50 Popular African Baby Names

Learn the meaning and origins of popular African baby names

baby sleeping

Getty Images / AJ_Watt

When it comes to picking an African name for your baby boy or girl, you have the luxury of picking a name from any of the continent’s 54 countries. African names are incredibly diverse and contain a mix of traditional, Muslim, Christian, and Arabic names. Naming a child in many African countries is a serious affair, and elaborate naming ceremonies are typically conducted to bestow upon a child several meaningful names.

An African baby's birth is typically followed by a round of ceremonies and festivities to usher the new child into the world. Many of the names given at these ceremonies are indicative of the child's place in the world. For example in Ghana, a baby boy born on a Friday will be named Kofi. In the Igbo tribe of Nigeria and some parts of West Africa, a firstborn girl is mandatorily named Ada.

Popular African Baby Names For Girls

Read on to learn about some of the most popular African baby names for girls, their meanings, and their origins.

Abeba

  • Origin: Eastern African, Eritrean 
  • Meaning: Flower
  • Alternative Spellings & Variations: Abebah
  • Famous Namesakes: Abeba Haile, Eritrean singer; Abeba Aregawi, Ethiopian runner 
  • Peak Popularity: The name Abeba is not popular in the United States.

Fun Fact: Abeba is a palindrome, this means it forms the same name when spelled forward or backward. 

Aberash

  • Origin: Eastern African, Amharic
  • Meaning: Giving off light, shining 
  • Famous Namesakes: Aberash Bekele, women’s rights advocate
  • Peak Popularity: Aberash is not a popular name in the United States.

Ada

  • Origin: West African, Igbo
  • Meaning: First daughter 
  • Alternative Spellings & Variations: Adanna, Adaugo, Adaobi 
  • Famous Namesakes: Ada Ehi, Nigerian gospel singer; Ada Uchechukwu, Nigerian artist and poet; Ada Lovelace, English writer and computer programmer 
  • Peak Popularity: Ada is the 665th most popular name of all time. It hit peak popularity in the year 1918 when 1943 babies were named Ada that year.

Fun Fact: The name Ada is also a popular first name for girls in Germany and Turkey.

Amara

  • Origin: West African, Igbo 
  • Meaning: Grace, mercy, kindness
  • Alternative Spellings & Variations: Amarachukwu, Amarachi
  • Famous Namesakes: Amara La Negra, American singer; Amara Walker, American journalist
  • Peak Popularity: The name Amara started to gain popularity in the United States in the late 2010s. In 2017, 1501 baby girls were named Amara. This is the highest use of the name in the United States to date. 

Fun Fact: Amara is also the name of a type of sun beetle. 

Ayaan

  • Origin: African, Somalian, Arabic
  • Meaning: Gift of God, good luck
  • Alternative Spellings & Variations: Ayan 
  • Famous Namesakes: Ayaan Hirsi Ali, politician and author
  • Peak Popularity: The name started to gain popularity in the United States in the 21st century. In 2017, 509 babies were given the name Ayaan.

Chidinma

  • Origin: West African, Igbo
  • Meaning: God is good
  • Alternative Spellings & Variations: Chidi, Chinma, Chidimma
  • Famous Namesakes: Chidinma Ekile, Nigerian singer and song writer
  • Peak Popularity: In 1996, 21 babies were given the name Chidinma. This is the highest record of its use.

Cleopatra

  • Origin: Egyptian
  • Meaning: Glory of the father
  • Alternative Spellings & Variations: Clea, Kleopatra, Cleo
  • Famous Namesakes: Cleo Moore, American actress; Cleo Rocos, British comedian
  • Peak Popularity: In 1920, 1398 babies were named Cleo. This is the highest record of its use.

Fun Fact: The name was popularized by Cleopatra VII, an ancient ruler of Egypt.

Gugulethu

  • Origin: Southern African, Zulu, Xhosa
  • Meaning: Pride, treasure
  • Alternative Spellings & Variations: Gugu
  • Famous Namesakes: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, actress
  • Peak Popularity: Gugulethu isn’t a very popular name in the United States.

Fun Fact: Gugulethu is also the name of a town in the Western Cape of South Africa.

Hadiza

  • Origin: Western African, Hausa
  • Meaning: One with no desire
  • Alternative Spellings & Variations: Hadizatu
  • Famous Namesakes: Hadiza Aliyu, Nigerian actress
  • Peak Popularity: Hadiza isn’t a very popular name in the United States.

Fun Fact: Hadiza is the Hausa form of the name Khadijah.

