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African Names

African baby names derive from a wide range of languages and cultures, from Ethiopian to Nigerian, Yoruba to Xhosa. African names often originate with days of the week or times of the year denoting when the baby was born. Another source for African name meaning is place in the family: first-born of twins, for instance, or youngest son. Nature also figures as a source for African baby names, with names relating to animals, weather, and landscape. Some African names derive from the Muslim religion while others relate to individual tribal mythology and beliefs.

If you're looking for African names for your baby, here is our full list of possibilities. The top names below rank among the current US Top 1000 Baby Names and are ordered by popularity. Unique names rank below the Top 1000 and are listed alphabetically.

AmaraHeart

  • Origin:

    Igbo, Sanskrit, Arabic
  • Meaning:

    "grace, immortal, tribe"
  • Description:

    Amara is the Italian word for bitter, from the same root as Mary and Miriam. It has separate roots in West Africa as a name that means "grace" in the Igbo language. These two meanings are the best-known, but Amara is also a Sanskrit name meaning "immortal", an Arabic word meaning "tribe" and a Mongolian name meaning "peaceful".

ZuriHeart

  • Origin:

    Kiswahili
  • Meaning:

    "good, beautiful"
  • Description:

    Zuri migrated, at least to American sensibilities, to the feminine side when an Ohio zoo used it for a female giraffe. For either gender, Zuri is an attractive name with the usual Z-initial zest.

MakennaHeart

  • Origin:

    Spelling variation of McKenna or Eastern African
  • Meaning:

    "happy one"
  • Description:

    Part of the Mackenzie/Mackena/Mackenna family, this variation has a positive meaning.

ZaireHeart

  • Origin:

    Place name
  • Meaning:

    "the river that swallows all rivers"
  • Description:

    An African place name—Zaire was a Central African state from 1971 to 1997—it comes from a Kongo term meaning "the river that swallows all rivers." A bold and wearable choice for a son.

NalaHeart

  • Origin:

    African, meaning unknown
  • Description:

    A Disney name—Nala was the friend who became the wife of Simba, hero of The Lion King. It debuted on the US Top 1000 in 2015.

AnikaHeart

  • Origin:

    Nordic diminutive of Anne or African, Hausa
  • Meaning:

    "sweetness of face"
  • Description:

    Anike is an attractive name with ties to several cultures, both African and Scandinavian. The African pronunciation emphasizes the second syllable while the Nordic one emphasizes the first. While there will be inevitable confusion over pronunciation, either form is "correct".

ZoraHeart

  • Origin:

    Serbo-Croatian
  • Meaning:

    "dawn"
  • Description:

    Zora is a meaningful literary heroine name honoring Zora Neale Hurston, an important black writer and leader of the Harlem Renaissance.

AyanHeart

  • Origin:

    Somali
  • Meaning:

    "fortune"
  • Description:

    The African name Ayan was first seen on the US Top 1000 for boys in 2014. It's both simple and distinctive, a winning combination.

ZolaHeart

  • Origin:

    African, Congolese; also literary name
  • Description:

    When the Eddie Murphys named their fourth daughter Zola, it affirmed the up-and-coming status of the name, which has African roots, but also literary links to Emile Zola.

ZendayaHeart

  • Origin:

    Shona
  • Meaning:

    "to give thanks"
  • Description:

    Zendaya has propelled her unusual African name into the spotlight and up the popularity charts. Zendaya is one of the major baby name influencers of our era. What does Zendaya's name mean? The name Zendaya comes from the word for thanks, Tendai, in the Shona language, spoken in Zimbabwe and southern Zambia. The name Zendaya's popularity is directly connected to this actress-singer's rising celebrity, as it made its first appearance on the US Top 1000 in 2014. It's a distinctive choice, and thanks to our affection for the letter Z and Zendaya's great meaning, more parents are choosing it for their daughters.

AshaHeart

  • Origin:

    Sanskrit; Swahili
  • Meaning:

    "hope; life"
  • Description:

    Asha is an Indian name that comes from the Sanskrit word for hope or desire, but it is also a Swahili name derived from Aisha, meaning life. Since the ascendance of Ashley through the 1980s and 90s, all baby names Ash-related have been used in the U.S. for both girls and boys, from Ashlyn to Ashby, Ashton to Asher. Despite its separate roots, Asha is part of this group. Asha is finding new life through its Game of Thrones connections.

LissaHeart

  • Origin:

    African and Arabic mythology name; diminutive of Melissa
  • Description:

    Lissa might be an abbreviation of Melissa, but it's more substantial in its own right: Lissa is the name of a supreme mother goddess in African mythology and an Arabic symbol of rebirth.

AmadiHeart

  • Origin:

    African
  • Meaning:

    "free man"
  • Description:

    Though this is traditionally a male name, it can work for a girl in our culture. Might also be considered a short form of the Italian Amadea.

ShantiHeart

  • Origin:

    Hindi
  • Meaning:

    "peace"
  • Description:

    This Hindi word which is used in prayer is one of the prime names that mean peace, always a nice message to impart to a child. Nick Nolte used it for his daughter.

BarakaHeart

  • Origin:

    Kiswahili
  • Meaning:

    "blessings"
  • Description:

    Its resonant rhythm and positive connotations have led to some popularity with African-American parents, though it tends to have a masculine feel, particularly considering the rise of a certain Barack.

BayoHeart

  • Origin:

    African, Nigerian, Yoruba
  • Meaning:

    "the crown meets joy"
  • Description:

    Short form of Adebayo

DiarraHeart

  • Origin:

    West African
  • Meaning:

    "gift"
  • Description:

    Diarra has a nice meaning, but we could see it leading to possible teasing re association with a certain digestive problem.

AmmaHeart

  • Origin:

    Hindi or African, Akan
  • Meaning:

    "mother, or born on a Saturday"
  • Description:

    An anagram of Mama, in tune with its Hindi meaning.

FalalaHeart

  • Origin:

    African
  • Meaning:

    "born in abundance"
  • Description:

    Add a few more la's and you have a jolly Christmas refrain. Falala certainly makes one of the cleverer names for Christmas babies.

FanaHeart

  • Origin:

    African
  • Meaning:

    "light or jungle"
  • Description:

    Simple, delicate, and unusual.