revived in the 18th-century in the form of Clarissa. This may have been due to the eponymous novel by Samuel Richardson (1748), a tragic novel which recounts the unfortunate circumstances of a nouveau-riche girl by the name of Clarissa Harlowe.

It was borne by Clara Barton, née Clarissa Harlowe Barton, (1821-1912), foundress of the American Red Cross.

It is also borne by Clarissa Eden, Countess of Avon (b.1920) and American poet, Clarissa Pinkola Estés (b.1945).

In the early 90s, the name was brought to the spotlight via the Nickelodean sit-com, Clarissa Explains It All.

In Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway (1925), it is the first name of the heroine.

Currently, Clarissa is the 396th most popular female name in Germany, (2011).

Other forms of the name include:

  • Clarice (English/French/Italian)
  • Clarissa (English/German/Italian/Portuguese)
  • Clarisse (French)
  • Clarisa (Spanish)
  • Klarysa (Polish)
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Chiara, Clara, Clare, Claire

Gender: Feminine
Origin: Latin
Meaning: “clear; see through”

    Chiara (kee-AH-rah), (KYAH-rah), has been in usage in Italy since the early Middle Ages. Chiara is also the Italian feminine adjective for the word, chiaro meaning, “clear” or “bright.”

    It was borne by Saint Chiara d’Assisi. (1194-1253). She was a companion of St. Francis of Assisi, both of whom believed in self-mortification and helping the poor. Chiara decided to start an order, known as the Poor Clares, while Francis went off to start his own order known as the Franciscans.

    Chiara is still a very popular first name in Italy. In 2006, she was the 5th most popular female name.

    The French form of Claire, also came into usage during the early Middle Ages. No doubt due to the cult of the male St. Clair of Dauphine, the patron saint of tailors.

    The name came to England via the Normans in the form of Clare, and the male Latin form of Clarus was borne by a British saint of Rochester, a Benedictine monk. Both forms of Clare and Clara were very popular prior to the Reformation in England and both names were revived during the 19th century.

    In recent years, for whatever reason, the French spelling of Claire has often times been the preferred choice among American parents. In 2008, Claire came in at # 62 in the U.S  Top 1,00o Female Names, while its elder English counterpart of Clare came in at # 679. In fact, even the Latinate version of Clara is far more prevalent than Clare, coming in at # 206.

    Clara/Klara is a popular choice throughout Northern and Central Europe.

    Other forms of the name include:

    • Clarice (English/French/Italian)
    • Clarissa (English)
    • Klára (Hungarian/Czech)
    • Claritia (Latin)
    • Claritta (Romansch)
    • Bistra/Jasna (Serbo-Croatian/Slovene: both literally mean “light; clear” and are used as indigenous cognates)
    • Clarisa (Spanish)
    • Clarita (Spanish: initially a diminutive form, commonly used as an independent given name)

    Diminutive forms are the French, Clairette, the Italian, Chiaretta, Chiarina and Claretta.

    There is the masculine Latin form of Clarus and the French masculine form of Clair.