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 African baby names here are ordered according to their current popularity on Nameberry.
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".
Description:Zora is a meaningful literary heroine name honoring Zora Neale Hurston, an important black writer and leader of the Harlem Renaissance.
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.
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.
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".
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.
Origin:Korean; Hindi; Arabic; African
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. Sena is also a place name, a surname, the name of several groups of people, and the name of a genus of moth as well as a kind of wine, among other things. The similar Cinna from The Hunger Games may make Sena more plausible as a first name.
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.
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.
Origin:African place-name, Nigeria
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'.
Origin:Afrikaans version of Beatrice
Meaning:"blessed; she who brings happiness"
Description:Namibian supermodel Behati Prinsloo, who has walked the runway for every designer from Prada to Versace to Vera Wang, has introduced us to this Afrikaans version of Beate or Beatrice, a rhythmic twist on an international favorite.
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.
Origin:Spelling variation of McKenna or Eastern African
Description:Part of the Mackenzie/Mackena/Mackenna family, this variation has a positive meaning.
Description:"Return of the Jedi": strongly linked to the complex "Star Wars" character, Obi Wan Kenobi.
Meaning:"lacking nothing, one who knows the way"
Description:This is an African name that would fit into any culture.
Description:Kia is a sweet, simple name that is now, unfortunately, associated with a Korean car label. Better today: Nia, Thea, or Keira.
Meaning:"born on Saturday"
Description: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 (think Kofi Annan, whose name means born on a Friday).
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.
Meaning:"work of art; shining light"
Description:Simple-yet-unusual name with a creative meaning. Actress Sanaa Lathan promoted it, and it was on the U.S. popularity list from 2003 to 2011. Shaquille O'Neal used it as the middle name of his daughter Amirah. And spelled Sana'a, it's the capital of Yemen.
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.