How popular is the baby name Sputnik 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 Sputnik.

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Popularity of the baby name Sputnik

Posts that mention the name Sputnik

Why did Nikita debut as a boy name in 1959?

Soviet politician Nikita Khrushchev (1894-1971) in 1961.
Nikita Khrushchev

Nikita Khrushchev was the leader of the Soviet Union for over a decade (1953 to 1964) during the early Cold War.

Between the time the U.S.S.R. launched Sputnik in 1957 and sent Yuri Gagarin on the first manned space flight in 1961, Khrushchev became first Soviet head of state to visit the United States.

Upon the invitation of president Dwight D. Eisenhower, Khrushchev and his family (wife Nina, son Sergei, daughters Julia and Rada, and son-in-law Alexei) flew to Washington, D.C., on September 15, 1959. They visited New York, California, Iowa, and Pennsylvania before flying back to Moscow on the 27th.

Though Khrushchev famously never made it to Disneyland, he did manage to make an impression upon expectant parents:

Girls named NikitaBoys named Nikita

The name Nikita had appeared in the U.S. baby name data as a girl name before, but in 1959 it showed up for the very first time as a boy name.*

These days the usage of Nikita is about equal for males and females — 93 baby girls and 92 baby boys got the name in 2015. But there was a spike in female usage in 1985, thanks to the song “Nikita” by Elton John. (American radio listeners similarly interpreted Luka as a girl name a couple of years later.)

The name Nikita can be traced back to the ancient Greek word for “victor,” niketes, which is based on the more familiar word nike, meaning “victory.”

And eight years after the name Nikita debuted, another Russian arrival, Svetlana Stalina, showed up and added yet another Soviet-inspired baby name to the mix…

*To debut in the SSA’s baby name data, a name has to be given to least 5 babies of one gender or the other within a single calendar year.

Sources: Nikita Khrushchev – Wikipedia, Timeline: Nikita Khrushchev’s Trip Itinerary, SSA
Image: John F. Kennedy & Nikita Khrushchev in 1961

Space age siblings: Spaceship, Viking-II, Fusion…

Krosuri Veera Raghava Chary of Andhra Pradesh, India, was both a space-lover and a devoted communist highly opposed to India’s caste system.

So he gave all five of his children, born from the 1960s to the 1980s, space-themed names that were so unconventional that they made it impossible to determine the family’s caste.

Here they are, in order:

  1. Spaceship (boy), named after the USSR’s first Soyuz spacecraft, launched in 1966.
  2. Viking-II (girl), named after the NASA spacecraft Viking 2, launched in 1975.
  3. Fusion (boy), whose name may have been inspired by the fact that “stars are powered by nuclear fusion in their cores.”
  4. Space Shuttle (boy), named after NASA’s Space Shuttle system, which began with test flights in 1981.
    • Space Shuttle later named one of his children, a boy, Space Shuttle Bulldozer.
  5. Space Shuttle Challenger (boy), named after NASA’s ill-fated Space Shuttle Challenger, launched in 1986.

Chary also named two of his grandchildren, Quasar and Sagan.

The Chary family reminds me of the Subatomic Particle Siblings. Its also reminds me of the babies named Skylab, Sputnik, and Antares.

Related question: What do you think the first space baby should be named?

Source: Samdani, MN. “To beat caste system, Communist leader named his children after spaceships, celestial bodies.” Times of India Sep. 19, 2015.

Babies named for Sputnik

Sputnik replica

Fifty-five years ago today — on October 4, 1957 — the Soviet space program launched the Earth’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik (pronounced spoot-nik).

Sputnik was a metal sphere “about the size of a beach ball” that weighed 184 pounds and had four external radio antennas. After orbiting for three weeks, its batteries died (and transmissions ceased), so it continued orbiting silently until January 4, 1958, when it fell back into the Earth’s atmosphere and burned up.

The satellite’s unexpected success marked the start of the Space Race between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. It also “ushered in new political, military, technological, and scientific developments,” according to NASA.

But NASA forgot to mention one more thing the Soviet satellite ushered in: the brand new baby name “Sputnik,” which was bestowed upon a handful of U.S. children starting in late 1957:

  • Sputnik Eisenhower Watkins, born on October 31, 1957, in Ramsey, Minnesota.
  • Gary Sputnik Clack, born on January 17, 1958, in Orange, Texas.
  • Polly Sputnik Johnson, born in 1959 in Wilson, North Carolina.
  • Isaac Sputnik Ornelas, born in 1991 in Riverside, California.

“Sputnik Eisenhower” (middle name for then-president Dwight D. Eisenhower) is definitely the most memorable of the bunch. According to an article in Jet, Sputnik Eisenhower Watkins had three older siblings with the non-satellite names Pauline, Merium and Sam.

Sputnik, Russia’s word for “satellite,” literally means “traveling companion” or “fellow traveler.” The word was coined by combining the Russian word putnik (“traveler”) with the prefix s- (“together”).