Africa is home to several language families and hundreds of languages all these different cultures countries and people have something in common they can be found now world wide and one way of keeping and telling others about your roots is African Surname and there for it is considered as very important in todays African culture. 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).
Ghana’s founding father Kwame Nkrumah chose to name his two sons after fellow African leaders.
Nkrumah is not alone in fostering the identity of Africanism – the late President Mobutu Sese Seko dropped his own Christian name and even renamed his country – the then Belgian Congo – which became Zaire.
But 32 years later the late Laurent Kabila kicked Mobutu out, and re-baptised the country the Democratic Republic of Congo.
His reason was to rid the country of all of Mobutu’s influence and he felt a change of name was the way to do it.
- Ajanlekoko The Dog is chasing the Wolf
- Omiata Pepperwater
- Apeloko One who works late on the Farm”
- Abimbola Rich child
- Abioye The son of royalty
- Adebowale Return of the crown
- Adisa The lucid one
- Afia Friday born child
- Afolabi Child of high status
- Afua Friday born child
- Akachi God’s hand
- Akinyi Born during forenoon
- Akua Wednesday born
- Baako Baby first born
- Babajide Father is coming home
- Babak Small father
- Babatunde Return of the father
- Babette Promise of God
- Chiamaka God is gorgeous
- Chibuzo God give me directions
- Chidike The strength of God
- Chidubem God is my guide
- Chike Power of God
- Chikelu Created by God
- Chikere Created by God
- Chipo Present
- Chuks God did great deeds
- Chukwuemeka God did great deeds
- Ekua Wednesday born
- Emeka God did great deeds
- Emem Person of peace
- Faraji Solace
- Femi Adored by God
- Folami One who demands respect
- Fumnaya Give me love
- Furaha Delight
- Ife Woman of love
- Imamu Spiritual leader
- Imani Faithful person
- Imari Faithful or loyal
- Jabari Courageous
- Jaheem Dignified
- Jaz Unclear
- Jelani Full of strength
- Jojo God raises
- Kanye Freedom
- Katlego Achieving
- Kenya From Mount Kenya
100 Unique and Most Common African Last Names (Surnames)
While doing our research for African Names we found these interesting aricle parts and we feel like sharing them with you
My name (Noxolo) means peace in Xhosa. What I like about this name is it reflects which tribal group of South Africa I come from. The Xhosa as well Zulu languages have 3 distincts clicks “X”, “C” and “Q” but Xhosas use more clicks than Zulus in their everyday conversations. My family name has a click “C” as well. When my mother was pregnant, she was always fighting with my father and his family; she was in this constant state of depression. When I was born, she gave me this name NOXOLO because she wanted peace. Actually just after I was born, peace was restored in my family. My African name reflects my personality – I hate fights and arguments ; I am a peaceful person.
Noxolo Judith Ncapayi, South Africa
I just feel happy to say that this programme of conscientization is excellent. African names have always been associated with personal identity and personality structure expressed in the hopes and aspirations of the parents and passed on to the individual child. So “Ndubueze” means that “life is king” – to live is to be a king. There we go!
Dr. Ndubueze Fabian Mmagu, Austria
I find it quite silly in retrospect that almost all Kenyans have a “Christian” name which is quite English. Mine’s Margaret, or Latin for some Catholics. Nowhere in the Bible does it say one should have a Christian name and it certainly did not require it to be English or Western. We can be baptised another Kenyan/African and more meaningful name than being another of the somewhat bland Peters and Janes of the world.
Wairimu Kuria, Kenyan in US
African names comes with great pride and power. Maduabuchi means Humans are not God. Also: no one can dictate my life, nor my destiny, strong to be God to my destiny and my self. Last name Onwuachimba means Death could never wipe out a community. What a wonderful name; Maduabuchi Onwuachimba (Igbo-Nigeria). In abreviation “ABUCHI” for my Western folks, short and simple is’nt it.
