March 28, 2007. Written by Paula Jones
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.
|Day||Boy names||Girl names|
|Aba||Girl||Ghanaian||born on Thursday|
|Abam||Girl||Ghanaian||second child after twins|
|Abeo||Girl||Nigerian||happy she was born|
|Abina||Girl||Ghanaian||born on a Thursday|
|Akanke||Girl||Nigerian||to know her is to love her|
|Ama||Girl||Ghanaian||born on Saturday|
|Apara||Girl||Nigerian||one who comes and goes|
|Awusi||Girl||Ghanaian||born on a Sunday|
|Ayize||Boy||Zulu||let it happen|
|Baingana||Boy||Swahili||people are equal|
|Bayo||Girl||Nigerian||to find joy|
|Daren||Boy||Nigerian||born at night|
|Dingane||Boy||Zulu||one who is searching|
|Jabari||Boy||Swahili||the brave one|
|Juma||Boy||African||born on a Friday|
|Jumoke||Girl||Nigerian||the beloved one|
|Kamaria||Girl||Swahili||like the moon|
|Kesi||Girl||Swahili||born when father was in trouble|
|Kiden||Girl||African||female born after 3+ boys|
|Lateefah||Girl||North African||gentle, pleasant|
|Lehana||Girl||African||one who refuses|
|Mablevi||Boy||African||do not deceive|
|Mahdi||Girl||African||the expected one|
|Nabulung||Boy||African||do not receive|
|Nasha||Girl||African||born during rainy season|
|Oba||Girl||Nigerian||an ancient river goddess|
|Obiajulu||Boy||African||the heart is consoled|
|Odion||Boy||Nigerian||first of twins|
|Panyin||Boy||Ghanaian||older of twins|
|Ramla||Girl||Swahili||one who predicts the future|
|Sade||Girl||Nigerian||honor confers a crown|
|Siphiwe||Girl||Zulu||we were given|
|Tabansi||Boy||African||one who endures|
|Tano||Boy||Ghanaian||name of river|
|Yobachi||Boy||African||pray to God|
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