The Arrival of Ayatollah

Ayatollah, TIME magazine
© 1979 Time
The Arabic word Ayatollah (ayatu-llah), which is a title for a Shiite religious leader in Iran, literally means “sign of god.”

Americans started hearing this word more often in the late ’70s, when Iran’s Ruhollah Khomeini, typically called “Ayatollah Khomeini” by the U.S. press, led the Iranian Revolution that overthrew the last Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (whose wives included Farah and Soraya).

From that point onward, Khomeini became the leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The year the revolution ended and Ayatollah Khomeini took control of the country, we see the baby name Ayatollah appear in the U.S. baby name data for the first and only time:

  • 1981: unlisted
  • 1980: unlisted
  • 1979: 6 baby boys named Ayatollah
  • 1978: unlisted
  • 1977: unlisted

What are your thoughts on “Ayatollah” as a baby name?

Sources: Ayatollah – Online Etymology Dictionary, Ruhollah Khomeini – Wikipedia


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