Where did the baby name Agassi come from in 1992?

Andre Agassi on the cover of "Sports Illustrated" (July, 1992).
Andre Agassi in 1992

The rare name Agassi has appeared just once in the U.S. baby name data:

  • 1994: unlisted
  • 1993: unlisted
  • 1992: 6 baby boys named Agassi [debut]
  • 1991: unlisted
  • 1990: unlisted

The source?

Flashy American tennis player Andre Agassi, who was hard to miss with his color-coordinated outfits and signature mullet. (Agassi is pronounced AG-uh-see; the first syllable rhymes with “flag.”)

His professional career lasted more than two decades, but 1992 was the year he finally won his first Grand Slam title. Specifically, it was a win at Wimbledon — an emotional one at that, following seven failed attempts and then a three-year boycott of the event (because Agassi disliked Wimbledon’s traditionalism and all-white dress code).

Agassi went on to win seven more Grand Slam titles (four of them in 1999, for a Career Grand Slam).

So where does the surname Agassi come from?

Agassi’s father, Emanoul Aghasi, was born and raised in Iran, but his family was Armenian. The family surname was originally Aghassian, but the distinctively Armenian suffix -ian had been dropped several generations earlier to avoid persecution. The root of the surname is the Turkish word agha, meaning “lord, master, gentleman.”

Upon immigrating to the U.S. in the early 1950s, Emanoul Aghasi changed his name to Mike Agassi. (He chose “Mike” because it “sounded American” and was easy to spell.) He spent a decade in Chicago, where he married and started a family, then relocated to Las Vegas in the early 1960s. In 1970, he welcomed his youngest child, a son:

My father named me Andre Kirk Agassi, after his bosses at the casino. I ask my mother why my father named me after his bosses. Were they friends? Did he admire them? Did he owe them money? She doesn’t know. And it’s not the kind of question you can ask my father directly. You can’t ask my father anything directly.

I’m not sure who “Andre” was, but “Kirk” was American businessman Kerkor “Kirk” Kerkorian, who was also of Armenian descent, coincidentally. (“Kerkor” is an Armenian version of Grigor, which is a form of Gregory.)

Getting back to the name Agassi, though…what do you think of “Agassi” as a first name? (Do you like it more or less than the name Andre?)

Sources:

Image: © 1992 Sports Illustrated

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