Hibo

  • Origin: Eastern African, Somalian 
  • Meaning: Gift
  • Alternative Spellings & Variations: Hiba
  • Famous Namesakes: Hiba Tawaji, musician 
  • Peak Popularity: The highest record of the use of the name Hibo in the United States was in 2016.

Fun Fact: Hibo is also the name of a popular energy drink in Austria.

Imani

  • Origin: Eastern African, Swahili
  • Meaning: Faith
  • Alternative Spellings & Variations: Iman, Imen, Imaan, Eman
  • Famous Namesakes: Imani Coppola, alternative artist
  • Peak Popularity: In 1998, 1272 babies were named Imani. This was the peak of its popularity in the United States.

Fun Fact: Iman is the name of a popular makeup line in the United States

Kenya

  • Origin: Eastern African
  • Meaning: Gotten from the name of the East African country, Kenya
  • Famous Namesakes: Kenya Moore, actor; Kenya Bell, R&B artist
  • Peak Popularity: In 1973, 1039 babies were named Kenya. This was the peak of its popularity in the United States. 

Fun Fact: The name Kenya has been used as a first name in English-speaking countries since the 1960s.

Makena

  • Origin: Kikuyu, Eastern African
  • Meaning: Happy one
  • Alternative Spellings & Variations: Kena, Makenna
  • Peak Popularity: The use of the name Makena hit peak popularity in 2005 when 380 babies were named Makena. 

Masego

  • Origin: Tswana, Southern African
  • Meaning: Blessed one, blessings 
  • Alternative Spellings & Variations: Sego
  • Famous Namesakes: Masego Ntshingane, Botswanan athlete 
  • Peak Popularity: Masego isn’t a very popular name in the United States.

Nala

  • Origin: Somali, African
  • Meaning: Us
  • Alternative Spellings & Variations: Naala, Nale, Nahla, Nalla
  • Famous Namesakes: Nala Damajanti, 19th-century snake charmer
  • Peak Popularity: Nala has gained popularity in recent times in the United States. In 2018, 380 babies were named Nala.

Fun Fact: In the popular animated film The Lion King, Nala is the name of Simba’s spouse. 

Nia

  • Origin: Swahili, Eastern African
  • Meaning: Purpose
  • Alternative Spellings & Variations: Nyah
  • Famous Namesakes: Nia Long, American actress; Nia Sharma, Indian actress; Nia Sanchez, American beauty queen 
  • Peak Popularity: In 2000, 1003 babies were named Nia in the United States. This is the highest record of its use. 

Fun Fact: In Ireland, Nia is a popular masculine name.

Ola

  • Origin: West African, Yoruba
  • Meaning: Wealth, precious
  • Alternative Spellings & Variations: Olamide, Olaitan
  • Famous Namesakes: Ola Al-Fares, Jordanian lawyer; Ola Uduku, British-American actress
  • Peak Popularity: Ola was a popular name in the early 1990s in the United States. A total of 772 babies were named Ola in 1920. 

Fun Fact: In Arabic, Ola means high or arise.

Onika

  • Origin: African
  • Meaning: Who is greater than God?
  • Alternative Spellings & Variations: Anika
  • Famous Namesakes: Onika Tanya Maraj (Nicki Minaj), American rapper
  • Peak Popularity: Onika isn’t a very popular name in the United States.

Sade

  • Origin: West African, Yoruba
  • Meaning: Crown
  • Alternative Spellings & Variations: Folasade, Shade
  • Famous Namesakes: Sade, British-Nigerian singer and songwriter; Sade Baderinwa, journalist
  • Peak Popularity: Peak use of the name Sade was in 1986.

Fun Fact: The name Sade was made popular in the United States and England by Sade Adu, a singer and songwriter.

Taraji

  • Origin: Swahili
  • Meaning: Hope
  • Alternative Spellings & Variations: Tara, Raji
  • Famous Namesakes: Taraji P. Henson, American actress, and singer
  • Peak Popularity: Taraji was most popular in 2010, before that year the name was barely used. 

Zendaya

  • Origin: Shona, South African
  • Meaning: Be thankful
  • Alternative Spellings & Variations: Tendai
  • Famous Namesakes: Zendaya Coleman, American actress
  • Peak Popularity: In 2015, 354 babies were named Zendaya when it hit peak popularity.

Fun Fact: The rise in popularity of actress Zendaya Coleman has also led to a rise in the use of the name. 

