Baby names inspired by African heritage

Baby names inspired by African heritage

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Children born in Africa were traditionally named for ancestors, spirits, places, or events occurring around the time of their birth (such as a harvest or flood), according to Julia Stewart, an African studies scholar.

These names, selected from Stewart's book African Names: Names from the African Continent for Children and Adults, are rooted in this tradition.

Baby girl names

  • Adama ("beautiful child" or "queenly," Ibo people of Nigeria)
  • Bria (city in Central African Republic)
  • China ("Thursday," Shona people of Zimbabwe)
  • Deba (town in Nigeria)
  • Esinam ("God heard me," Ewe people of Ghana)
  • Fimi (river in Democratic Republic of Congo)
  • Garissa (town in Kenya)
  • Hasana (firstborn girl of twins, Hausa people of West Africa)
  • Imi (town in Ethiopia)
  • Joliba (local name for Niger River)
  • Kamina (city in Democratic Republic of Congo, town in Togo)
  • Lorma (a language spoken in Liberia)
  • Makena ("the happy one," Kikuyu people of Kenya)
  • Nangila (for babies born when the parents are traveling, Luya people of Kenya)
  • Ofrah ("moon," Mandinka language of West Africa)
  • Pianga (a people of Democratic Republic of Congo)
  • Qwara (a people of Ethiopia)
  • Rehani ("a pledge," Kiswahili language)
  • Selima (town in Sudan)
  • Taveta (a people in Kenya)
  • Uchenna ("God's will," Ibo people of Nigeria)
  • Wanyika ("of the bush," Kiswahili)
  • Xetsa (one of a pair of female twins, Ewe people of Ghana)
  • Yala (river in Kenya)
  • Zagora (town in Morocco)

Baby boy names

  • Akello ("I have brought" or "bring forth," Alur people of Uganda)
  • Bolaji (male name among Yoruba people of Nigeria)
  • Chege (male name among Kikuyu people of Kenya)
  • Danso ("reliable," Ashanti people of Ghana)
  • Evian (12th century king, Benin Empire)
  • Farim (town in Guinea-Bissau)
  • Garian (town in Libya)
  • Heiban (a people of Sudan)
  • Imo (Nigerian state)
  • Jos (town in Nigeria)
  • Kofi (for babies born on a Friday, Akan people of Ghana)
  • Labaan (Somali male name)
  • Muenda ("one who cares for others," Meru people of Kenya)
  • Nakuru (city in Kenya)
  • Odero ("granary," for those born during harvest season, Luo people of Kenya)
  • Peponi ("paradise" or "heaven," Kiswahili)
  • Ras ("head," honorary title in Arabic)
  • Shubi (a people of Tanzania)
  • Tafi (a people of Togo)
  • Uchechi ("God's will," Ibo people of Nigeria)
  • Vinza (a people of Tanzania)
  • Wekesa ("born during harvest time," Luhya people of Kenya)
  • Xolani ("forgiveness," Xhosa people of South Africa)
  • Yonas (refers to biblical Jonah, Ethiopia)
  • Zarambo (a people of Tanzania)



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