Where did the baby name Tkeyah come from in 1990?

American comedian T'Keyah Crystal Keymah
T’Keyah Crystal Keymáh

The name Tkeyah debuted impressively in the U.S. baby name data in 1990, and saw strong usage for the next few years:

  • 1992: 149 baby girls named Tkeyah
  • 1991: 161 baby girls named Tkeyah
  • 1990: 38 baby girls named Tkeyah [debut]
  • 1989: unlisted
  • 1988: unlisted

Similar names such as Takeyah, Tkeya, Tekeyah, Tikeyah, Tykeyah, Tkeyha, and simply Keyah also popped up in the data during the early ’90s.

What was the inspiration behind all these names?

Actress/comedian T’Keyah Crystal Keymáh (pronounced tah-KEE-yah KRIS-tal kee-MAH).

T’Keyah was one of the original cast members of the sketch comedy series In Living Color (1990-1994). She played recurring characters such as sassy customer service worker LaShawn and Go On Girl host Shawanda Harvey.

She was born Crystal Walker in Chicago in 1962. When she was eight years old, she “mistakenly thought then-Illinois Gov. Dan Walker was a blood relative.”

When her family explained that Gov. Walker was white and therefore not a blood relative, young Keymah decided then and there to change her name to one that reflected her African ancestry.

“I learned Walker was a slave name,” Keymah recalled. “I felt tricked. I remember thinking I shouldn’t have something that’s attached to me that’s not true about myself. I started searching for a name that was appropriate for me.”

Three years ago [in 1988] she adopted her present name, which is taken from Hebrew. She explains T’Keyah means “mental revival of God’s spirit” and Keymah means “to establish oneself.”

So far I haven’t found any sources that corroborate those definitions, but I did find the Hebrew words tekiah (which is a single, long blast of a shofar) and kimah (which refers to a cluster of stars, such as the Pleiades).

What are your thoughts on the name T’Keyah?


Image © 1990 20th Century Fox

2 thoughts on “Where did the baby name Tkeyah come from in 1990?

  1. She’s right. The Hebrew root is le-kayem (?????, to establish) and could be conjugated as hakama, kium, kayam/kayama, hakama, etc. Keymah or kima (????) would probably be an acceptable form, but my grammar isn’t good enough to figure out the exact meaning.

  2. Thank you, Rachel, for that explanation!

    (I’m sorry about the question marks. My blog doesn’t handle non-Latin scripts very well.)

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