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Boy Names from Africa

African names for baby boys represent the many languages and cultures from around the continent. Americans may be familiar with African names such as Chidi, Kamau, Neo, Kehinde, and Nnamdi through pop culture references. Barack, a Swahili name, is the widest known, as the name of 44th President Barack Obama.

Amari is currently the most popular African boy name in the United States. Along with Amari, other African boy names in the US Top 1000 are Omari, Ayan, Dakari, Sekani, Khari, and Zaire. Rare African boy names worth considering include Idir, Odion, Zenebe, and Uzochi.

African baby names for boys are historic choices that honor heritage. For our full list of African baby names, click here.

African Boy Names
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AmariHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "eternal"
  • Description:

    An originally male name also used for girls, mostly because of its soft sound and vowel ending. Related to names and words in a range of languages—Yoruba, Thai, Hebrew—and with a variety of positive meanings.

NeoHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin or Tswana
  • Meaning:

    "new or gift"
  • Description:

    This nouveau name of Keanu Reeves's character in The Matrix has not enjoyed the same burst of popularity as its female counterpart, Trinity, but it definitely sounds, well, newer. Neo Rauch is an interesting contemporary German artist.

KhariHeart

  • Origin:

    West African
  • Meaning:

    "kingly"
  • Description:

    Though used quite often for babies of both sexes, Khari, meaning "kingly," was traditionally a boys' name. Musical couple Fetty Wop and Masika Kalysha, however, named their daughter Khari.

ZaireHeart

  • Origin:

    Place name
  • 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.

KofiHeart

  • Origin:

    Twi
  • Meaning:

    "born on Friday"
  • Description:

    This Akan day name is very much associated with Ghanan 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 Ghanans have a name using this system.
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ObiHeart

  • Origin:

    African, Nigerian-Ibo
  • Meaning:

    "heart"
  • Description:

    "Return of the Jedi": strongly linked to the complex "Star Wars" character, Obi Wan Kenobi.

KwameHeart

  • Origin:

    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 Ghanans have a name using this system (think Kofi Annan, whose name means born on a Friday). Kwame is the name for boys born on a Saturday. (The name for girls born on a Saturday is Amma).

ZuriHeart

  • Origin:

    African, Kiswahili
  • Meaning:

    "good, beautiful"
  • Description:

    Singular, strong, and exotic.

BarackHeart

  • 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."

AjaniHeart

  • Origin:

    Nigerian, Yoruban
  • Meaning:

    "the victor"
  • Description:

    An easily assimilated African name, a novel twist on Johnny.
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KatoHeart

  • 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.

InikoHeart

  • Origin:

    Nigerian
  • Meaning:

    "time of trouble"
  • Description:

    African name with Niko-nickname option.

SekaniHeart

  • Origin:

    Sekani, Tumbuka
  • Meaning:

    "people on the rocks; laugh"
  • Description:

    Sekani was the fastest-rising boy name of 2019, inspired by the character Sekani Carter in the 2018 movie The Hate U Give.

KwakuHeart

  • Origin:

    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 Ghanans have a name using this system (think Kofi Annan, whose name means born on a Friday).

CongoHeart

  • 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".
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AyanHeart

  • 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.

ShangoHeart

  • Origin:

    African, Yoruba, mythology name
  • Description:

    More substantial than it sounds: Shango was the god of thunder and legendary ancestor of the Yoruba people of Nigeria.

OmariHeart

  • Origin:

    Swahili variation of Omar
  • Description:

    This name, like Omar and Amari, has been in the US Top 1000 for many years. After taking a downturn in 2008, it's now again on the upswing. Actor Omari Hardwick keeps it in the public eye.

OdionHeart

  • Origin:

    African
  • Meaning:

    "first born of twins"
  • Description:

    Strong Nigerian name that could work for a twin of any ethnicity.

AmadiHeart

  • Origin:

    African
  • Meaning:

    "free man"
  • Description:

    This name from the Igbo language of Africa, which feels like the more-familiar Arabic Ahmad, might be an original and attractive choice.
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DakariHeart

  • Origin:

    African
  • Meaning:

    "rejoice"
  • Description:

    This name from the Shona language is a new entrant to the Top 1000 in the US.

TafariHeart

  • Origin:

    Amharic
  • Meaning:

    "he who inspires awe"
  • Description:

    King Tafari was the last king of Ethiopia. He is worshipped today as an incarnation of God by Rastafarians.

BayoHeart

  • Origin:

    African, Nigerian, Yoruba
  • Meaning:

    "the crown meets joy"
  • Description:

    Short form of Adebayo

TayeHeart

  • Origin:

    African, Ethiopian
  • Meaning:

    "he has been seen"
  • Description:

    Taye, also used as a short form of Taylor, began to stand on its own with the emergence of actor Taye (born Scott) Diggs.

