20th-century coinage, from the Italian term of endearment cara ‘beloved’ or the Irish Gaelic vocabulary word cara ‘friend’. This is not normally used as a given name in Italy, where such innovations are held in check by the hostility of the Roman Catholic Church to baptismal names that have not been borne by saints.
English (chiefly Norfolk): habitational name from any of several places called Dunham, of which one is in Norfolk. Most are named from Old English dūn ‘hill’ + hām ‘homestead’. A place in Lincolnshire now known as Dunholme appears in Domesday Book as Duneham and this too may be a source of the surname; here the first element is probably the Old English personal name Dunna.