African Names

Africa is home to several language families and hundreds of languages. The people can be divided into over a thousand different ethnic groups. Some practice various tribal religions, others Islam or Christianity. This complex background makes summing up African naming traditions in a few paragraphs very difficult.

Traditional African given names often reflect the circumstances at the time of birth. Names such as Mwanajuma "Friday", Esi "Sunday", Khamisi "Thursday", and Wekesa "harvest time" refer to the time or day when the child was born. Other names reflect the birth order of the newborn, for example Mosi "first born", Kunto "third born", Nsonowa "seventh born", and Wasswa "first of twins". Some names describe the parents' reaction to the birth (such as Kayode, Gwandoya, Abeni and Monifa) and still others are descriptive of the newborn or of desired characteristics (like Yejide, Dada, Chiumbo and Zuberi). Vocabulary words are also often used as given names. For example: Sefu "sword" and Tau "lion" (masculine) and Marjani "coral" and Ife "love" (feminine).

Most people in the north of Africa are Muslim and thus tend to use Muslim names. In central and southern Africa, as a result of European colonization, many nations are partially Christian and have French, English or Portuguese as an official language. These regions use European names extensively.

On this site

List of African names and meanings

List of Eastern African names and meanings (Swahili, Luganda, ...)
List of Southern African names and meanings (Shona, Tswana, Zulu, ...)
List of Western African names and meanings (Igbo, Yoruba, Akan, ...)

List of Yoruba names and meanings
List of Igbo names and meanings