Ethiopian Names are Rooted in Tradition

Ethiopian Names are Rooted in Tradition

In one of the oldest major civilizations in the world, naming customs are rooted in tradition and religion. Many Ethiopian names are strongly connected to Christianity, with Ethiopia being one of the first countries in the world to adopt Christianity as its official religion, all the way back in the 4th century AD. Today over 65% of Ethiopian citizens identify as Ethiopian Orthodox Christian.

A large number of the popular names in Ethiopia are variations of Biblical and Hebrew names, such as Abel, Yoseif, and Mariam. Other names strongly rooted in religion include Hallelujah, Hosanna, and Bethlehem.

Other Ethiopian names come from the several languages spoken throughout the country, including Amharic, the most common language, as well as Oromo, Tigrigna, and Afar among others.

There are many hidden gems amongst Ethiopian names that deserve more attention, and even consideration. Here are a handful of our favorites that would cross beautifully into the English-speaking world.

Ethiopian Girl Names


While this Ethiopian name may look familiar to English speakers by means of the pink and purple flowering aster plant, it has a different, and arguably more appealing pronunciation — "ah-STAIR". Aster is the Amharic form of Biblical Esther, meaning star. While 67 baby girls were given the name Aster in 2021, it is likely safe to assume that most of these parents are pronouncing it the English way, with the name following in Aspen and Astrid's footsteps.


Countless variations of the classic Elizabeth are used across the globe, and this is a new one to add to the books. Elsabet — pronounced "IL-sa-bet" — is commonly used as a girl name in Ethiopia, often with the stylish and approachable nicknames Elsi or Elsa. Overall this is a unique alternative to the classic with a cross-cultural feel that would carry well into English-speaking countries.


Derived from the Hebrew phrase "El Shaddai" meaning God almighty, the beautiful Elshaday is used as a first name for girls in Ethiopia. Pronounced "el-shah-day", this is a unique and feminine "-El" name when Eleanor, Eliana, and Eloise are feeling less exciting.


Enani is used as a cutesy nickname in Ethiopia, but is also used as a given name for girls. This sweet name would transfer perfectly into English-speaking areas, especially with the recent love for "-ani" ending names like Leilani and Kehlani. Pronounced "eh-NAH-nee", this name can also be spelled Enany.


Feven is a beautiful and tailored Ethiopian girl name with a bright and cheerful sound — rhyming with rising name Haven. Feven is the Amharic variant of Biblical Phoebe meaning "radiant, shining one", and also the goddess of the moon and hunting in Greek mythology — all beautiful imagery to have in a name. In 2021, there were 9 baby girls given the name Feven.


Gelila, pronounced "geh-LEE-la", is a lovely Ethiopian name with two possible origins — some sources cite the name as a variation of the Biblical place Galilee, meaning rolling hills. Others view the name as a variation of Biblical Delilah. Whichever way, Gelila is a gorgeous name. The name is also worn by Ethiopian model Gelila Bekele, former longtime partner of actor and filmmaker Tyler Perry. In 2021, there were 15 baby girls given the name Gelila in the US.


This Ethiopian name feels in line with stylish (and fast-rising) Kalani, Kehlani, and Kailani. Kuleni, pronounced "koo-LEH-nee", has the evocative meanings of "the one whose eyes are lined with mascara" or "princess". As a bonus, the potential nickname Leni is super sweet.


This pretty Ethiopian name means "unique" or "different", and would live up to its name in English-speaking countries. Pronounced "lee-yoo", this name can also be spelled Liyou.


This cute Ethiopian name fits right in with today's trends. With "traveling lite" names — short and sweet, often 4 letter names ending in "i" — being a recent trend, from Remi to Esti to ZuriLomi fits right in while standing out. Mix trendy Lumi with stylish Romy, and you've got Lomi! Pronounced "LOH-mee", this is the Amharic word for lemon and is used as a given name for girls.


Lulit — pronounced "loo-LEET" — is as sweet as they come. This Amharic name also boasts the beautiful meaning "pearl". With "Lu-" names in fashion such as Luna and Lucy, as well as the current love for double L names like Lila, Lola, Lily, and Layla, Lulit is a winner. It hits both of these trends, but the "-t" ending gives the name a distinct, unique sound.


The "mahlet" is a chant that priests in the Ethiopian Orthodox church perform during the night to praise and give thanks to God. Pronounced with three syllables —mah-HAH-let" — Mahlet is also used as a first name for girls in Ethiopia.


While Meron looks and sounds like a variation of Maren or Marion, her origins are in Ethiopia — Meron is the name of the holy oil used for christenings in the Ethiopian Orthodox church. Meron, pronounced "MEH-rone", is a feminine, but frill-free name that would work well in today's world.


This gorgeous Ethiopian name would be very attractive in English as well. With Sosina feeling like a fresh version of Biblical Susanna, this could be a perfect honor name for a loved one named Susan or related names. Sosina — pronounced "soh-SEE-na" — has a range of possible meanings, one of which is "a rose". How adorable would Sosina with the nickname "Sosie" be?