Zola

  • Origin: Southern African, Xhosa
  • Meaning: Calm
  • Alternative Spellings & Variations: Zolah, Zella
  • Famous Namesakes: Zola Jesus, electronic music artist; Zola Budd, South African athlete; Zola Taylor, American singer
  • Peak Popularity: In 2018, 280 babies were given the name Zola; this was the peak of its popularity. 

Fun Fact: Zola is also the name of a popular wedding website.

Zuri

  • Origin: Swahili, Eastern African
  • Meaning: Beautiful 
  • Famous Namesakes: Zuri Hall, American TV host
  • Peak Popularity: The use of the name Zuri was at an all time high in 2018 when 1,150 babies were named Zuri in the United States. 

African Baby Names For Boys

Below are s handful of the most popular African boy baby names, along with their meaning and origin.

Aadan

  • Origin: Tamil, African
  • Meaning: Son of Adam
  • Alternative Spellings & Variations: Adan, Aaden
  • Famous Namesakes: Aaden-Gurey Maxamed Cabdille, Somalian poet
  • Peak Popularity: The name Aadan isn’t very popular in the United States.

Fun Fact: Aadan is thought to be a Somali form of Adam.

Abdalla

  • Origin: Arabic
  • Meaning: Servant of Allah
  • Alternative Spellings & Variations: Abdallah, Abdullah, Abdallah
  • Famous Namesakes: Abdalla El-Masri, Lebanese composer; Abdallah Djaballah Algerian politician
  • Peak Popularity: The name Abdalla is very popular in Somalia, but not in the United States. Only 19 babies were given the name in 2007; this is the highest number recorded.

Fun Fact: Abdallah was the name of Prophet Muhammad’s father.


Abidemi

  • Origin: West African, Yoruba
  • Meaning: Born during his father’s absence 
  • Alternative Spellings & Variations: Bidemi, Demi
  • Famous Namesakes: Abidemi Sanusi, author
  • Peak Popularity: The name Abidemi isn’t very popular in the United States.

Amari

  • Origin: African
  • Meaning: Possesses great strength
  • Alternative Spellings & Variations: Amar, Ammar, Amare
  • Famous Namesakes: Amari Cooper, soccer player; Amari Morgan-Smith, soccer player
  • Peak Popularity: In 2018, 2112 babies were given the name Amari. This is the highest ever record of its use in the United States.

Bamidele

  • Origin: West African, Yoruba
  • Meaning: Follow me home
  • Alternative Spellings & Variations: Bami, Dele
  • Famous Namesakes: Bamidele Olumilua, Nigerian governor 
  • Peak Popularity: Bamidele isn’t a popular name in the United States.

Chima

  • Origin: West African, Igbo
  • Meaning: God knows
  • Famous Namesakes: Chima Okorie, Nigerian soccer player; Chima Onyeike, Netherlands soccer player
  • Peak Popularity: The name isn’t very popular in the United States, only 14 babies were given the name in 2002. 

Chiumbo

  • Origin: Mwera, Eastern African 
  • Meaning: Small, small child 
  • Peak Popularity: Chiumbo isn’t a popular name in the United States.

Fun Fact: Chiumbo is also the name of a town in Angola. 

Diallo

  • Origin: African, Fula
  • Meaning: Bold
  • Famous Namesakes: Diallo Guidileye, Mauritanian footballer; Diallo Telli, Guinean politician
  • Peak Popularity: In 1972, 81 babies were given the name Diallo. This is the peak of its popularity.

Faraji

  • Origin: Eastern African, Swahili
  • Meaning: Consolation
  • Alternative Spellings & Variations: Fara
  • Famous Namesakes: Faraji Music, Jamaican singer
  • Peak Popularity: Faraji isn’t a popular name in the United States. 

Femi

  • Origin: Western African, Yoruba
  • Meaning: Love me
  • Alternative Spellings & Variations: Olufemi, Oluwafemi
  • Famous Namesakes: Femi Kuti, Nigerian afrobeat musician; Femi Oke, journalist
  • Peak Popularity: The name Femi is popular in West Africa, but not very popular in the United States.

Fun Fact: The name Femi can also be used for a girl.

Idir

  • Origin: Berber, Northern African 
  • Meaning: Alive
  • Alternative Spellings & Variations: Yidir
  • Famous Namesakes: Idir Ouali, soccer player; Idir, Kabyle singer
  • Peak Popularity: The name Idir isn’t popular in the United States.

