The Baby Name Keena

keena, brave eagle, 1956

The name Keena has had a dueling dual-gender history.

Keena (and Kina) started surfacing in the girls’ data in the early 1950s, perhaps influenced by the usage of Tina, which was creeping upward at that time. (Tina wouldn’t become massively trendy until the late ’50s and early ’60s.)

Then came the single-season TV series Brave Eagle (1955-1956), which was TV’s first attempt at a western told from a Native American point of view. A main character on the show was Brave Eagle’s adopted son Keena, played by Hopi/Karuk child actor Anthony “Tony” Numkena (stage name Keena Numkena). This character boosted the name Keena into the boys’ data for the first time:

  • 1958: 41 girls and 11 boys named Keena
  • 1957: 34 girls and 5 boys named Keena
  • 1956: 21 girls and 11 boys named Keena
  • 1955: 7 girls named Keena
  • 1954: 6 girls named Keena

A decade and a half later, female Olympic swimmer Keena Rothhammer (born in 1957) won both a gold and a bronze medal at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. She also twice set a new world record in the women’s 800-meter freestyle (on successive days).

The same year, usage of the name spiked for girls:

  • 1974: 64 baby girls named Keena
  • 1973: 99 baby girls named Keena
  • 1972: 152 baby girls named Keena [peak usage for girls]
  • 1971: 29 baby girls named Keena
  • 1970: 34 baby girls named Keena

Here’s what Keena told Sports Illustrated about her name: “My mother says it’s Hawaiian. She says she heard it on the radio.”

Then, more than a decade after that, male linebacker Keena Turner (born in 1958), who played for the San Francisco 49ers from 1980 to 1990, had some particularly good seasons in the mid-1980s

And in 1985, usage of the name spiked for boys (as well as girls):

  • 1987: 47 girls and 9 boys named Keena
  • 1986: 57 girls and 15 boys named Keena
  • 1985: 105 girls and 46 boys named Keena [peak usage for boys]
  • 1984: 66 girls and 12 boys named Keena
  • 1983: 53 girls named Keena

Now it’s your turn: Do you like the name Keena? Do you prefer it as a boy name or as a girl name? Why?

Source: “Mark of Excellence.” Sports Illustrated. 14 Aug. 1972: 16-21.

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