Where did the baby name Uhura come from in the 1970s?

The character Lt. Uhura from the TV series "Star Trek" (1966-1969)
Lt. Uhura from “Star Trek

One of the original Star Trek (1966-1969) characters was Lt. Uhura, played by Nichelle Nichols.

Uhura, who never went by her first name, was “one of the first characters of African descent to be featured in a non-menial role on American television series.”

Star Trek was canceled after three seasons, but became popular in syndication. We see a handful of babies named Uhura in the U.S. baby name data in the ’70s:

  • 1979: not listed
  • 1978: 8 baby girls named Uhura
  • 1977: 6 baby girls named Uhura
  • 1976: 5 baby girls named Uhura
  • 1975: not listed
  • 1974: not listed
  • 1973: 5 baby girls named Uhura
  • 1972: not listed
  • 1971: 8 baby girls named Uhura [debut]
  • 1970: not listed

Lt. Uhura’s surname was based on the title of a book — Uhuru (1962) by Robert Ruark. Nichelle Nichols had the book with her the day she read for the part. Uhuru is the Swahili word for “freedom.”

The name Uhuru also appeared in the U.S. data during the ’70s:

  • 1974: not listed
  • 1973: 7 baby boys named Uhuru
  • 1972: 7 baby boys and 5 baby girls named Uhuru
  • 1971: 9 baby boys named Uhuru
  • 1970: 5 baby boys named Uhuru [debut]
  • 1969: not listed

Source: Uhura – Wikipedia

4 thoughts on “Where did the baby name Uhura come from in the 1970s?

  1. I wonder how many babies were named Nichelle during this period? I would not be surprised if it became somewhat common among African-Americans, especially since it sounds much more like other names (Michelle, Nicole) than Uhura does!

  2. Great question.

    The name Nichelle debuted on the SSA’s list in 1960.

    The name shot up in usage in 1967. I’m sure some of this increase was due to the show, but I’d bet most of it was due to Nichelle Nichols being featured on the cover of Ebony magazine in January of 1967.

    nichelle nichols, cover of ebony

    • 1972: 112 baby girls named Nichelle
    • 1971: 164 baby girls named Nichelle (838th)
    • 1970: 205 baby girls named Nichelle (727th)
    • 1969: 331 baby girls named Nichelle (540th)
    • 1968: 395 baby girls named Nichelle (486th)
    • 1967: 361 baby girls named Nichelle (rank: 500th)
    • 1966: 33 baby girls named Nichelle
    • 1965: 14 baby girls named Nichelle

    The name was never in the top 1,000 again, but usage was still strong — usually over 100 babies per year — up until the ’90s. In 2011, just 17 babies were named Nichelle.

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