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Girl Names from Africa

Girl Names from Africa
African names for baby girls hail from all around the continent and offer an uncommon yet usable complement of choices. A few African girl names are starting to catch on in the US, including Zola and Zuri, which feature the exciting Z initial.

Along with Zola and Zuri, other African names for girls in the US Top 1000 include Amara, Anika, Nala, Zendaya, and Zora. One-of-a-kind African girl names given to fewer than five baby girls at last count include Ameyo, Lulit, Nemy, and Thulile.

While these are some of our favorites, for even more African baby girl names, go to our masterlist of African Names for Girls.

Girl Names from Africa
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AmaraHeart

  • Origin:

    Igbo or Latin
  • Meaning:

    "grace or bitter"
  • 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 and a Mongolian name meaning peaceful.

ZoraHeart

  • Origin:

    Serbo-Croatioan
  • Meaning:

    "dawn"
  • Description:

    Zora is a meaningful literary heroine name honoring Zora Neale Hurston, an important black writer and leader of the Harlem Renaissance.

AshaHeart

  • Origin:

    Sanskrit; Swahili
  • Meaning:

    "hope; life"
  • 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 exotic roots, Asha is part of this group. Asha is finding new life through its Game of Thrones connections.

NalaHeart

  • 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.

AnikaHeart

  • 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".
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ZuriHeart

  • Origin:

    Kiswahili
  • Meaning:

    "good, beautiful"
  • 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.

ZolaHeart

  • 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.

ZaharaHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew; Swahili
  • Meaning:

    "to shine; flower"
  • Description:

    Zahara, a delicate but strong multicultural name, came into the spotlight when Angelina Jolie bestowed it on her Ethiopian-born daughter, and we predict other parents will adopt it as well. If you want something simpler than Zahara, consider Zara, a royal name in England--but also the name of a Spanish-based clothing store chain.

ZendayaHeart

  • Origin:

    Shona
  • Meaning:

    "to give thanks"
  • Description:

    Disney Channel star and recording artist Zendaya's unusual name comes from the word for thanks, Tendai, in the Shona language, spoken in Zimbabwe and southern Zambia. Its popularity is directly connected to this actress-singer's rising celebrity, as it only just 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.

ZellaHeart

  • Origin:

    African, Bobangi
  • Meaning:

    "lacking nothing, one who knows the way"
  • Description:

    This is an African name that would fit into any culture.
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KiaHeart

  • Origin:

    African
  • Meaning:

    "season's beginning"
  • Description:

    Kia is a sweet, simple name that is now, unfortunately, associated with a Korean car label. Better today: Nia, Thea, or Keira.

TulaHeart

  • Origin:

    Choctaw, Hindi, or Kiswahili
  • Meaning:

    "mountain peak, a Libra, or to be tranquil"
  • Description:

    Tula is a polyethnic name which, spelled Toula, was used for the heroine of the hit film My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

IzaraHeart

  • Origin:

    African, Hausa
  • Meaning:

    "section of tree"
  • Description:

    Attractive, rhythmic, exotic choice.

AbenaHeart

  • Origin:

    Twi, Ghanaian
  • Meaning:

    "born on Tuesday"
  • Description:

    This name from the Akan language of Ghana in West Africa is traditionally given to baby girls born on a Tuesday. The male version is Kwabena or Kobena.

ImaraHeart

  • Origin:

    Kiswahili
  • Meaning:

    "firm"
  • Description:

    This could make a hauntingly evocative name for an American child, striking the perfect balance of the exotic and the familiar. Imara's meaning adds further appeal placing it among the special class of girl names that mean strong, brave, or powerful.
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NeelaHeart

  • Origin:

    Hindi, Sanskrit
  • Meaning:

    "sapphire blue"
  • Description:

    A variation of Nila, a name spread through African by the substantial Indian population there. Also a variant of Neala and Neila.

