If you’re looking for unusual baby naming ideas, look to Africa. Naming on this vast continent comes from a variety of languages, dialects, religions and customs…
In the northern region, Arabic is the main influence as the main religion is Islam, while in central and southern regions, the names are Christian as a result of European colonisation.
However, traditional African names, some believed to have a history going back over 5000 years, are still popular in many native African languages, including Hausa, Kongo, Shona, Swahili, Yoruba and Zulu.
Naming traditions in Africa are often based on the timing of the birth and reflect the time of day, day of the week, the weather and the position in the family. Among the Nigerian Yoruba, apart from the family name, the child is given several other names. One of the names describes the circumstances surrounding the birth. For instance, the name Idowu means ‘child born after twins’. The parents often also have a pet name that indicates what they hope for their child, such as Ayoke, meaning ‘one who is blessed’.
The oldest member of the family carries out the naming ceremony. Amongst Swahili speaking Kenyans, the first or birth name called ‘jina la utotoni’ is given to babies as soon as they are born. This is chosen by an elderly relative and usually refers to the child’s appearance, like ‘Biubwa’ which means ‘soft and smooth’. After up to 40 days, the parents and paternal grandparents choose the ‘jina la ukubwani’, or adult name, for the child. With the Akan Ghanaians, it is the father of the baby who chooses the name of a beloved relative in the hope that the child will grow up to be like the namesake.