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Last Updated: Monday, 15 December, 2003, 09:37 GMT
What's in an African name?
Gamal Nkrumah, son of Ghana's founding father, Kwame Nkrumah
Gamal, named after Egyptian President, the late Gamal Abdel Nasser

BBC Africa Live asks, does your name affect who you are?

Ghana's founding father Kwame Nkrumah chose to name his two sons after fellow African leaders.

Sekou Nkrumah was named after Guinea's first President Sekou Toure, while Gamal Nkrumah got his name from Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Nkrumah is not alone in fostering the identity of Africanism - the late President Mobutu Sese Seko dropped his own Christian name and even renamed his country - the then Belgian Congo - which became Zaire.

But 32 years later the late Laurent Kabila kicked Mobutu out, and re-baptised the country the Democratic Republic of Congo.

His reason was to rid the country of all of Mobutu's influence and he felt a change of name was the way to do it.

Naming is part and parcel of the African heritage. It reflects one's ethnic background, country of origin, or simply hope and a parent's aspiration for a child. What does your name mean to you? Does it elicit either positive or negative responses?

Join the BBC's Africa Live programme Wednesday 17 December at 1630 and 1830 GMT.

Use the form on the right to send us your comments, some of which will be published below.

If you would like to take part in the discussion, e-mail us with your telephone number, which will not be published.


The Yorubas in Nigeria believe that you look at your home and background before you name a child. A name is like a prophesy. You are what you call yourself. Have you ever heard of anybody naming his child Satan or Lucifer? I named my baby Omowonuola meaning the child has come into wealth. 10 days later I got a project worth about 5million naira!
Arinola, London

My first name means rain from the sky (Deng), the second means the colour red (malual) and my last name means cat fish (leek). I am named after my grand grand fathers.
Deng Malual Leek, New Sudan

I think that people judge you by your name and in the line of work I'm in people need to know my surname. The amount of times I have to go through yes it's Nigerian, Oh I don't sound it on the phone. Well I'm english actually. Surprising really. I have to say that Britain really isn't tolerant of people with unusual names. My Fiancee welsh oh well.
Lizi, UK

I was born in Ghana and as a Ghanaian, adore my African name - Ekow - meaning Thursday born. However, in this part of the world its sometimes not advisable to use your African name on your CV especially when job hunting. Having said that, I think the UK with its multicultural mix is not as bad as other European countries.
Edmund Ekow Dadson, United Kingdom

Some of us Africans especially those found on the coast i.e Accra, Elmina and Keta had Portuguese, Danish, English etc depending upon who first visited the coast. A name like Pinto in Ghana is very popular in Ningo (Accra) Elmina (Cape Coast) and Keta in the Volta region.This our ancestors claim was due to intermarriage.
Joe Pinto Martins, Ghana

My name (Noxolo) means peace in Xhosa. What I like about this name is it reflects which tribal group of South Africa I come from. The Xhosa as well Zulu languages have 3 distincts clicks "X", "C" and "Q" but Xhosas use more clicks than Zulus in their everyday conversations. My family name has a click "C" as well. When my mother was pregnant, she was always fighting with my father and his family; she was in this constant state of depression. When I was born, she gave me this name NOXOLO because she wanted peace. Actually just after I was born, peace was restored in my family. My African name reflects my personality - I hate fights and arguments ; I am a peaceful person.
Noxolo Judith Ncapayi, South Africa

Across Africa names are the person. They indicate the status of the person and reflect the expectations of the community. My surname betrays my British linkage (colonialism and slavery) but the rest indicate that I am a Ga man (Nii) from the sempe clan (Kpakpo) and I am the first male who is expected to lead the rest as indicated by the appellations that go with the name. It literally states that with you, the whitemans departure is no loss.
Nii Kpakpo Bruce, Ghana

I see nothing special in a name. The name you bear can not make or mar you. It is up to you to take the right path in life and be what you want to be.
Sanchez Chibueze Aniamalu, Burkina Faso

I have often felt foreign in my Arabic name, Yasmeen. I wished for the more African/Somali name such as Ladan (Healthy) or Ididl (Complete). But whenever I complain of the Arab influnces in our names, without rejecting my religion I get a negative stare as to say we are Muslims and therefore Muslim names are the way to go. I think many go with such names for the ease and familiarity, but Somali names are meaningful and are often such a comfort specially when the real meaning behind is understood. I also think Africans try to westernize their African names to make it easier for the westerners to pronounce, I would argue that is an extension of the colonization of the mind.
Yasmeen, Somalia/USA

