When they hear the name Myra, most Brits would think of one the Moors murderess, Myra Hindley, and that god-awful association certainly puts them off of naming their baby Myra, even if they like the look and/or sound of the name.
Now, it seems that the name is rising again but before we try to fill in as to why it rose, let’s take a look as to how Myra came into being:
It was created by Elizabethan poet, dramatist and statesman Fulke Greville (the man on the left). According to Behind the Name, he possibly based it on myrra, a Latin word meaning “myrrh” or he may have just simply rearranged the letters from Mary.
Myra, in the real world, was first used in the middle of the 17th century. A baptism was held for a Myra Palmer in 1660 in Yarmouth, Norfolk (in England)*. Although extremely rare at first, the name began to slowly but gradually pick up steam from the latter part of the 18th century in England & Wales.
* a word of caution – the record that I have found on Ancestry is only indexed and an image is not provided, thus it is impossible to tell if Myra was written as a variant spelling of another name or not
This is how Myra was ranked in 1860, ’70, ’80, ’90 and 1900 in E&W according to Eleanor Nickerson’s collection of top 200 names for those particular years.
The rankings don’t paint the whole picture however. Since Elea didn’t provide the actual numbers in her data for everyone to see, I took upon myself to find out how many Myra were born in these particular years.
Despite the blip in 1890, overall the number of Myras being born rose through the period from 1860 to 1900. Throughout most of the 1920s and 30s, it was given to 300 baby girls or more per year with a peak in 1926.
By the 1940s, Myra started to fall down in popularity in E&W and by 1965 (the year before Myra Hindley and Ian Brady were put on trial), it already became an uncommon name when it was given to only 42 girls.
If the chart above wasn’t created, you would expect Myra to become suddenly unusable after 1966. However, this wasn’t the case. From 1966 to 1968, Myra was given to 39, 43 and 40 girls respectively before dropping to a birth count of 25 in 1969. From then on, it gradually fell down in popularity to a low of 2 in 1986 and 1994.
Since the start of the 21st century, it rose very slightly from 6 in 2000 to 26, 30 and 29 in 2011, 2012 and 2013 respectively. In 2014, it jumped to 48, which could result in Myra coming back in popularity. However, it doesn’t point out to people forgetting about what Hindley and Brady did.
Looking at the birth index statistics from 2000-2005, surnames like Ali, Farooq and Hussain pop up citing that it was used among the Pakistani and Bangladeshi British as a variant of Mira which (correct me if I’m wrong on this one) could have been based on the title Mir.
If you want to share your thoughts on Myra or the post itself or if you feel the urge to correct a bit of my post, then please do so in the comments below.
Meaning of Myra – Behind the Name
Top 200 in England and Wales in 186/7/8/90 and 1900 – British Baby Names
England & Wales FreeBMD Birth Index (1837-1915) and E&W Birth Index (1916-2005) – Ancestry
E&W name statistics from 1996 onwards – Office for National Statistics