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I never picked up on this before, but as a Magic: the Gathering player, I saw that Inara's last name was Serra, and it immediately reminded me of Serra Angel, a card that's been printed almost every core set Magic has ever made. Considering that Inara is of Arabic origin and means "heaven sent" it makes even more compelling.

Is there any where this might have been documented or discussed?

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Serra is a surname. I don't have any references, but I'm fairly certain it was just a name that Joss Whedon picked.

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She might just as well have been named for Father Junípero Serra, a founder of missions well known to most people living in California. But perhaps there is an angelic connection after all: The Encyclopedia of Buffy Studies has an article that claims (without any references, unfortunately) that "Serra" is short for "seraphim".

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