Meaning: "Date palm"
Pronunciation: ta-MARR-ah, TAM-ah-ruh
Other forms: Tamar, Tammara, Tamera, Thamar, Tamari
This beautiful Russian name has almost worldwide appeal, being used in Poland, Croatia, Hungary, Italian, and Spain, just to name a few, and a rich history that lends it an almost classic appeal. Tamara comes from Biblical Tamar, a Hebrew name meaning "date palm".
The fruit of the date palm, also know as the Phoenix dactylifera, have been a staple food in the diets of the Middle East and Indus Valley for thousands of years. In Ancient Rome they used the palm fronds from this plant to symbolize victory in triumphal processions, and renderings of these plants can even be seen in frescoes from Pompeii. And for a fun little factoid dates are referenced fifty times in the Bible; twenty times in Qur'an.
The story in the Bible is as dramatic as any soap opera, but I'll try to sum it up fairly quickly - Tamar marries Judah's eldest son Er, but because he is wicked he is killed by God. Tamar then marries his second son, Onan, but he too is wicked and killed. Judah feels that Tamar might be cursed and is thus hesitant to give up his last son, Shelah, to her. So he asks her to wait until Shelah grows older, which she does readily and inn the meantime Judah's wife dies. Judah decides to travel to Timnah to shear his sheep and Tamar, disappointed in Judah for still not giving her Shelah, disguises herself as a prostitute in the hopes to conceive a child of the line of Judah.
Judah falls for it.
He pays for her with a goat, secured by his staff, seal, and cord. Three months later she is accused of prostitution for she is now visibly pregnant. Judah sentences her to be burned to death, but Tamar is clever, and shows him the staff and the seal and the cord of the man who was the father of the child, and he recognizes it as his own. It has a happy ending with Tamar giving birth to twin boys, Perez and Zerah, with Perez being identified as a ancestor of King David's, and in Ethiopic tradition, King of Persia.
There have been several famous Tamara's - prima ballerina and actress Tamara Toumanova, Israeli Olympian Tamara Metal, Soviet fighter-pilot Tamara Pamyatnykh, and artist Tamara de Lempicka to just name a few.
Pictured above is another prima ballerina, Tamara Karsavina, who was not only considered one of the greatest dancers of her time (her prime rival being Anna Pavlova), but also a great beauty. She also played the title role in "Thamar", a form of her own name, which is used in the Greek and Latin forms of the Bible. Another ballerina from her company, Lydia Sokolova, described her thus: “Tamara Karsavina was one of the rare dancers who gripped your attention whether you were watching her from the stage, from the wings or from the front of the house. I could not bear to miss any movement she made, and was sometimes so reluctant to stop watching her from the wings when I should have been changing my costume, that I was nearly late for my entrance.”