AmaHeart

  • Origin:

    African
  • Meaning:

    "born on a Saturday"
  • Description:

    Ama is a day name used by the Akan people of Ghana for girls born on Saturday. Names that reference a baby's birth by day of the week, time of day, or season of the year are common in many African cultures. Ama is one that can be used happily by parents who live in English-speaking countries. While there are many girls' names that contain Ama as an element and might use it as a short form -- from Amalia to Amaryllis to Samara -- there were only a handful of girls named Ama in the US in a recent year.

KamariaHeart

  • Origin:

    Swahili
  • Meaning:

    "moonlight"
  • Description:

    Lush and unusual.

LissaHeart

  • Origin:

    African and Arabic mythology name; diminutive of Melissa
  • Description:

    Lissa might be an abbreviation of Melissa, but it's more substantial in its own right: Lissa is the name of a supreme mother goddess in African mythology and an Arabic symbol of rebirth.

AmmaHeart

  • Origin:

    Hindi or African, Akan
  • Meaning:

    "mother, or born on a Saturday"
  • Description:

    An anagram of Mama, in tune with its Hindi meaning.
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SamiyaHeart

  • Origin:

    Arabic
  • Meaning:

    "high, exalted, praised"
  • Description:

    Samiya is a name used by parents of both Arabic and African ancestry. Spelling variations include Samiyah, Samiah, and Samia.

ThandieHeart

  • Origin:

    South African, Xhosa, diminutive of Thandiwe
  • Meaning:

    "beloved"
  • Description:

    A captivating and sprightly name brought into the limelight by actress Thandie Newton.

BehatiHeart

  • 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.

AkosuaHeart

  • Origin:

    Twi
  • Meaning:

    "Born on a Sunday"
  • Description:

    Akosua means "born on a Sunday," which relates the name to the sun and thus to fire. 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). Akosua is the name for girls born on a Sunday. The name for boys born on a Sunday is Kwasi.

MakenaHeart

  • Origin:

    Spelling variation of McKenna or Eastern African
  • Meaning:

    "happy one"
  • Description:

    The African version of McKenna with a sweet meaning.
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NairobiHeart

  • Origin:

    African place-name
  • Description:

    Kenya is fairly commonly heard as a girl's name, but its capital city makes a much more exceptional choice.

NyalaHeart

  • Origin:

    African, Ethiopian
  • Meaning:

    "mountain goat"
  • Description:

    Nyala is a secret nature name with a fashionable animal meaning. Nyala might be an appropriate name for a baby girl born under the sign of Capricorn, which is symbolized by the goat, or in the Chinese Year of the Goat -- though the last one was 2015 and we won't have another until 2027. Although the nee beginning is most frequently cited as the correct pronunciation, the name can -- and often will -- be pronounced with the first syllable rhyming with my and sigh.

EsheHeart

  • Origin:

    African, Swahili
  • Meaning:

    "life"
  • Description:

    A variant of Asha, which is related to the classic Arabic name Aisha, yet another way to say life. Other on-the-rise names with this uplifting meaning: Zoe and Vivian varieties such as Viviana, Viveca, and Vivienne.

ShantiHeart

  • Origin:

    Hindi
  • Meaning:

    "peace"
  • Description:

    This Hindi word which is used in prayer is one of the prime names that mean peace, always a nice message to impart to a child. Nick Nolte used it for his daughter.

KamaliHeart

  • Origin:

    African, Mashona
  • Meaning:

    "spirit guide, protector"
  • Description:

    Spirit that protects babies from illness...and surname of designer Naomi.
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SetheHeart

  • Origin:

    Egyptian mythological name or variation of Seth, Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "appointed, placed"
  • Description:

    Author Toni Morrison is an acknowledged master of naming, and Sethe, the name of one of the main characters of Beloved, which can be pronounced as Seth or Seth-eh, relates to the male biblical name Seth but is also the name of the Egyptian god of confusion.