I have a western surname, presumably that of the slavemaster of my forebears. But by the grace of God, my first and middle names are not only African but reflect the ethnic origin of where I know my maternal ancestors come from, the Mandinka people. In May 2003 I took a genetics test and found out that I’m a direct descendent of the Mandinkas maternally. My parents wanting to embue me with an African name, unknowingly gave me a first and middle name that reflects part of my ethnic origin
I am responding to Vince Gainey’s point – “Why are African Christians so ashamed of their Christian names in comparison to Muslims who have pride in their Arabic Islamic names.” I think Vince is confusing “European” with “Christian”. In many languages of Ethiopia for example, typical names are compounded of the divinity and some aspect of it. For example “Gebre-Egziabher” in the Ethiopian/Eritrean languages of Amharic/Tigrinya means “Servant of God” and those are Christian names. And many of the names in Oromo (another Ethiopian language) that contain “Waaq” as in Waaqgari, or Waaqayoo are similar derivations from the Oromo word for God (“Waq”). The Muslim name Abd-Allah is equivalent to the “Gebre Egziabher” I mentioned above. And a Nigerian friend has told me that many Ibo names are equivalent compounds of the divine’s name and some desirable relationship. I am certain that many other cultures equally create such names. So I would say that perhaps one would find God in a lot more African names than one would suspect.
Good question! My name is meaningful (‘in your God’s name I’m happy’ is the direct translation of my first and last names taken together). I think my name shows more the hope and wish of my parents than mine (given that I am on the atheistic side of things). It is actually an oxymoron, a religious friend has suggested I change my name BUT, why should I? I am a product of religious parents and culture; hence I shall carry this name, however unfitting it seems, to the grave. (Both proud and amused!).
Banchiamalck Dessalegn, Ethiopian in U.S.
My name Derefaka figuratively means: Continuing the heritage of our fathers. From the time I got to know about the traditional meaning of my name, I developed a sense of responsiblity to my Family, my heritage and my culture.
Derefaka Gogo, Canada
In Most West African countries (Togo, Benin, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire), the majority of Southern people name their children based on their day of birth. For instance in Togo, apart from their original meanings, those names also have other interesting meanings. For example if you were born on a Monday and named Kojo or Kodjo for a boy or Adjo for a girl, you would be taken as a zealous man or woman because Monday is the first day of work after the weekend, and if you were born on a Wednesday and named Kokou for a boy or Akwa for a girl, you were taken as a half-lazy person because people usually work or go to school for just the first half of the day -from 7 to 12- and use the other half as leisure time, and if you were born on a Sunday and named Kossi for a boy or Kossiwa for a girl, you were taken as the child of God, the pure, pretty child because people dress up pretty to worship God at the mass on Sunday. Playing with names really is part of many African cultures.
I love my name to death. My first name is from the bible as Christanity was an old religinon in Ethiopia/Africa. When we come to my dad’s name “Negussie” it means “my king” and my grandpas name “Aberra” means “it’s shining” so when you read my entire name it has a meaning of “Daniel my king shines.” Yeah, I hope I will shine forever and be a man for a change.
Daneil Negussie Aberra, Ethiopia/USA
What makes a person is his/her identity. So a name is really very important.
Paul Gisemba, Kenya
Given the importance of names in my social background (among the Dinka people), I am proud to be one of those named after the “famous” legendary ancestor of the Dinka people of Sudan, Deng, who was believed to be the direct decendant of Adam (Garang) and Eve (Abuk). Any child named after the above names is a blessed one whom the community expect to live up to the due reputation e.g has leadership qualities and being honest.
Deng Mador K-Dengdit, Sudanese in Australia
African names like most traditional names like John (Yahweh is gracious) , Patrick (nobleman) , Natasha (christmas day), Abdul (servant of..) etc.. have meanings. The main difference is that African parents will not just put a label on their progeny without finding out what the label is saying about their hopes and aspirations, beliefs and culture and life experiences.
Tawedzwegwa Purpose Katakwa, Zimbabwe