African Girl Names
African girl names 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.
Africa is a vast continent with an enormous range of diverse cultures, each with its own names and naming traditions. Some African names have meanings related to family relationships or to the time or circumstances of a child's birth.
What's here are not all the African names for girls on Nameberry, but a select group of favorites.
Origin:Igbo, Sanskrit, Arabic
Meaning:"grace, immortal, tribe"
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", an Arabic word meaning "tribe" and a Mongolian name meaning "peaceful".
Description:Zora is a meaningful literary heroine name honoring Zora Neale Hurston, an important black writer and leader of the Harlem Renaissance.
Meaning:"to give thanks"
Description:Zendaya has propelled her unusual African name into the spotlight and up the popularity charts. Zendaya is one of the major baby name influencers of our era. What does Zendaya's name mean? The name Zendaya comes from the word for thanks, Tendai, in the Shona language, spoken in Zimbabwe and southern Zambia. The name Zendaya's popularity is directly connected to this actress-singer's rising celebrity, as it 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.
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".
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 separate roots, Asha is part of this group. Asha is finding new life through its Game of Thrones connections.
Origin:Arabic, Basque, Hausa
Meaning:"shawl; star; section of tree"
Description:Attractive, rhythmic choice with roots in several languages and cultures. It's a lesser-known a celestial name, meaning "star" in Basque and referring to a star in the constellation Boötes in Arabic.
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.
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.
Meaning:"lacking nothing, one who knows the way"
Description:This is an African name that would fit into any culture.
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.
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.
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.
Description:A variation of Nila, a name spread through African by the substantial Indian population there. Also a variant of Neala and Neila.
Meaning:"born on a Saturday; water"
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.
Description:Kenya is fairly commonly heard as a girl's name, but its capital city makes a much more exceptional choice.
Description:Kia is a sweet, simple name that is now, unfortunately, associated with a Korean car label. Better today: Nia, Thea, or Keira.
Description:This could make a hauntingly evocative name for an American child, striking the perfect balance of the unusual and the familiar. Imara's meaning adds further appeal placing it among the special class of girl names that mean strong, brave, or powerful.
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.