Where did the baby name Ukari come from?

College basketball player Ukari Figgs during the 1999 NCAA championship game (March, 1999).
Ukari Figgs at the NCAA Championship Game

In 1999, the unique name Ukari debuted in the U.S. baby name data:

  • 2001: unlisted
  • 2000: unlisted
  • 1999: 16 baby girls named Ukari [debut]
  • 1998: unlisted
  • 1997: unlisted

And it never returned, making it a one-hit wonder. In fact, it was the top one-hit wonder name of 1999.

The inspiration?

College basketball player Ukari (pronounced yoo-KAH-ree) Figgs.

She was a key part of Purdue University’s successful 1998-1999 season, which culminated with a decisive win over Duke in the NCAA national championship game. After the win, Ukari was named Most Outstanding Player of NCAA Women’s Final Four.

During the broadcast of the final game, one announcer mentioned that the name Ukari meant “‘precious gift’ in Nigerian.” (Of course, the other announcer immediately followed with: “She’s been a precious gift to the Boilermakers in the Final Four.”) Another source states that Ukari’s “Nigerian godparents named her Ukari Okien, which means ‘Unto us, God has given grace.'” So far, I haven’t been able to verify either definition.

Ukari Figgs played professional basketball for several years after college. These days, she’s an engineer working for Toyota.

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