Spotting Zimbalist in the SSA’s baby name data was a lot like spotting Arbutus: I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it the first time I saw it.
The baby name Zimbalist has only ever appeared in the data twice:
- 1973: unlisted
- 1972: 5 baby boys named Zimbalist
- 1962…1971: unlisted
- 1961: 8 baby boys named Zimbalist [debut]
- 1960: unlisted
Where does it come from?
Actor Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., who starred in the popular TV shows 77 Sunset Strip (1958-1964) and The F.B.I. (1965-1974).
The movie By Love Possessed (1961), which featured Zimbalist along with actress Lana Turner, may be what caused that initial 1961 debut. (By Love Possessed, btw, was the first movie shown regularly aboard airplanes. The carrier was TWA, and they began screening movies in-flight for first-class passengers in mid-1961.)
His first name, Efrem, saw increased usage as soon as 77 Sunset Strip started airing:
- 1962: 55 baby boys named Efrem
- 1961: 83 baby boys named Efrem
- 1960: 56 baby boys named Efrem
- 1959: 85 baby boys named Efrem
- 1958: 8 baby boys named Efrem
- 1957: unlisted
Efrem is a Russian version of the Hebrew name Ephraim, which means “fruitful,” while Zimbalist is a Jewish surname that originally referred to someone who played a tsimbl, a musical instrument in the dulcimer family.
Which do you like better as a first name, Efrem or Zimbalist?
P.S. Kookie was another 77 Sunset Strip-inspired debut.