Where did the baby name Erykah come from in 1997?

Erykah Badu's debut album "Baduizm" (1997).
Erykah Badu album

The baby name Erykah saw its highest-ever usage in 1997 — the same year it first appeared in the U.S. baby name data:

  • 1999: 130 baby girls named Erykah
  • 1998: 276 baby girls named Erykah [rank: 780th]
  • 1997: 279 baby girls named Erykah [rank: 757th] [debut]
  • 1996: unlisted
  • 1995: unlisted

It was the top debut name of the year. Not only that, but it also managed to rank inside the girls’ top 1,000 both that year and the next.

Here’s a visual:

Graph of the usage of the baby name Erykah in the U.S. since 1880
Usage of the baby name Erykah

Similar names saw higher usage in 1997 as well. Eryka and Eryk got a boost, while Arykah, Derykah, Terykah, and Jerykah all debuted. (Those last two ended up being one-hit wonders.)

What was influencing all these names?

Neo-soul singer-songwriter Erykah Badu.

Her debut single “On & On” (1996) peaked at #12 on Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart in early 1997. It went on to win the Grammy for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance the following year.

Her debut studio album, Baduizm (1997), also won a Grammy.

Badu was born Erica Wright in Texas in 1971. She began going by the name “Erykah Badu” as a teenager.

She altered the spelling of her first name to incorporate the Egyptian term kah, which she defined as “inner self.” (In ancient Egypt, the ka, or “life force,” was one of the three elements of the soul.)

And her new surname? “Badu comes from a jazz riff that I sing: ba-du, ba-du…,” she told English television host Julian “Jools” Holland in June of 1997.

What are your thoughts on the name Erykah? How about Erica? (What’s your preferred spelling of the name?)


P.S. Erykah’s three children — one son and two daughters — are named Seven Sirius (b. 1997), Puma Sabti (b. 2004), and Mars Merkaba (b. 2009).

2 thoughts on “Where did the baby name Erykah come from in 1997?

  1. I like reading the reason she changed the spelling to Erykah — very cool. I don’t like kre8tiv spellings for regular folks, but for artists and people with fame, I think it makes sense to stand out.

    I like Erica because it’s the Italian/Latin word for my given name, Heather.

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