AziziHeart

  • Origin:

    Swahili
  • Meaning:

    "precious treasure"
  • Description:

    Two z's equal double pizzazz.
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KojoHeart

  • Origin:

    Ghanaian
  • Meaning:

    "born on Monday"
  • Description:

    The Ashantis of Ghana traditionally use this animated name for boys born on Monday. The girls' equivalent is Adwoa, pronounced ahj-wa.

UdoHeart

  • Origin:

    Igbo
  • Meaning:

    "peace"
  • Description:

    Udo is the Igbo word for peace, and, in Nigeria, is a name usually reserved for men. Related names include Akudo, Udoka and Udo-Amaka.

AkelloHeart

  • Origin:

    Ugandan
  • Meaning:

    "I have brought forth"
  • Description:

    Energetic but mellow.

NairobiHeart

  • Origin:

    African place-name
  • Description:

    The capital of Kenya makes a melodic and exotic name.

ZenebeHeart

  • 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.
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EboHeart

  • Origin:

    African, Akeradini
  • Meaning:

    "born on Tuesday"
  • Description:

    Ebo is a powerful African day name that can be used to fit its definition.

ChidiHeart

  • Origin:

    Igbo
  • Meaning:

    "God exists"
  • Description:

    A very common boys' name (and nickname) in Nigeria that some Americans will recognize as the name of one of the main characters on NBC's The Good Place.

RudoHeart

  • Origin:

    Shona
  • Meaning:

    "love"
  • Description:

    In the Shona language of souther Africa, this simple and wearable boys' name means love.

YawHeart

  • Origin:

    Twi
  • Meaning:

    "Born on a Thursday"
  • 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 Ghanans have a name using this system (think Kofi Annan, whose name means born on a Friday).

AnanHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew, Akan
  • Meaning:

    "cloud; fourth-born child"
  • Description:

    Little-known name from the Old Testament.
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MassaiHeart

  • 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.

TauHeart

  • Origin:

    Indigenous Australian or Tswana, Sotho, dusk, twilight, or lion"
  • Description:

    Tau, rhyming with cow, is a simple straightforward name with roots in two languages and cultures, the Kaurna language spoken by indigenous Australian people or the African Tswana language, a Bantu language spoken by five million people.

GarianHeart

  • Origin:

    African place-name
  • Description:

    This town in northern Libya could find a spot on the name map.

ZesiroHeart

  • Origin:

    Luganda
  • Meaning:

    "older of twins"
  • Description:

    Unusual and exotic name, might be worth consideration if you're expecting twins.

MandelaHeart

  • 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.
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AmadouHeart

  • Origin:

    West African
  • Description:

    A form of Ahmad popular in Western Africa. It ranked in the French Top 500 for much of the 1980s.

AyoHeart

  • Origin:

    Yoruba
  • Meaning:

    "joy"
  • Description:

    This charming West African mini name fits in with the other similarly short names that are all the rage right now.

IboHeart

  • Origin:

    African
  • Meaning:

    "my people"
  • Description:

    Ibo is short but striking. Another, unrelated but equally appealing name is Ivo.

ItriHeart

  • Origin:

    Berber
  • Meaning:

    "star"

AyuHeart

  • Origin:

    African, Yoruban
  • Meaning:

    "joy"
  • Description:

    Rhythmic and exotic.
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HajiHeart

  • Origin:

    Swahili
  • Meaning:

    "born during the pilgrimage to Mecca"
  • Description:

    A name appropriate for boys born during the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca every Muslim is expected to make once in his lifetime.

KamauHeart

  • Origin:

    Kikuyu
  • Meaning:

    "quiet warrior"
  • Description:

    Kamau is from the Kikuyu language native to Kenya. It is recognizable as the middle name of comedian W. Kamau Bell.

KehindeHeart

  • Origin:

    Yoruba
  • Meaning:

    "second-born of twins or one who falls behind"
  • Description:

    This African name, which derives from the Yoruba tribe of Nigeria, is used for both girls and boys -- but in the US, its most notable bearer is (male) artist Kehinde Wiley. Wiley, who paints brown- and black-skinned people in the style of European Old Masters, was born in Los Angeles of an African-American mother and a Yoruba father and was also a twin, thus his name. An attractive and creative choice for either gender.

NnamdiHeart

  • Origin:

    Igbo
  • Meaning:

    "my father is alive"
  • Description:

    In the Igbo culture of Nigeria, the name Nnamdi is given to baby boys who are thought to be reincarnations of their grandfathers. The name is familiar via Nnamdi Asomugha, a former NFL player married to Kerry Washington.

DjimonHeart

  • Origin:

    African, meaning unknown
  • Description:

    Djimon has become a familiar African name via powerful Benin-born, Oscar-nominated actor Djimon Hounsou.
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