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

Screenshot of the CBS promo for the TV movie "Nairobi Affair" (1984).
CBS promo for “Nairobi Affair”

Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, takes its name from the Maasai phrase Enkare Nairobi, which means “cold water.” It refers to the river that flows through the city.

In the 1970s, the city name began popping up as a boy name in the U.S. baby name data. This isn’t surprising, given African-Americans’ growing interest in baby names associated with Africa during that decade (e.g., 1971, 1973, 1977).

In 1984, though, Nairobi saw a small spike in usage — as a girl name. The spelling variant Nairoby also emerged.

Nairobi usageNairoby usage
19865 baby girls5 baby girls
19857 baby girls6 baby girls
198413 baby girls11 baby girls [debut]
19835 baby girlsunlisted


Because of a television movie called Nairobi Affair. It was filmed in Kenya and aired on CBS in October 1984. (Coincidentally, another African place name, Etosha, was also given a boost by a show that aired on CBS in 1984.)

Advertisement for the TV movie "Nairobi Affair" (1984).
1984 “Nairobi Affair” ad

The film starred Charlton Heston, who played “the owner of a Kenyan safari camp who [was] having an affair with his estranged son’s former wife.” The former wife was played by former Bond girl Maud Adams.

What are your thoughts on Nairobi as a baby name?


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