African Nations as Baby Names

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Flag of Biafra

During the ’60s and ’70s, a slew of Africa-inspired baby names debuted in the U.S. baby name data. These included traditional African names (e.g., Abayomi, Ayanna), names taken from African and African-American public figures (e.g., Lumumba, Levar), and — the focus of today’s post — African place names, particularly country names.

Here are all the African country/region/kingdom names I’ve spotted in the SSA data so far. (I didn’t omit Chad, even though it coincides with the English name Chad.)

NameDebut yearPeak usage
Chad191413,400 baby boys in 1972
Tunisia1943 (due to WWII)39 baby girls in 1974
Rwanda19515 baby girls in both 1951 & 1973
Kenya1952894 baby girls in 1973
Sahara1964248 baby girls in both 2006 & 2007
Rhodesia196612 baby girls in 1977
Mali196765 baby girls in 2008
Tanzania196838 baby girls in 1992
Africa196976 baby girls in 1972
Biafra1969 (due to Biafra being in the news; the Biafran War lasted from 1967 to 1970)5 baby girls in 1969; one-hit wonder
Ghana19697 baby girls in 1969
Tanganyika196916 baby girls in 1972
Nubia196983 baby girls in 1969
Ashanti19702,945 baby girls in 2002 (due to the singer)
Uganda197312 baby girls in 1973
Algeria19746 baby girls in both 1993 & 1995
Libya19748 baby girls in 2011
Zaire1974316 baby boys in 2017
Egypt1975266 baby girls in 2017
Nigeria197558 baby girls in 2000
Niger19769 baby girls in both 1976 & 1977
Somalia197743 baby girls in 1993
Zimbabwe1981 (maybe inspired by the Bob Marley song “Zimbabwe“?)5 baby boys in 1981; one-hit wonder
Sudan19825 baby boys in both 1982 & 1995
Eritrea1991 (due to Eritrea being in the news; the Eritrean War of Independence ended in 1991)5 baby girls in 1991; one-hit wonder
Asmara1993 (due to Asmara being in the news; it became the capital of independent Eritrea in 1993)13 baby girls in 2013
Morocco200519 baby boys in 2017

Only five of the above did not either debut or see peak usage during the 1960s/1970s.

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