Ariel was originally a Hebrew boys' name meaning "lion of God." Shakespeare used it for his spirit character in the play The Tempest. This might have inspired Disney to name his mermaid protagonist in the 1989 film The Little Mermaid after it. While it was used for girls quietly through out the late 1800s into the 20th century, it picked up steam in the late 1970s, exploding in popularity after The Little Mermaid was released. It hit its peak in the late 1990s, but still remains popular. It is found in a number of spellings, including Arielle, Arial (like the typeface) and, puzzlingly, Aerial.
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