How popular is the baby name Tupac in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, check out all the blog posts that mention the name Tupac.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Tupac


Posts that Mention the Name Tupac

Baby born to American activists, named “america”

Abbie Hoffman, Anita Kushner, and baby america Hoffman (early 1970s)
The Hoffman family

Media-savvy political activist Abbott “Abbie” Hoffman (1936-1989) and his second wife, Anita Kushner, welcomed a baby boy in mid-1971.

Abbie’s first two children (Andrew and Amy) didn’t have politicized names, but his third got the name america — deliberately spelled with a small a in order “to distinguish the child’s name from a jingoistic sentiment.”

[T]he birth of his and Anita’s son, “america,” was treated as a political statement, as an affirmation of their optimism about the future and their roots in American culture.

Anita added (years later) that they’d gone with a lower-case a “because [they] didn’t want to be pretentious.”

Another name they’d considered for their son? Tupac.

In the Hoffmans’ book To America with Love, one of the letters Anita wrote (in July of 1974) began:

I met Affeni [sic] Shakur today. What an up. She is vibrant, beautiful, wise with experience. We talked about our children a lot and the heavy history behind each. Did you know she named her son Tupac Amaru, after the last Inca prince who rebelled against the Spaniards? We had considered naming america that. Tupac’s the same age.

(Tupac’s mother’s name was actually spelled Afeni.)

Abbie Hoffman went underground in 1974 (in order to evade arrest). He remained in hiding, using the alias “Barry Freed,” for six years. During that period, Anita and america were under constant FBI surveillance. So Anita and Abbie began to call their son “Alan” as an added layer of protection.

Alan reverted back to his real name at the start of high school (in the mid-1980s), hoping that “america” would impress a “cute punk rock girl” in his class.

Sources:

Image: Adapted from Anita Hoffman with son by Leah Kushner under CC-BY-SA-4.0.

What turned Notorious into a baby name in 1995?

Rapper Notorious B.I.G. (1972-1997) in the music video for the song "One More Chance."
Notorious B.I.G.

The unlikely name Notorious debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1995, dropped off in 1996, then returned in 1997:

  • 1998: unlisted
  • 1997: 9 baby boys named Notorious
  • 1996: unlisted
  • 1995: 9 baby boys named Notorious [debut]
  • 1994: unlisted
  • 1993: unlisted

Notorious has re-appeared in the data several times since, but, so far, 9 babies in a single year represents peak usage.

So, what turned this vocabulary word — a synonym of “infamous” — into a personal name?

New York City rapper The Notorious B.I.G. (a.k.a. Biggie Smalls), born Christopher Wallace in 1972.

His 1994 debut album, Ready to Die, featured the singles “One More Chance” (which peaked at #2 on Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart), “Big Poppa” (#6), and “Juicy” (#27).

“Big Poppa” was also nominated for the Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance of 1995. Here’s the music video:

In March of 1997 — two weeks before the release of his second album, Life After Death — Biggie was murdered in a drive-by shooting while visiting Los Angeles.

[M]any rap fans suspect the shooting is connected to the East Coast-West Coast feud that has become prevalent in the hip-hop community over the last several years. Smalls and the label he’s on, Bad Boy Entertainment, had been in a fierce rivalry with Tupac Shakur and the Los Angeles-based gangsta rap label Death Row Records, and Shakur had accused Smalls of involvement in a 1994 robbery in which Shakur was shot.

Shakur had been murdered less than a year earlier (also in a drive-by shooting).

Biggie’s second album included the singles “Hypnotize” (which peaked at #1 on Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart), “Mo Money Mo Problems” (#1), and “Sky’s the Limit” (#26).

What are your thoughts on the name Notorious?

P.S. The word may have a negative connotation nowadays, but the original meaning of notorious was simply “publicly known and spoken of” (via the Medieval Latin word notorius, meaning “well-known”).

Sources:

How did Tupac Shakur influence baby names in the 1990s?

