How did Nadia Comaneci influence U.S. baby names in 1976?

Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci
Nadia Comaneci

At the 1976 Summer Olympics, 14-year-old Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci became the first to score a “perfect 10” in a modern Olympic gymnastics event. (She was on the uneven bars at the time.) She ended up earning six more 10s — and winning three gold medals — in Montreal that July.

The same year, Comaneci popped up in the U.S. baby name data for the first and only time:

  • 1978: unlisted
  • 1977: unlisted
  • 1976: 9 baby girls named Comaneci [debut]
  • 1975: unlisted
  • 1974: unlisted

Comaneci (pronounced koh-mah-NETCH) is one of several Romanian surnames that refer to the Cumans, a Turkic people who migrated to the Carpathian region in the early 13th century.

The name Nadia also got quite a boost in 1976. It jumped not only into the girls’ top 1,000, but straight into the top 500:

  • 1978: 610 baby girls named Nadia [rank: 353rd]
  • 1977: 790 baby girls named Nadia [rank: 303rd]
  • 1976: 585 baby girls named Nadia [rank: 360th]
  • 1975: 86 baby girls named Nadia
  • 1974: 88 baby girls named Nadia

Nadia Comaneci’s first name was inspired by a Russian film character called Nadezhda. Nadia (also spelled Nadya) is a diminutive of Nadezhda, which means “hope” in Russian.

Comaneci now lives in the U.S. and is married to fellow Olympic gymnast Bart Conner. They have a son, Dylan Paul, who is named for Bart’s favorite musician, Bob Dylan, and Bart’s former University of Oklahoma coach, Paul Ziert.

P.S. Soviet gymnast Nelli Kim, who also earned a pair of perfect scores at the 1976 Summer Olympics, is likely behind he debut of Nelli in the U.S. baby name data in 1977.


Image: © 1976 Time

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