Mystery baby name: Wanza

Graph of the usage of the baby name Wanza in the U.S. since 1880
Usage of the baby name Wanza

Wanza was a top debut name of 1915. That year, at least 33 U.S. babies were named Wanza:

  • 1919: 8 baby girls named Wanza
  • 1918: 12 baby girls named Wanza
  • 1917: 7 baby girls named Wanza
  • 1916: 13 baby girls named Wanza
  • 1915: 33 baby girls named Wanza [debut]
  • 1914: unlisted

The name kept appearing in the U.S. baby name data until the 1960s, but it never hit as high as 33 again.

Where did it come from?

I have no idea.

The name Wanda was on the rise from the late 1800s through the 1930s, and Wanda’s increasing popularity gave other Wan-names (e.g., Waneta, Wanita) a boost. This probably helped Wanza a bit. But it doesn’t explain why dozens of babies were suddenly named Wanza in 1915.

I thought I’d found the answer in Mae Van Norman Long’s novel The Wonder Woman, which features a character named Wanza, but the book wasn’t published until 1917 — following the trend, not sparking it.

Any ideas on this one?

Source: SSA

7 thoughts on “Mystery baby name: Wanza

  1. I don’t know either but my grandmother is named Wanza and she was born in Kentucky in 1922.

  2. I’m not sure but a google search seems to indicate that Wanza was a place with a small part to play in troop movements during WWI. A lot of unusual names dating from 1914-18 are actually places significant to veterans. I’d imagine some of the Wanza’s either had fathers who were servicemen or perhaps uncles that died in the region.

    Does that sound feasible to you?

    PS first page google only yielded one result relevant to that theory so the search may go on for an answer.

  3. Interesting theory, Bec! Thank you.

    You’re right — a lot of WWI-inspired place-names popped up during those years. But, from what I’ve seen, those places were all important battle sites. Marne, for instance. Wanza is a rather obscure reference; my hunch is that it’s probably too obscure to have caused the spike.

  4. Wanza is a tree native to the African continent (particularly Ethiopia).. maybe there is a connection there? some book or play that mentioned wanza?

  5. My name is Wanza. My grandmother wrote to my parents with this name. She knew a little girl with that name. I recently visit Japan and found a shopping mall named Wanza. Naturally, I had to visit it. It is near Tokyo.

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