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Dakota Name Meaning: Origin, Popularity & Nicknames

Learn about the name Dakota including the meaning, gender, origin, popularity, and more.

Dakota Overview

  • Meaning: Translates literally to “friends” or “allies.”
  • Gender: Unisex.
  • Origin: This name originates from the Native American Sioux language.
  • Pronunciation: “Da-KOH-tah”
  • Popularity: Very popular.
  • Nicknames: Cody, Dak, Kody, Kota, Koty.
  • Variations: Dakotah, Dakoda.
  • Namesakes: Dakota Fanning (American actress), Dakota Johnson (American actress), Dakota North(Racecar driver).

What Does Dakota Mean?

Dakota is a Sioux Native American word. It is a plural noun that means “friends” or “allies” (1). It’s a strong name with a long history rooted in America’s first peoples. It is unclear whether the name was one the tribe gave itself or one given to them by another tribe, but the word goes back to the 18th century.

What Is the Origin of the Name Dakota?

The word Dakota was first introduced to European Americans by Lewis and Clark, the renowned explorers who initially transcribed the word as “Da-ko-tar.” The Dakota people inhabited parts of the Western plains of the United States.

While it wasn’t used as a personal name by Native Americans, Dakota was later adopted as a personal name by Americans in the late 20th century. The name speaks of the freedom of the open plains, the beauty of Western sunsets, and the comfort of a warm campfire.

How Popular Is the Name Dakota?

For the better part of the last 100 years, using Dakota as a personal name was virtually unheard of. It wasn’t until the mid-1980s that the name began to show up. There are a couple of reasons why the name began to gain popularity.

The American Indian Movement arose in the late 1960s to bring equity and inclusion to indigenous people (2). The movement grew and held many prominent events and protests during the 1970s.

People who came of age in this era and were having children in the 1980s could have been influenced by this movement and chose to honor Native culture this way. There was also a trend toward cowboy culture and the American West during the 80s. Some parents saw the name Dakota as a reflection of a rough and tumble, wild west spirit.

The name may have been slow to take off, but once it did, its growth in popularity was swift. We see the name Dakota skyrocketing up the charts to the top 100 by the early 90s. By 1995, it had reached its peak at number 56.

This trend was likely due to the rise of unisex names during the 1990s. Parents liked the idea of choosing a name for a baby before birth, even before they knew what sex it was. Many also were beginning to challenge gender norms.

Today, Dakota is still a popular name in the U.S., ranking as the 344th most popular boy name and the 270th most popular name for girls (3). People in Europe and other parts of the world have also started using the name Dakota, although not as frequently as in the United States.

How Do I Pronounce Dakota?

Dah-KOH-tah is the only pronunciation of the name in English, although there are some alternate spellings.

Is Dakota a Boy or Girl Name?

Dakota is a unisex name. In the early days of its use, parents chose it for boys almost exclusively.

The switch from the name being used slightly more for girls than for boys happened around 2010. This change was possibly due in part to the popularity of the young actress Dakota Fanning.

Variations of Dakota

There aren’t many variations of Dakota, but some small variants in spelling can be used to help make the name more original and unique.

  • Dakotah (Sioux)
  • Dakoda (Sioux)

Nicknames for Dakota

The name Dakota allows for many cute nicknames, including:

  • Cody
  • Dak
  • Kody
  • Kota
  • Koty

Similar Names to Dakota

If you’re not sure Dakota is the right name for your child, here are some other options to consider with either a similar meaning or sound.

Middle Names for Dakota

If you’ve decided on the name Dakota for your little one but haven’t yet picked out a middle name, here are some fun options to consider.

For Girls:

For Boys:

Sibling Names

If you’re looking for a sibling name for Dakota, you may want to go with a place name, a cowboy name, or a name with a similar trendy feel. It’s up to you! Here are some suggestions.

For a brother:

For a sister:

Famous People Named Dakota

There are quite a few famous faces with the name Dakota. Many were born during the years when the name Dakota was gaining strength as a baby name.

  • Dakota Fanning: American actress.
  • Dakota Floeter: American actor and musician.
  • Dakota Johnson: American actress.
  • Dakota Kai: New Zealand wrestler.
  • Dakota North: Racecar driver.
  • Dakota Rose: American model.

Dakota in Popular Culture

  • Dakota Milton: Character from the animated series “Total Drama.”
  • Dakota North: Character from Marvel Comics.

Dakota FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions about the name Dakota.

Should I Choose an Alternative Spelling for the Name Dakota?

You can choose whatever spelling you want. Just keep in mind that because Dakota is also part of the name of a state, people are likely to use the traditional spelling automatically and may find it difficult to remember an alternative spelling.

Is Dakota a Native American Name?

The name Dakota is of Native American origin. However, the name was not traditionally used as a personal name; it was a name that was given to a specific tribe from the Western part of the United States.

Is the Name Dakota Better for a Boy or a Girl?

It’s a unisex name. Whether you decide to use the name for a boy or a girl is totally up to your preference. The name enjoys an almost equal distribution between boys and girls, with girls having the minor lead.

Is Dakota a Pretty Name?

Dakota can certainly be a pretty name. It can bring to mind a sweet day on the prairies, flowered dresses, and braided hair. Dakota can also be a strong name. It can paint a picture of toughness and bravery. It can be a fun name too! It depends on what you choose for a middle name and what kind of person your child turns out to be.

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