Uhura never had another name during the series. One of the fan writers wrote “Upenda” – which means “peace” in Swahili, I understand – not officially, but in some of their fan writings. And it sort of took hold. But when they were going to do the official history of Star Trek in a published book, the writer called Gene and asked him was “Uhura” her first name or her last name? Gene said, “Well, Nichelle and I never decided.” We always leaned towards it being her last name because it’s taken from the Swahili “uhuru” which means freedom. So it would sort of be like the same as “Freeman.” So he said, “You can make it her last name.” The writer said, “What about her first name? I’ve come up with one in Swahili. It’s Nyota.” Gene said, “I can’t give you that permission because Nichelle and I named her together, and she has rights to that, so you’ll have to call her and get her permission.” So he gave him my number, and he called me and I laughed and was delighted. He said, “I have a name and it’s Nyota.” I said, “That’s quite beautiful. What does it mean?” He said, “It means ‘star’.” I said, “You can have my permission!” So I have since said that her name is Nyota Upenda Uhura, which would mean a free-floating star: “star of freedom and peace”. I like that.
— NICHELLE NICHOLS