This variation of Johanna is in turn a feminization of Biblical John, meaning "God is gracious". Pronounced "yo-HAH-na", this soft and feminine name can also be spelled Yohanna. In 2021, there were 45 baby girls given the name Yohana, reflecting the name's cross-cultural appeal.

Ethiopian Boy Names


This Ethiopian boy name looks like a shortening of popular Addison, but has separate roots. Nonetheless, with Addison's popularity, Addis would fit in while standing out as a boy name in English-speaking countries. Addis — pronounced "ah-dis", means "new" as seen in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, meaning "new flower". In 2021, there were 7 baby boys given the name Addis. Another equally handsome variation that deserves consideration is Haddis.


Benyam — pronounced "BEN-yum" — is the variation of Biblical Benjamin used in Ethiopia. Like Benjamin, the name means "son of the right hand". With various "Ben" names in style, from Bennett to Bentley, Benyam feels perfectly approachable. The name is also commonly spelled Binyam or Biniyam, but the Benyam more easily leads to the loveable and friendly nickname Ben.


Endris is a chic Ethiopian variation of Andrew that has a stylish, international flair. Pronounced "en-DREES", the name means "strong" or "manly", but has the perfect balance of soft and strong sounds.


Emeru is an intriguing boy name used in Ethiopia, pronounced "EM-roo". If you love the "Em" sound but Emmett, Emerson, and Emery aren't quite exciting enough for you, this is a great alternative. The name is also sometimes spelled Emmeru.


We love a unique name that leads to the hip nickname Finn (or Fin). Finhas, pronounced "fin-hahs", is an Ethiopian variant of Phineas that does just that. Finhas was also the name of an ancient ruler in Ethiopia. The name, like Phineas, means "oracle" or "serpent's mouth".


Issak is a variant of Biblical Isaac that is popular in Ethiopia and is used in small numbers in the US. In 2021, there were 13 baby boys named Issak. Pronounced "EE-sahk", the name boasts the endearing meaning of "laughter".


Jember has a gorgeous meaning — sunset, sunrise, or horizon. Pronounced "JEM-bair", this beautiful name would be especially sweet with the nickname Jem.


The most popular variation of this Biblical name is Mateo, which has now surpassed the classic Matthew. Matteo is not far behind, and other variations are rising fast as well. Mateos is a variation used throughout Ethiopia that has yet to make it to the Western world, despite its super cool sound and wide appeal. Pronounced "ma-tay-ohs", this would be a perfect slightly offbeat alternative to the trendier versions.


Nahome, pronounced "NAH-home", has the virtuous meaning "compassionate" or "comforter". Nahome is the name of an Old Testament prophet, spelled Nahum in Hebrew. The prophet wrote about the end of the Assyrian Empire, and its capital city, Nineveh, in a vivid poetic style.


More distinctive than Noah or Jacob, but equally as approachable, Noab — pronounced "no-ahb" — has potential as a fresh crossover into English-speaking world. An Amharic name meaning "pleasant", Noab can also mean "Ethiopian king".


This soft-spoken name is as gentle as its' meaning: "God is my Shepherd". Nolawi, pronounced "no-LAH-wee", has sounds parallel to the popular Nolan with more of a fun, lilting rhythm. In 2021, there were 18 baby boys given the name Nolawi in the US.


If Theodore has lost its sparkle and Thaddeus feels a bit too serious, you may love the Ethiopian Tadeios. Pronounced "TAH-day-ohs", this variation of Biblical Thaddeus means "courageous". With a fun and bouncy sound and the cool nickname "Tad", what's not to love?


With the fast-rising Jonah having cracked the Top 200 and the more surname-esque Jonas not too far behind, parents who love this Biblical classic may want a unique alternative — In 2021, there were only 10 baby boys given the name Yonas. Yonas is the variation used in Ethiopia, carrying the same sweet and gentle meaning of "dove", along with the associations with the Old Testament prophet who was famously swallowed by a whale.


This mini, "traveling-lite" name has a little more spunk than Zack or Zeke, but shares those distinctive sounds that have been well-loved for several decades now. Zeki means "pure", and is pronounced "zeh-KEE", with emphasis on the second syllable. With the recent rise of similar-sounding Zakai into the US charts, Zeki has potential. In 2021, there were 5 baby boys named Zeki.

About the Author

Brynn McKeon

Brynn McKeon

Brynn McKeon joined the Nameberry team in August of 2022 as an editor, and has written about topics such as the Ultimate Guide to Goddess Names and Redefining Classic Names. As Head Moderator, she also oversees our active Nameberry forums community. Brynn also writes the daily Name of the Day newsletter.

Outside of Nameberry, Brynn lives in New York State with her dog Raven, where she is working towards her Master's degree in Occupational Therapy. You can reach her at