African Names for Boys

African names for boys include some of the very biggest names on the global stage in recent years: Barack, Mandela, Kofi, and — for rather different reasons — Kanye. Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has a particularly interesting name in terms of traditional African naming conventions: Kofi means "born on a Friday", while his middle name, Atta, means "twin". It remains common practice in parts of Africa to name babies according to time, day, order, or circumstances of birth. Other appealing African boy names with such meanings include the Yoruba name Kehinde ("second of twins") and the Akan name Kwame ("born on a Saturday").

See our full selection of African baby boy names, and the stories behind them, below. 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.
  1. 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".
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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'.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Kwaku
    • Origin:

      Ghanaian, Akan, Twi
    • Meaning:

      "Born on a Wednesday"
    • 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).
  9. Kano
    • Origin:

      African place-name or Japanese
    • Meaning:

      "the god of the waters"
    • Description:

      Pleasing crossover possibility.
  10. Barack
    • Origin:

      Hebrew; also Swahili from Arabic
    • Meaning:

      "thunderbolt, lightning; or blessing"
    • Description:

      The name of the 44th president, which he inherited from his Kenyan father, is related to the Swahili word "baraka," meaning "blessing," derived from the Arabic "baracka." It is linked, through the Semitic root, to the Hebrew name Baruch. Barack is also sometimes an alternate spelling of the Hebrew name Barak, which stems from the Semitic word for "lightning." Barack Obama may have found it a difficult name to grow up with, but the same won't be true for the many babies starting to be given that name. Other parents are being inspired to use Obama, which is a common surname among the Luo people of East Africa meaning "to lean or bend."
  11. Zuri
    • Origin:

      Kiswahili
    • Meaning:

      "good, beautiful"
    • Description:

      Singular, strong, and rare outside East Africa.
  12. Kwame
    • Origin:

      Ghanaian, Akan
    • 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).
  13. Bayo
    • Origin:

      African, Nigerian, Yoruba
    • Meaning:

      "the crown meets joy"
    • Description:

      Short form of Adebayo
  14. Unika
    • Origin:

      African
    • Meaning:

      "shining"
    • Description:

      Girlish, but has a nice feeling of uniqueness and unity.
  15. Mandela
    • Origin:

      African surname
    • Description:

      An African family name ripe for adoption in honor of Nelson Mandela, the South African activist imprisoned for almost thirty years for his antiapartheid activities.
  16. Odion
    • Origin:

      Esan
    • Meaning:

      "first born of twins"
    • Description:

      Strong name from the Esan language of Nigeria, with a satisfyingly specific meaning for a child's place in the family.
  17. Massai
    • Origin:

      African tribe; also Italian
    • Meaning:

      "owner of land and farms"
    • Description:

      Unusual name chosen for her son by actress Nia Long, who combined it with the even more unusual literary middle name, Zhivago.
  18. Congo
    • Origin:

      Place-name
    • Meaning:

      "gather"
    • Description:

      Not long ago, the name of this central African republic was firmly in place-name territory and not seen as baby appropriate. But those boundaries are moving so quickly that all kinds of place-names that were once not considered as baby names, from Alaska to Morocco to Chicago to, yes, Congo are on the list. The place-name Congo is taken from the people and language of the Kingdom of Kongo. In that language, the word kongo means "gather".
  19. Zenebe
    • Origin:

      Amharic
    • Meaning:

      "raining"
    • Description:

      Zenebe is an appealing name well-used in Ethiopia but rarely heard outside its native land. But it translates easily into English and Zen makes for a cool and attractive nickname. A winning choice for those looking for an African boys' names that bridges cultures.
  20. Nairobi
    • Origin:

      African place name
    • Description:

      The capital of Kenya makes a melodic and worldly name.