Lyra has an astrological and mythological history. It means lyre, an instrument well known for its links to classical antiquity.
The instrument, and the name, have strong connections with Orpheus, an ancient Greek character legendary for his music. Orpheus was said to entrance and charm all that could listen to him play his lyre, a small harp, whether human, fauna, or Gods. In one of the myths involving Orpheus, it is said that his music touched Hades, the God of the Underworld, so much that Orpheus was allowed to have his dead wife back. It therefore comes as no surprise that Lyra is a variant of the Greek name Lyris, meaning lyrical.
Orpheus' own death is much debated, but there is some consensus that his lyre was carried to heaven by an eagle and placed amongst the stars. Here is where Lyra's astrological past comes into play.
Lyra is the name of a small constellation listed by Ptolemy. Its main star is Vega, one of the brightest stars in the sky. The constellation was given its name because it was said that it was shaped like Orpheus' lyre. The constellation was for a long time depicted as an eagle holding a lyre.
The name is perfect for the parent interested in mythology or astronomy. In many ways, Lyra has a timeless quality, mainly because of its history. Furthermore, the name can stand against the popular Bellas and Ellas of today and not look out of place. It is also a great alternative for those who love the name Tyra but dislike the association with supermodel Tyra Banks.
So far, I have heard of only one celebrity couple (Sophie Dahl and Jamie Cullum) bestowing this name on their little one. The name has not entered the top 1000 in the US, but I have a feeling that it could explode in popularity any time soon. Parents preferring to stay away from the more common Lily, Layla, or Lila could very well see Lyra as the perfect choice. But if you still find Lyra to be too 'normal', why not try Lyria? Either way, you have yourself a fantastic name.