My name means 'Comforter' and has a positive impact in my life. Whatever I do and say I always try to make sure that it makes people feel worthy and happy in their mortal lives. I was born shortly after my maternal grandfather's death and my mother always says I was the silver lining of the dark cloud.
Munyaradzi Majonga, Zimbabwe

I have just named my son Bakaang. I constantly hear people saying, 'poor child, what kind of a name is that?' Well I am proud that I named him after my Grandad, and it means 'what are they showing?'. I know now that when he grows up he will appreciate the name.
Tshegofatso, Botswana/UK

A name can spell either a doomed and callamitous or a bright future for a child. As an African I have always scoffed at meaningless names imported from the West. In our family all of us have vernacular names coined after some event or expressing our hope and expectations. For example my name Pacharo means 'on earth'. In the year I was born my uncle got arrested under Dr Banda's regime. As a family we were at a loss. Then I was born. Something to cheer about anyway. So my father says ....well good and bad things happen here 'on earth' hence my name Pacharo. I am 27 and single. I have already decided that all my kids will have local meaningful and christian names. There is this ridiculous belief that a christian name has to be western or be after some Biblical hero. I dont think so. In my language the name 'Wezi' means 'God's Grace'. As far as am concerned thats a christian name! I urge my fellow africans to stick to african names. And as a christian I may wish to add that we need to be careful who we name our kids after. Evil spirits and demons can be transfered through these names. Naming your child Saddam will certainly not help anybody. During the last Gulf War somebody named his child Scud after scud missile!! I believe a name should reflect our hopes and expectations as well as our praise to God.
Pacharo Kayira, Malawi

While I was living in South Africa my language instructor blessed me with an African name - "Naledi", which means "Star" in Sepedi. He said it was because I was so bright in class. It was also a popular name on the TV soapie at the time! During my two years in South Africa almost everyone came to call me by that name and I recall it with great happiness. Giving me an African name made me feel like a part of the community and not so much like an outsider. I hope one day I will have a daughter that I can pass it on to.
Lisa "Naledi" Martin, USA

I have never used the name I was given at Baptism. The name I use comes from my grandmother and implies "Betrothed" and I love it dearly though I don't think it affects who I am. But it does give me a sense of pride and deep connection to my family and ancestry. In my mind, all the Mohameds and Jumas should be of Arabic ancestry. All Davids and Johns should be of Eurasian descent. The fact is, failure to use a Baptism name is not a rejection or denial of Christianity. The point is to pick a Saint's name that you identify with and frankly, I know my grandmother is a Saint in heaven today. Viva Africa!
MM, Kenya/US

I was born in Sierra Leone. My family has strong Yoruba cultural ties and my name had to reflect the circumstances of my birth as my elder brother predeceased me in infancy. When I was born the name Bami-joko was imperative. It was a direct appeal to me by my parents to stay with them. In Yoruba, Joko is to sit down and the name Bamijoko means "Sit with me." My mother's business associates tagged Tadé at the end of my name because they believed that I should have a regal responsibility thus giving my name a wider meaning "Sit with me and look after the crown." Names have meaning which children are expected to aspire to. There are some cases however, where the name is more of a burden than an aspiration. e.g Durosimi "Wait to bury me." The child has hardly seen the world and an onus is placed on that child to be responsible for sorting out its mother's funeral.
Earnshaw Desmond Bamijoko Palmer, UK

Names can be good marks on us. In my culture, most often, they reflect the life of the bearer. So people make sure their children's names reflect their aspirations or appreciations. I shall remain ever grateful to my late grandmother who gave me the name Chidiebere which in Igbo means God is merciful.
Chidi Nwamadi, Toulouse, France

My name is Manyang, meaning 'bright with lined brown'. It came when my mom's first born died, so my paternal grandmother gave this bull with the colour 'manyang' as a sacrifice and I was born healthy. That's how the name which I love most came about and I will name my kid after my grandfather's name and common girls' name from my tribe Dinka of Sudan.
Manyanga, Sudanese in USA

It is nice to have this topic of Africans names as an issue. First of all, most Africans who tend to use Christian or Muslim names, whilst accepted, have lost a rich part of your identity. The creed of an African is to be proud of your history.
Foday M Mansaray, Sierra Leone,currently in Finland

We continuously complain about the colonial mentality that persists in our midst but never start to look within ourselves. Why is it that we do not wish to use our indigenous names? Learning from countries such as Nigeria and Ghana who have put more emphasis to their indigenous names motivated me to emphasise my own name, Satya, given to me by my great grandmother. Ali is still my name but it is unlike Satya, which is enriched with meaning and values and is understood by the entire community. More importantly, I do not feel less Muslim.
Satya and Chineme , Uganda & Nigeria

