AFRICAN-AMERICAN NAMES: Early Day, Place, and Word Names
Here is another excerpt from our latest book, Beyond Ava & Aiden: The Enlightened Guide to Naming Your Baby
In Colonial times, as many as twenty percent of the slaves in the Carolinas bore African names, most notably day names, which relate to the day of the week on which the person was born. The West African day names, often translated to English cognates such as Judy for Juba or Joe for Cudjoe, are:
SUNDAY — QUASHEBA (female); QUASHEE (male)
MONDAY — JUBA; CUDJOE
TUESDAY –BENEBA; CUBBENAH
WEDNESDAY — CUBA; QUACO
THURSDAY — ABBA; QUAO
FRIDAY — PHEBE/PHIBBI; CUFF/CUFFEE
SATURDAY — MIMBA; QUAME/KWAME
Place names, sometimes signifying a site of importance to the slave owner, sometimes relating to one meaningful to the African-American parents, were also commonly used– as many as a quarter of male slaves received a place-name in the mid-1700s. Among those found:
Most avant-garde sounding to our modern ears are the word names used for and by African-Americans, signifying everything from the weather to virtues à la the Puritan naming traditions. Their use relates to the African belief in the power of a name to shape personality or influence fate or impart a certain quality – though many are far from uplifting. Some virtue and word names recorded among early African-Americans are:
For more on African-American naming history, see our new book Beyond Ava & Aiden: The Enlightened Guide to Naming Your Baby from which this post was adapted.
About the author
View all of 's articles
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
on October 16th, 2009 at 10:12 am
I’m really happy to have found a meaning for the name Juba, thanks for providing that!
on October 16th, 2009 at 4:19 pm
Very interesting article. I like how Phebe has cross-cultural meaning and associations.
Tracey R Said
on October 17th, 2009 at 10:37 pm
I’ve seen many of the weekday names in old literature, so it’s nice to know where they came from.
on October 18th, 2009 at 9:37 am
I just saw Juba used for a fierce male warrior used on a book I finished called Cleopatra’s Daughter. Despite ending in “a”, which usually makes it feminine, I think it lends itself well for a boy’s name.
on November 8th, 2009 at 12:23 am
The names are spelt horibly wrong monday-kojo…tuesday-kwabena… wednesday-kwaku…thursday-aqua…friday-kofi…saturday-kwame/kwami…sunday-kwesi (btw those are all for males [aqua is male and female])
Pamela Redmond Satran Said
on November 8th, 2009 at 11:57 am
Thank you, Kojo. I don’t remember where we first found that list but we’ve published and republished it in several books over several years and you’re the first person who’s corrected it. It’s very difficult to get accurate information on African and African-American names and so we appreciate your contribution.
Baby Name of the Day: Sunday | Appellation Mountain Said
on November 28th, 2011 at 8:00 am
[…] seems odd to think of Sunday for a boy. But the practice of bestowing a day name on a child has deep roots in some African cultures. Nia Long recently welcomed a son called Kez Sunday. Kez’ dad is the NBA’s Ime […]
leave a reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.