How popular is the baby name Malalai in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Use the popularity graph and data table below to find out! Plus, see all the blog posts that mention the name Malalai.

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Popularity of the baby name Malalai

Posts that mention the name Malalai

Where did the baby name Malala come from in 2013?

Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai

The mellifluous name Malala debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 2013:

  • 2015: 10 baby girls named Malala
  • 2014: 11 baby girls named Malala
  • 2013: 9 baby girls named Malala [debut]
  • 2012: unlisted
  • 2011: unlisted

The influence, of course, was Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai (b. 1997).

The region in which her family lived (the Swat Valley) was seized by the Taliban in 2007. “[T]he group made its opposition to a proper education for girls a cornerstone of its terror campaign.”

Malala, whose father is an education activist, decided to start blogging about her experiences under the Taliban. At first she remained anonymous, using the pseudonym “Gul Makai” (taken from the name of a character in Pakistani folklore). Over time, though, both Malala and her father “became known throughout Pakistan for their determination to give Pakistani girls access to a free quality education.”

In response to their activism, the Taliban attempted to assassinate Malala. A Taliban gunman shot her in the head while she was riding a school bus in October of 2012.

Thankfully, she survived the attack, and “her incredible recovery and return to school resulted in a global outpouring of support.”

In the months and years that followed, she ended up writing and publishing a book (I Am Malala in late 2013), receiving the Nobel Peace Prize (2014), and becoming the subject of a documentary film (He Named Me Malala in 2015).

Speaking of names, she explained the origin of her name in her book: “I was named after Malalai of Maiwand, the greatest heroine of Afghanistan.” According to legend, Malalai was the unlikely hero of the Battle of Maiwand (1880). Here’s how Malala tells the story:

Malalai was the daughter of a shepherd in Maiwand, a small town on the dusty plains west of Kandahar. When she was a teenager, both her father and the man she was supposed to marry were among thousands of Afghans fighting against the British occupation of their country. Malalai went to the battlefield with other women from the village to tend the wounded and take them water. She saw their men were losing, and when the flag bearer fell she lifted her white veil up high and marched onto the battlefield in front of the troops.

“Young love!” she shouted. “If you do not fall in the battle of Maiwand then, by God, someone is saving you as a symbol of shame.”

Malalai was killed under fire, but her words and bravery inspired the men to turn the battle around. They destroyed an entire brigade, one of the worst defeats in the history of the British army.

She also noted, though, that her grandfather did not like the name at first:

“It’s a sad name,” he said. “It means grief-stricken.”

What are your thoughts on the name Malala? Would you use it?

Sources: Malala Yousafzai – Wikipedia, Malala Yousafzai – Biographical – The Nobel Prize