Where did the baby name Condoleezza come from in 2005?

American political scientist Condoleezza Rice
Condoleezza Rice

The curious name Condoleezza was a one-hit wonder in the U.S. baby name data in 2005:

  • 2007: unlisted
  • 2006: unlisted
  • 2005: 5 baby girls named Condoleezza [debut]
  • 2004: unlisted
  • 2003: unlisted

Where did it come from?

Condoleezza (pronounced kon-dah-LEE-zah) Rice, who, in January of 2005, was sworn in as U.S. Secretary of State under George W. Bush. She was the first African-American woman to hold the position.

(The two previous office-holders, Madeleine Albright and Colin Powell, were the first woman and the first African-American secretaries of state, respectively.)

Condoleezza “Condi” Rice was born in segregated Birmingham, Alabama, in 1954. How did she come to have her unusual first name? Here’s how she told the story in her 2012 memoir:

[Mother] wanted a name that would be unique and musical. Looking to Italian musical terms for inspiration, she at first settled on Andantino. But realizing that it translated as “moving slowly,” she decided that she didn’t like the implications for that name. Allegro was worse because it translated as “fast,” and no mother in 1954 wanted her daughter to be thought of as “fast.” Finally she found the musical terms con dolce and con dolcezza, meaning “with sweetness.” Deciding that an English speaker would never recognize the hard c, saying “dolci” instead of “dolche,” my mother doctored the term. She settled on Condoleezza.

Just last month, Condoleezza Rice mentioned in a tweet that she’d met one of her namesakes, Duke University student Condoleezza Dorvil:

What are your thoughts on the name Condoleezza?

P.S. When Condoleezza Rice was a student at the University of Denver during the 1970s, her mentor was professor Josef Korbel — a Czech-American political scientist who just so happened to be the father of Madeleine Albright (who was born in Prague in 1937).


Image: Adapted from Condoleezza Rice (public domain)

4 thoughts on “Where did the baby name Condoleezza come from in 2005?

  1. I don’t share a lot of political views with Dr. Rice, but I think she’s pretty cool anyway. Her educational and professional accomplishments are so impressive. She was very game to have been a character on 30 Rock as Jack Donaghy’s erstwhile girlfriend. Very interesting to find out how her mother invented that name. Also gives some insight into why Sanofi named their allergy pills “Allegra” — they work fast! (Still kind of irritating that they ruined a very pretty baby name for Americans by giving it to a well-known drug, though.)

  2. Thank you for this post – I always wondered about her name! This is a very interesting post – the name origin, the coincidence of Condoleezza being mentored by Madeleine’s father, the birth nationality of Madeleine, and the fact that only 5 babies were named after Condoleezza. I wouldn’t expect a lot of babies given her name, but at least a couple every year that she was in office would have made sense. The fact that there wasn’t is surprising to me.

  3. “Oh Condi Condi beggin’ on my knees
    Open up your heart and let me in wontcha please
    Got no money but everybody knows
    I love you Condi and I’ll never let you go”

    By Steve Earle

    [I’m sorry about editing your comment, Anne. I can’t have a full set of lyrics quoted on the site because I don’t own the lyrics. Snippets are ok, though.]

  4. @Sharky – I didn’t know how impressive she was until I started working on this post! I wish I’d known more about her twenty years ago.

    @Brenda – I’m very happy you liked it! Other baby girls may have been named Condoleezza — we only see five of them in 2005 specifically because the SSA’s data doesn’t include names used fewer than five times per year, for privacy reasons. Sorry I don’t mention this more often in blog posts — I just don’t want to be redundant.

    @Anne – Thank you for bringing up the song — I’d never heard it before! (Here’s the audio of “Condi, Condi.”) The album it was on won a Grammy in early 2005, notably.

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