What gave the baby name Etosha a boost in the 1980s?

Image from the documentary movie "The Lions of Etosha" (1984).
From “The Lions of Etosha

The curious baby name Etosha first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in 1974. It returned to the data in 1981, and saw peak usage in 1984. (A variant form, Etoshia, was a one-hit wonder in 1984.)

While I don’t know what gave the name that initial nudge in the ’70s, I do have a theory about what influenced “Etosha” in the ’80s.

  • 1986: 6 baby girls named Etosha
  • 1985: 13 baby girls named Etosha
  • 1984: 22 baby girls named Etosha [peak]
  • 1983: 10 baby girls named Etosha
  • 1982: unlisted
  • 1981: 12 baby girls named Etosha [return]
  • 1980: unlisted
  • 1979: unlisted

I think the 1981 return and the 1984 peak are attributable to two different things…that happen to be extremely similar. How similar? Well, both are Emmy-nominated wildlife documentaries that were filmed at Etosha National Park in Namibia. (Namibia is in southern Africa, on the Atlantic side.)

  • The first documentary, Etosha: Place of Dry Water (1980, PBS), was a National Geographic Special narrated by Alexander Scourby. It was nominated for an Emmy in 1981.
  • The second documentary, The Lions of Etosha: King of the Beasts (1984, CBS), was narrated by none other than James Earl Jones (who, a decade later, became a lion when he voiced the character of Mufasa in The Lion King). This one was reviewed in several major publications (e.g., New York Times, Washington Post) and was nominated for an Emmy in 1984.

Etosha National Park contains (and takes its name from) the vast Etosha pan, which is so large that it’s visible from space. The word Etosha (pronounced ee-TAH-sha) means “great white place” in the language of the Ovambo people.

What are your thoughts on the baby name Etosha?


2 thoughts on “What gave the baby name Etosha a boost in the 1980s?

  1. 1974 was the year that the TV show “Born Free” was on. It was based on the movie of the same name. I wonder if Etosha was featured in one of the episodes or in related media coverage? The only name I recall from either is Elsa.

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