Where did the baby name Nyoka come from in 1941?

The character Nyoka from "Perils of Nyoka" (1942)
Nyoka from “Perils of Nyoka” (1942)

The curious name Nyoka (pronounced nye-OH-kah) first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in 1941. Usage of the name peaked two years later:

  • 1946: 20 baby girls named Nyoka
  • 1945: 26 baby girls named Nyoka
  • 1944: 28 baby girls named Nyoka
  • 1943: 60 baby girls named Nyoka [peak: ranked 1,034th]
  • 1942: 45 baby girls named Nyoka
  • 1941: 5 baby girls named Nyoka [debut]
  • 1940: unlisted
  • 1939: unlisted

Where did this one come from? A character named Nyoka who appeared in two 15-part movie serials in the early ’40s. In the first serial, Jungle Girl (1941), Nyoka was played by Frances Gifford. In the second serial, Perils of Nyoka (1942), she was played by Kay Aldridge.

The serials were based (very loosely) upon an Edgar Rice Burroughs novel from a decade earlier called Jungle Girl. In the book, the titular jungle girl was named Fou-tan, not Nyoka.

The character also inspired a comic book series called Nyoka the Jungle Girl. Issue #1 came out in 1942.

What are your thoughts on the name Nyoka?

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