I was born Gabriel Nebechi Maduabuchi Sunday Ozoude Ugwu, in Enugwu (which is the Igbo spelling of Enugu). Gabriel, though a Christian name, is actually after my maternal uncle. Being the 2nd son, I had to be named after my maternal grandfather Ozoude. I was born on Sunday hence Sunday. So what about the other 2 Igbo names? My mother while pregnant believed that I was going to make a great contribution. In her mind I would be like a 'savior' to the family, hence "Nebechi" - 'look at God'. But in order to remind herself & everybody else that I am not "God Almighty", she also called me 'Maduabuchi' which is Igbo for 'humans are not God'. As far as fulfilling the meaning of my African names, though I am the 3rd child & 2nd son, I was the 1st to go overseas - on a full scholarship, & have been directly or indirectly instrumental for 3 of my siblings coming over to the USA. In terms of my nature, I am very spiritual, not necessarily religious.
Nebechi Maduabuchi Gabriel Ugwu, Nigerian American

Whatever the origin of almost all Christiam, Muslim or traditional African names, they would ultimately relate to something. My sons' names are Nathan (given of God) because I waited 7 years to be able to have him, and Joseph (because the Lord Jehova, has increased me in my adopted land). I have never met an African whose name did not relate to something whether seriously or not.
Adaiah, Canada

Names are very important to Africans. There is the birth name, family name and christian name. If my grandfather asks your name and you should say "John" he would say 'your name not your slave name!' I am from the Volta region of Ghana where names are proverbs, beliefs and sometimes a whole phrase. We are our names.
Thy-will Koku (Wednesday-born) Amenya, Ghana/USA

My name Besona means a good home and I would never ever trade it for a Western name. This year I was asked by two of my Western friends to pick out meaningful names for their kids, which to me demonstrates their love for our names.
Besona, USA/Cameroon

I just feel happy to say that this programme of conscientization is excellent. African names have always been associated with personal identity and personality structure expressed in the hopes and aspirations of the parents and passed on to the individual child. So "Ndubueze" means that "life is king" - to live is to be a king. There we go!
Dr. Ndubueze Fabian Mmagu, Austria

I find it quite silly in retrospect that almost all Kenyans have a "Christian" name which is quite English. Mine's Margaret, or Latin for some Catholics. Nowhere in the Bible does it say one should have a Christian name and it certainly did not require it to be English or Western. We can be baptised another Kenyan/African and more meaningful name than being another of the somewhat bland Peters and Janes of the world.
Wairimu Kuria, Kenyan in US

African names comes with great pride and power. Maduabuchi means Humans are not God. Also: no one can dictate my life, nor my destiny, strong to be God to my destiny and my self. Last name Onwuachimba means Death could never wipe out a community. What a wonderful name; Maduabuchi Onwuachimba (Igbo-Nigeria). In abreviation "ABUCHI" for my Western folks, short and simple is'nt it.
Abuchi, USA

I have a western surname, presumably that of the slavemaster of my forebears. But by the grace of God, my first and middle names are not only African but reflect the ethnic origin of where I know my maternal ancestors come from, the Mandinka people. In May 2003 I took a genetics test and found out that I'm a direct descendent of the Mandinkas maternally. My parents wanting to embue me with an African name, unknowingly gave me a first and middle name that reflects part of my ethnic origin
BR, USA

I am responding to Vince Gainey's point - "Why are African Christians so ashamed of their Christian names in comparison to Muslims who have pride in their Arabic Islamic names." I think Vince is confusing "European" with "Christian". In many languages of Ethiopia for example, typical names are compounded of the divinity and some aspect of it. For example "Gebre-Egziabher" in the Ethiopian/Eritrean languages of Amharic/Tigrinya means "Servant of God" and those are Christian names. And many of the names in Oromo (another Ethiopian language) that contain "Waaq" as in Waaqgari, or Waaqayoo are similar derivations from the Oromo word for God ("Waq"). The Muslim name Abd-Allah is equivalent to the "Gebre Egziabher" I mentioned above. And a Nigerian friend has told me that many Ibo names are equivalent compounds of the divine's name and some desirable relationship. I am certain that many other cultures equally create such names. So I would say that perhaps one would find God in a lot more African names than one would suspect.
YM, Ethiopia

Good question! My name is meaningful ('in your God's name I'm happy' is the direct translation of my first and last names taken together). I think my name shows more the hope and wish of my parents than mine (given that I am on the atheistic side of things). It is actually an oxymoron, a religious friend has suggested I change my name BUT, why should I? I am a product of religious parents and culture; hence I shall carry this name, however unfitting it seems, to the grave. (Both proud and amused!).
Banchiamalck Dessalegn, Ethiopian in U.S.

