Where did the baby name Damita come from in 1950?

Singer Damita Jo on the cover of "Jet" magazine (Jul. 24, 1952)
Damita Jo on the cover of “Jet

The name Damita first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in 1950. It saw peak usage in the early 1960s:

  • 1963: 74 baby girls named Damita
  • 1962: 102 baby girls named Damita
  • 1961: 117 baby girls named Damita [peak*]
  • 1960: 49 baby girls named Damita
  • 1959: 20 baby girls named Damita
  • […]
  • 1953: 33 baby girls named Damita
  • 1952: 7 baby girls named Damita
  • 1951: 18 baby girls named Damita
  • 1950: 5 baby girls named Damita [debut]
  • 1949: unlisted
  • 1948: unlisted

Also in the early ’60s, the variant names Demita and Domita debuted.

What was the influence?

R&B singer Damita Jo DeBlanc, who was born in Texas in 1930 and known simply as “Damita Jo” for most of her decades-long career.

Her first solo singles (including “Until the Real Thing Comes Along,” “Believe Me,” and “How Long Can I Live”) were released in 1950 and 1951.

In 1952, she appeared on — and won — an episode of the TV talent show Chance of a Lifetime.

She spent much of the ’50s performing and recording with the R&B group Steve Gibson & the Red Caps.

Her most successful solo singles — both of them “answer songs” — were released in the early 1960s:

  • “I’ll Save the Last Dance for You” (1960), a response to “Save The Last Dance For Me” (1960) by The Drifters, peaked at #22 on Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart.
  • “I’ll Be There” (1961), a response to “Stand By Be” (1961) by Ben E. King, peaked at #12 on the Hot 100.

In 1960, Jet magazine defined Damita Jo DeBlanc’s name as meaning “little lady of white” in “French and Spanish.”

My wild guess is that she was named after French-born movie star Lili Damita, whose Hollywood career began in the late ’20s. The Spanish word damita does indeed mean “little lady,” but Lili Damita’s claim that it was a nickname given to her by King Alfonso XIII of Spain is harder to prove.

Janet Jackson's album "Damita Jo" (2004)
Janet Jackson album

Speaking of namesakes…several of Damita Jo’s namesakes became famous in their own right. There’s Damita Jo Freeman (b. 1953), the memorable Soul Train dancer. There’s Damita Jo Nicholson (b. 1953), “Miss Miami Beach 1972.” And, most notable of all, there’s singer/actress Janet Damita Jo Jackson (b. 1966) – yes, Michael’s sister. Janet even put out an album called “Damita Jo” in 2004 — the year of her infamous wardrobe malfunction.

How do you feel about the name Damita?

*The name Damita would have entered the top 1,000 in 1961 if the six-way tie between Barrie, Callie, Damita, Freida, Staci, and Tonda — ranked 1,000th through 1,005th — hadn’t included a B-name and a C-name. As it happens, only Barrie made the cut and Damita technically ended up in 1,002nd place.


Top image: Clipping from the cover of Jet magazine (24 Jul. 1952).

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