Pop Culture Baby Name: Bonanza

Bonanza (TV western)
Bonanza (TV western)

The word bonanza is a Spanish loanword meaning “prosperity.”

In mining, a bonanza refers specifically to a rich vein of ore.

Sometimes, even more specifically, it refers to a lode of silver ore discovered in western Utah Territory in 1859 called the Comstock Lode.

This “Comstock Lode” definition is where the TV western Bonanza got its name, as the show was set in the time and same place (1860s Utah Territory).

The series featured the fictional Cartwright family, who lived on the fictional Ponderosa Ranch, which was located near the nonfictional Virginia City, located in what is now the state of Nevada.

The show went on the air in 1959. A year later, several U.S. baby boys were named Bonanza:

  • 1961: unlisted
  • 1960: 7 baby boys named Bonanza [debut]
  • 1959: unlisted

Though Bonanza was one of the longest-running westerns on television, the baby name Bonanza showed up on the SSA’s baby name list only once.

Update, 5/31/15: Usage of the baby name Tessa more than tripled from 1963 to 1964. Looks like the jump was caused by an episode of Bonanza called “Bullet for a Bride” (Feb. 1964) which featured a character named Tessa Caldwell.

Update, 3/17/2018: The name Petina debuted in 1965 thanks to a single-episode Bonanza character named Petina, an aerialist who appeared in “The Deadliest Game” (Feb. 1965).

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