African Names

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.

Browse all of our African baby names here, ordered by their current popularity on Nameberry.

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African Girl Names

African Boy Names

  1. Amara
    • Origin:

      Igbo, Sanskrit, Arabic
    • Meaning:

      "grace, immortal, tribe"
    • Description:

      Strong, attractive, and stylish, Amara is a true multicultural choice enjoying some popularity in both the US and the UK. In the US Top 1000 since the turn of this century, Amara has been holding steady in the rankings between overly popular and obscure.
  2. Asha
    • 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.
  3. Zora
    • 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.
  4. Obi
    • Origin:

      African, Igbo
    • Meaning:

      "heart"
    • Description:

      Strongly linked in the US to the complex "Star Wars" character, Obi Wan Kenobi, but also popular in Nigeria as a short form of names containing the element Obi "heart".
  5. Izara
    • Origin:

      Arabic, Basque, Hausa
    • Meaning:

      "shawl; star; section of tree"
    • Description:

      Attractive, rhythmic choice with roots in several languages and cultures. It's a lesser-known a celestial name, meaning "star" in Basque and referring to a star in the constellation Boötes in Arabic.
  6. Sena
    • Origin:

      Korean; Hindi; Turkish; Arabic; Ewe
    • Meaning:

      "this world's beauty or grace; army; to praise; bringing heaven to earth"
    • Description:

      Sena is one of those names that is as obscure in the Western World as it is simple and straightforward. Sena exists as a name in a range of languages and cultures and may be pronounced like Senna (with a soft e) or Sienna.
  7. Zuri
    • 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.
  8. Zaire
    • 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.
  9. Zendaya
    • 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.
  10. Anika
    • 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".
  11. Nala
    • 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.
  12. Kymani
    • Origin:

      Eastern African
    • Meaning:

      "adventurous traveler"
    • Description:

      One of the most popular African names for boys, Kymani was in the US Top 1000 list from 2008 until 2016. Spelled Ky-mani, it's the name of Bob Marley's son.
  13. Zella
    • Origin:

      African, Bobangi
    • Meaning:

      "lacking nothing, one who knows the way"
    • Description:

      This is an African name that would fit into any culture.
  14. Kia
    • Origin:

      African
    • Meaning:

      "season's beginning"
    • Description:

      Kia is a sweet, simple name that is now, unfortunately, associated with a Korean car label. Better today: Nia, Thea, or Keira.
  15. Zola
    • Origin:

      African, Congolese; also literary name
    • Meaning:

      "piece of earth"
    • 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. Zola may also be recognizable to some as the adopted daughter of Meredith Grey and Derek Shepherd on the hit, long-running show Grey's Anatomy.
  16. Makenna
    • 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.
  17. Kofi
    • Origin:

      Ghanaian, Akan, Twi
    • Meaning:

      "born on Friday"
    • Description:

      This Akan day name is very much associated with Kofi Annan, the seventh secretary general of the United Nations. The Akan people of Ghana and the Ivory Coast frequently name their children after the day of the week they were born and the order in which they were born. Most Ghanaians have a name using this system.
  18. Kato
    • Origin:

      African, Uganda
    • Meaning:

      "second of twins"
    • Description:

      Kato gained a lot of attention during the O. J. Simpson trial via witness Kato Kaelin (born Brian). It is also the name of a fictional character in "The Green Hornet." Spelled Cato, it has a lot more credibility as an ancient name.
  19. Kanye
    • Origin:

      African place-name, Nigeria
    • Meaning:

      "honor, tribute"
    • Description:

      The popularity of the charismatic rapper-producer Kanye West has propelled his name into the Top 900. In addition to its African derivation, it is a Hawaiian name meaning 'free'.
  20. Ayan
    • 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.