My name Derefaka figuratively means: Continuing the heritage of our fathers. From the time I got to know about the traditional meaning of my name, I developed a sense of responsiblity to my Family, my heritage and my culture.
Derefaka Gogo, Canada

In Most West African countries (Togo, Benin, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire), the majority of Southern people name their children based on their day of birth. For instance in Togo, apart from their original meanings, those names also have other interesting meanings. For example if you were born on a Monday and named Kojo or Kodjo for a boy or Adjo for a girl, you would be taken as a zealous man or woman because Monday is the first day of work after the weekend, and if you were born on a Wednesday and named Kokou for a boy or Akwa for a girl, you were taken as a half-lazy person because people usually work or go to school for just the first half of the day -from 7 to 12- and use the other half as leisure time, and if you were born on a Sunday and named Kossi for a boy or Kossiwa for a girl, you were taken as the child of God, the pure, pretty child because people dress up pretty to worship God at the mass on Sunday. Playing with names really is part of many African cultures.
Abi, Togo

I love my name to death. My first name is from the bible as Christanity was an old religinon in Ethiopia/Africa. When we come to my dad's name "Negussie" it means "my king" and my grandpas name "Aberra" means "it's shining" so when you read my entire name it has a meaning of "Daniel my king shines." Yeah, I hope I will shine forever and be a man for a change.
Daneil Negussie Aberra, Ethiopia/USA

What makes a person is his/her identity. So a name is really very important.
Paul Gisemba, Kenya

Given the importance of names in my social background (among the Dinka people), I am proud to be one of those named after the "famous" legendary ancestor of the Dinka people of Sudan, Deng, who was believed to be the direct decendant of Adam (Garang) and Eve (Abuk). Any child named after the above names is a blessed one whom the community expect to live up to the due reputation e.g has leadership qualities and being honest.
Deng Mador K-Dengdit, Sudanese in Australia

African names like most traditional names like John (Yahweh is gracious) , Patrick (nobleman) , Natasha (christmas day), Abdul (servant of..) etc.. have meanings. The main difference is that African parents will not just put a label on their progeny without finding out what the label is saying about their hopes and aspirations, beliefs and culture and life experiences.
Tawedzwegwa Purpose Katakwa, Zimbabwe

It is important to be proud of your name but it is also important to respect foreign names: John means "Grace of the lord"; Joseph means" addition"; Amos means "burden"; Toby derived from Tobias means "goodness of the lord". Christian and European names have meanings too and perhaps people should look to their meaning before deciding to drop them.
Joy Manion, Hong Kong

To respond to the earlier comment (below) by Mr. Vince Gainey, saying that christian Africans anre ashamed of their christian names is an overstatement. I'd rather you said that Muslim Africans are ashamed of their African names (may be because the Arabs wouldn't identify them as Muslims). I'm proud of my African heritage and I hold the opinion that all Africans should have only African names. These christian names are taken after some christian 'saints'. I believe my grand father was a good man and is thus in heaven,even though he was not a christian.So why wouldn't I name my son after him?
Achiri, Cameroon

Nothing against the English names but I love african names cause they are more meaningful
Nduduzo, Canada

When I was younger, I thought of my name as a burden - no one could pronounce or spell it correctly, and few were willing to try. I felt that I was in the US, not Nigeria, and I wanted an "American" name. Now that I'm an adult, I recognize my name for what it is: a life-long blessing that my parents gave to me. (Uchenna means "desire or will of God" in Igbo. I also know now that taking the time to learn someone's name is a sign of respect and intelligence, and I take the time to demand that respect from others, and confer it upon others myself. I know now that when I have children of my own, I want them to have Igbo names as well. Even if they don't appreciate their names right away, the meaning will carry them through their lives, and that is very important.
Uchenna Ukaegbu, USA

Knowing exactly what the word "taban" means in Arabic and Kiswhali, I asked my parents to tell me why they decided to give that to me as a name. Was it me or my mother who was "tired"? My mam first laughed and said, "you are really a trouble". She narrated that was her first experience of pregancy. She was tired and complained throughout that my Dad kept calling her Mrs Tired until she had me. Then tiredness turn out to be my popularly known name. Now, I find out that my name affects me in a positive way, because I'm more of a trouble and in trouble than tired. Again came "Alexander' which my dad named after Alexander the great with a thought that I would become like him, so they are still waiting!
Taban Alex Donato, Sudanese/Australia

