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More African baby names than even an octuplet mom could use

February 12, 2009 |  8:34 am


There are more than 5,000 names in "The African Book of Names," compiled by Ashkhari Hodari, PhD. The names derive from 37 nations and more than 70 ethno-linguistic groups. One thing that sets this book apart from other name books is that it makes clear that it's not just for babies; it notes that adults have taken African names later in life. "New names can represent new stages of development," Hodari writes. "Sojourner Truth, Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and El Hag Malik El Shabazz (Malcolm X) all took on new names as adults."

Another thing that sets this book apart is its organization. Instead of listing names alphabetically or by language, "The African Book of Names" is organized by theme and idea. Which kind of makes sense -- if you're thinking you want a name that means "joy" or "speed" or "beauty," this gives you the tools to find it. But the book could use a reverse directory -- it's not easy to find a name you've heard or read if you don't already know the meaning.

Page through and you will find:

Agunna means "strong boy" in Igbo (Nigeria)
Beedzi means "child who eats well" in Akan (Ghana)
Diallo (for boys) means "bold one" in Malinke (Guinea)
means "handsome young man" in Zulu
Ifetayo (for girls) means "love brings happiness" in West Africa
Kondi (for boys) means "sugar plum" in Mende (Sierra Leone, Liberia)
Lovalla (for girls) means "I have made fun of death" in Mubalo (Cameroon)
Menjiwe (for girls) means "the trustworthy" in East Africa
Ojike means "full of energy" in Nigeria
Pun (for boys) means "wild rose" in Nuer (Sudan)
(for girls) means "kitten" in Kiswahili, a.k.a. Swahili
Tiombe (for girls) means "an achiever" in Zimbabwe
Unika (for boys) means "light up" in Lomwe (Malawi)
Zahabu (for girls) means "the golden one" in Galla (Ethiopia)

And if you happened to find yourself with octuplets, you might consider: Ungi, which means "plentiful, to have a multitude" in Kiswahili; Akwete and Akwokwo, the elder and younger of female twins, respectively, in Ga (Ghana); or Anele (for boys), which means "we are satisfied, enough children" in Azania.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Credit: Alex Tostado, via Flickr.