What gave the baby name Latifah a boost in the early 1990s?

Queen Latifah's album "All Hail the Queen" (1989).
Queen Latifah album

The name Latifah, which has been appearing the U.S. baby name data since the 1970s, saw a dramatic increase in usage in the early 1990s. It even reached the top 1,000 twice.

  • 1993: 73 baby girls named Latifah
  • 1992: 251 baby girls named Latifah [rank: 803rd]
  • 1991: 150 baby girls named Latifah
  • 1990: 300 baby girls named Latifah [rank: 702nd] – peak usage
  • 1989: 93 baby girls named Latifah
  • 1988: 8 baby girls named Latifah

(The spelling Latifa also saw peak usage in 1990, and the versions Latifha, Latiffa, and Latifia debuted that year as well.)

Why?

Because of socially conscious hip-hop artist Queen Latifah.

She rose to fame with the release of her debut album, All Hail the Queen, released in November of 1989. It spawned five singles, including “Ladies First” and “Come Into My House.” Her follow-up album, released in mid-1991, wasn’t as commercially successful but does account for the second spike in usage in 1992.

After her initial success as a rapper, Queen Latifah branched out into acting. One of her most memorable early roles was that of Khadijah James on the TV series Living Single (1993-1998).

Queen Latifah was born Dana Elaine Owens in New Jersey in 1970. The “Latifah” part of her stage name — which she pronounces with a somewhat extended first syllable, “laatifah” — began as a childhood nickname:

Q: Did you choose it for yourself?

A: No, actually it was my cousin — well, sort of, I sort of chose it. We were going through the Muslim book of names when I was eight. My cousin Sharonda is Muslim, and so we came across Latifah, and I was like, “Oh, I like that.” She was like, “Yeah, I’m gonna give you that name. That name should be yours.” So, I kept it, ever since I was eight, through high school and whatever.

Queen Latifah was drawn specifically to the meaning of the Arabic name Latifah, which she has defined in various interviews using words like “delicate,” “sensitive,” “kind,” and “nice.” (The site Behind the Name defines the masculine version, Latif, as “gentle, kind.”)

What are your thoughts on name Latifah? (Do you like it more or less than the name Dana?)

Sources:

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