Tupac's last studio album, "All Eyez on Me" (1996).
Tupac album

Though we remember him today as a West Coast rapper — one of his biggest hits was “California Love,” after all — Tupac Shakur was actually raised on the East Coast.

Tupac Shakur (pronounced TOO-pahk shah-KOOR) was born into a politically active family in New York City in 1971.

At birth, his given names were “Lesane Parish.” But his mother, Afeni, decided to change them to “Tupac Amaru” when he was one year old. The new names honored Túpac Amaru II, an indigenous man who led a rebellion against Spanish rule in Peru in the 1780s. (The names Tupac and Amaru are based on the Quechua words thupa, meaning “royal” or “resplendent,” and amaru, meaning “snake.”)

Tupac moved to California until the late 1980s. His first studio album, 2Pacalypse Now (1991), was a commercial success. It was followed by several more successful albums, including All Eyez on Me, which was rap’s first double album. Tupac also had a career as an actor, starring in films like Juice (1992), Poetic Justice (1993), and Above the Rim (1994).

Sadly, his life was cut short by a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas on September 7, 1996.

His years of fame, and his sudden death, resulted in all three of his names — Tupac, Amaru, and Shakur — seeing higher usage (as boy names) during the 1990s. Tupac debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1993, and Amaru debuted in 1996. Shakur (which comes from the Arabic word for “thankful”) saw a 5-fold increase in usage from 1992 to 1993, followed by peak usage in 1997.

TupacAmaruShakur
199953149
1998102481
19971031119†
199697*87
1995..46
1994..79
19937*.66
1992..11
1991...
*Debut, †Peak usage

But it doesn’t end there.

Tupac Shakur spent most of 1995 in prison. One of the books he read while there was the infamous 1513 political treatise The Prince (“…it is much safer to be feared than loved…”) by Florentine statesman and political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli (pronounced mah-kee-ah-VEH-lee).

The Prince inspired Tupac to create a new stage name: Makaveli. He only had a chance to use the alias once, though — for his fifth studio album, released two months after his murder. The following year, the unlikely name Makaveli popped up in the baby name data:

  • 1999: unlisted
  • 1998: unlisted
  • 1997: 11 baby boys named Makaveli [debut]
  • 1996: unlisted
  • 1995: unlisted

(Interestingly, the original spelling of the name, Machiavelli, started appearing in the data in 2013 — exactly 500 years after The Prince was written.)

Sources:

What popularized the baby name Alize in the 1990s?

Bottles of Alizé
Alizé

Passion fruit-flavored liqueur Alizé Gold Passion was introduced to the U.S. market in 1986.

The next year, the name Alize debuted in the U.S. baby name data, though it remained rare.

  • 1990: unlisted
  • 1989: 6 baby girls named Alize
  • 1988: unlisted
  • 1987: 5 baby girls named Alize [debut]
  • 1986: unlisted
  • 1985: unlisted

Usage of the name Alize picked up steam during the early 1990s, but it wasn’t until 1995 that the numbers really started climbing — increasing nearly sixfold for girls, and debuting impressively for boys:

Girls named AlizeBoys named Alize
1997274 [rank: 767th]53
1996282 [rank: 749th]44
199514330*
199424.
199312.
*Debut

Why?

A huge pop-culture push in the mid-1990s that popularized both the liqueur and the baby name.

Back when I first published this post in 2012, the Alizé website included the following explanation:

Alizé reached great heights with substantial features in music lyrics and videos. Alizé was mentioned in 30 top 10 singles from artists such as 2Pac, Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z & Queen Latifah.

Specifically, Alizé was mentioned by Tupac Shakur in “Thug Passion” (1996), by Notorious B.I.G. in “Juicy” (1994), by Jay-Z in “Can I Get A…” (1998), and by Queen Latifah in a popular remix of Brandy’s “I Wanna Be Down” (1994-ish).

The brand name Alizé comes from the French word alizé, the name of a local trade wind.

What are your thoughts on Alize as a personal name??

P.S. The baby name Adidas has a similar explanation: urban music popularizing a brand name as a baby name.

[Latest update: July 2022]