BayoHeart

  • Origin:

    African, Nigerian, Yoruba
  • Meaning:

    "the crown meets joy"
  • Description:

    Short form of Adebayo

AfiaHeart

  • Origin:

    African
  • Meaning:

    "born on Friday"
  • Description:

    This variant of the more-difficult Afua, from the Akan language of what is now Ghana in West Africa, is a traditional "day name" that can make a perfectly pretty modern choice.

IfeHeart

  • Origin:

    African, Yoruba
  • Meaning:

    "love"
  • Description:

    Simple African name all-but-unknown in the U.S. and Europe, which is exactly why it might make a perfect choice. Similarity to such popular names as Ava and Eva (and the Irish Aoife) makes it more familiar, but potentially more confusing.

TamalaHeart

  • Origin:

    African
  • Meaning:

    "dark tree"
  • Description:

    Would you really want to name your child after a Japanese anime movie called Tamala 2010: A Punk Cat in Space.
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ImenaHeart

  • Origin:

    African, Arabic
  • Meaning:

    "dream; faith"
  • Description:

    A worthy update for Imani.

ZiziHeart

  • Origin:

    African, Kiswahili
  • Meaning:

    "pledged to God"
  • Description:

    Despite its varied cultural ties, Zizi still sounds like a cancan dancer or a fluffy lapdog.

DestaHeart

  • Origin:

    Amharic
  • Meaning:

    "joy"
  • Description:

    An Ethiopian name that means "joy."

KessieHeart

  • Origin:

    African, Ashanti
  • Meaning:

    "chubby baby"
  • Description:

    Kessie is cute but slight.

NemyHeart

  • Origin:

    Mende
  • Meaning:

    "sweet"
  • Description:

    Friendly and energetic name from the Mende language of West Africa.
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NgoziHeart

  • Origin:

    African, Nigerian-Igbo
  • Meaning:

    "blessing"
  • Description:

    Dynamic and creative; common in Africa, challenging here. Pronunciation isn't as difficult as you'd guess, but everyone will have to ask. Many favor n-GO-zee, but a native speaker tells us that it is closer to n-GAW-zee, and we've found at least one n-GAH-zee, too.

FayolaHeart

  • Origin:

    African-Yoruba, Nigeria
  • Meaning:

    "lucky, good fortune, blessed"
  • Description:

    Too close to "payola."

EbeleHeart

  • Origin:

    African
  • Meaning:

    "mercy, kindness"
  • Description:

    Igbo name made more familiar by its relationship to the popular Belle and Bella.

XoisHeart

  • Origin:

    African place-name
  • Description:

    This name of the capital of an ancient Egyptian dynasty makes Lois X-rated.

ZaireHeart

  • Origin:

    Place-name
  • Description:

    While this African place-name is much more popular for boys, nearly 40 girls were named Zaire last year. Among African baby names, this is one of the best-known in the US.
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MirembeHeart

  • Origin:

    Uganda
  • Meaning:

    "woman of peace"
  • Description:

    Mirembe is a feminine Ugandan name stemming from the Luganda word “emirembe” meaning peace, quiet. In Luganda, Rs are pronounced similar to Ls, so mill-EM-beh is an approximate pronunciation.

SalanaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "sun"
  • Description:

    Related to the more common Solana, Salana has a pleasantly rhythmic pan-cultural feel.

MarjaniHeart

  • Origin:

    African, Swahili
  • Meaning:

    "coral"
  • Description:

    A name with the kind of pan-cultural feel -- Marjani Satrapi is the Iranian graphic novelist who wrote Persepolis -- that's in vogue now....and forever.

EfiaHeart

  • Origin:

    Akan
  • Meaning:

    "born on Friday"
  • 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). Efia (also Afua) is the name for girls born on a Friday. (The male variant is Kofi)

PanyaHeart

  • Origin:

    African, Swahili; or, Russian, diminutive of Stephania
  • Meaning:

    "mouse, tiny one; or, crowned one"
  • Description:

    Panya is a multicultural possibility with a sound that's pleasing to the English-speaking ear, though the Swahili translation, which might also be "rat," makes it less than savory as an African name.
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