Ike

  • Origin: Western Africa
  • Meaning: God will laugh, God laughed
  • Alternative Spellings & Variations: Issac
  • Famous Namesakes: Ike Barinholtz, American actor; Ike Moriz, German-South-African singer
  • Peak Popularity: In 1953, 111 babies were given the name Ike. This is the highest ever record of its use.

Fun Fact: A 1979 television miniseries about Eisenhower is also named Ike.

Imamu

  • Origin: Swahili, Eastern African
  • Meaning: Spiritual leader
  • Alternative Spellings & Variations: Mamu, Imam
  • Famous Namesakes: Imamu Mayfield, martial artist
  • Peak Popularity: Imamu was most popular in the United States in 1973, but only five babies were given the name that year. 

Jabari

  • Origin: Arabic, Swahili
  • Meaning: Brave one
  • Alternative Spellings & Variations: Jabbar
  • Famous Namesakes: Jabari Parker, American basketball player; Jabari Greer, American football player
  • Peak Popularity: Jabari peaked in popularity in 2006 when 392 babies were given the name in the United States.

Kamari

  • Origin: Swahili, Eastern African
  • Meaning: Moon
  • Alternative Spellings & Variations: Kamaria, Kam, Mari
  • Peak Popularity: In 2009, 786 babies were given the name Kamari. That was the year it was most popular in the United States.

Fun Fact: Kamari is also the name of a coastal village in Santorini, Greece.

Kofi

  • Origin: Akan, Western African
  • Meaning: Born on a Friday
  • Alternative Spellings & Variations: Koffi, Kofie
  • Famous Namesakes: Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations; Kofi Siriboe, American actor; Kofi Kingston, Ghanaian-American wrestler
  • Peak Popularity: Kofi isn’t a popular name in the United States.

Kwame

  • Origin: Akan, West African
  • Meaning: Born on a Saturday
  • Alternative Spellings & Variations: Kwamme, Kwami, Kouame
  • Famous Namesakes: Kwame Brown, American basketballer; Kwame Brown, first President of Ghana
  • Peak Popularity: The name Kwame was most popular in the United States in the year 1990.

Fun Fact: Kwame is also a fictional character in the animated television series called Captain Planet and the Planeteers.

Nnamdi

  • Origin: West African, Igbo
  • Meaning: My God is alive, my father lives
  • Alternative Spellings & Variations: Nna, Namdi
  • Famous Namesakes: Nnamdi Oduamad, soccer player
  • Peak Popularity: Nnamdi isn’t a popular name in the United States. In 1997, 34 babies were given the name.

Fun Fact: Nnamdi is also the name of a fictional character in DC comics.


Omari

  • Meaning: Speaker, chief
  • Alternative Spellings & Variations: Omar, Umar
  • Famous Namesakes: Omari Banks, Anguillian musician; Omari "Omarion" Grandberry, American singer and songwriter
  • Peak Popularity: Omari hit peak popularity in the United States in 2018 when 628 babies were given the name.

Fun Fact: Omari is also the name of a village in Iran.

Osiris

  • Origin: Egyptian
  • Meaning: With strong eyesight 
  • Alternative Spellings & Variations: Asar
  • Famous Namesakes: Osiris Eldridge, American basketball player
  • Peak Popularity: In the United States Osiris was most popular in 2017. 

Fun Fact: Osiris was the God of the dead in Egyptian mythology.

Yared

  • Origin: Hebrew, Ethiopian 
  • Meaning: Descendant, to descend
  • Alternative Spellings & Variations: Jared, Yered
  • Famous Namesakes: Saint Yared; Yared Hagos, professional hockey player
  • Peak Popularity: Yared isn’t a popular name in the United States.

Yuusuf

  • Origin: Somali, Eastern African
  • Meaning: God increases
  • Alternative Spellings & Variations: Yosef, Yusuf, Yussuf
  • Famous Namesakes: Yusuf Abdullah, South African cricketer; Yusuf Garaad Omar, Somali journalist
  • Peak Popularity: Yuusuf isn’t a popular name in the United States.

Fun Fact: Yuusuf is the Arabic equivalent of the Hebrew name Yosef.

Zaire

  • Origin: African, Hebrew
  • Meaning: Person from Zaire, river
  • Alternative Spellings & Variations: Zyere, Ziair, Ziaire, Zyaire
  • Famous Namesakes: Zaire Anderson, American football player
  • Peak Popularity: Zaire was most popular in the United States in 2018.

Fun Fact: Zaire was also the name of a sovereign state that existed between 1991 and 1997 in Central Africa.

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