I'm glad to have a father who always had time for me, not only to answer my questions but to explain and it stayed in my mind. It all started even before my first grade as all of my friends from my country had English first names. My father told me that my name related to my origin and culture. He told me that I could be known to someone by them just reading my name. I am called Mukupa, a Zambian name which means strong material, the outer skin of cattle used for making drums. And my last name Mulombwa is a very rare, big strong tree which I last saw when I went see my grandmother in the village. I like the challenge that people go through to pronouce my name here in USA, and they always ask me where I come by my names and not by the way I look like.
Mukupa Mulombwa, USA

I find it very interesting that there is a strong vogue now in Africa to abandon Christian names and use only African names. Take the Kenyan President, the Honourable Mwai Kibaki, who has a Christian name, Emilio, but which the majority of Kenyans did not know about until the day he was sworn into office. What is particularly striking is that this is only fashionable amongst Christian Africans. Muslim Africans would never dream of giving up the Arabic names Mohamed, Abd'alla, Yusuf etc in favour of a more authentic African name. Why are African Christians so ashamed of their Christian names in comparison to Muslims who have pride in their Arabic Islamic names.
Vince Gainey, Kenya

I'm very proud of my culture. My first name was selected from the bible. Christianity dates far back in my country. Many people do not realize this and may be believe that my name is "Americanized." My last name shows my ethnic origin. I plan to give all of my children Eritrean names, so that they can know where they are from. It's very important that everyone is proud of their African names. It makes them unique.
Miriam Haile, Eritrean/USA

I am so proud of my Igbo name that I prefer being addressed by it than by my other name. I believe that those who find it difficult pronouncing our indigenous names should make time to learn them. Time was when we were forced to take on European names at baptism because our names were 'pagan'. Now we know better.
Elochukwu Okafor, USA/Nigeria

I have always wondered why my parents gave me this name, Amos. I know Amos was a prophet in the biblical sense, but that is it. I am no prophet and I owe no heritage to prophetic origins. That is why I plan to drop Amos when I get back home because Kiplimo (born after the sun rises and cows/goats have just left for the pastures) is meaningful enough.
Amos Kiplimo Kipyegon, Kenya/USA

After living in England and America for over 10 years I find that the Westerners are envious of our names which actually mean something in comparison to names like Toby and Natasha etc
Nk, USA

My name means so much to me. For one thing I have never heard anyone by this name so far and that is what makes it unique. Even though sometimes people associate the name with the previous Ethiopian government's slogan for its various activities, the name is still unique as it is. The meaning of the name is " be armed/get ready".
Yitatek Yitbarek, Ethiopian/South Africa

Names do have a positive meaning as they tell where one is from and identify one with one's heritage. That is the reason why I decided to drop the foreign name I was given by my parents in the name of Christianity. I have decided to take my rightiful and meaningful African names because even Jesus did not change his name to something else when he was baptised so why should we as Africans change our names to Western names. I think it is a subtle colonialism of names which we should get rid of. My name Chishimba comes from a guardian spirit of the Chishimba Falls that is found in Northern Zambia. Milongo means "queues". I think my great grandfather had a lot of children so he was named Milongo. What does John or Joseph mean?
Chishimba Milongo, Zambia

I have always loved my name and have always revelled in its 'Africanness'. This love grew to gargantuan proportions when I first set foot abroad in Saudi Arabia, to be precise. It was shocking to me that someone frowned at the mention of my name and suggested that I changed it to an Arabic name. From that day on I resolved to name any children of mine typical African names, if you will. Because there is a myopic mind-set out there that thinks nothing is good about Africa. The Arabs do it under the guise of Islam and the West does it under the pretext of christening our folks. There's nothing Islamic or christian about these names; they are imperialist tools at best. Sadly though our people tend to buy into this funny ideology that what is foreign is good and what is African is bad. We don't find their names simple either but we learn them the hard way. So they should try to pronounce our names and give them the respects they deserve.
Fodei M. Conteh, Sierra leone/Cyprus

Whilst backpacking in Nkhata Bay, Malawi, my friends and I came across a group of local guys who had nicknames based on either rhyming slang or random phrases. There was 'Starter Motor', 'Brown Bread', 'Happy Shopper', and 'Diamond Geezer' to name but a few. Of course we joined in. I became 'Groove Armada', my friends became 'Bullet Proof', 'Princess Jasmine', and, in honour of the Zanzibar capital, 'Stone(d) Town'. Well, why not?!
Joe Poole, United Kingdom

I wish I can give everyone my name. It's Nguni for trust/believe in something (mostly God). I love it and I think its got a face rather than John for example.
Thembelani Ndlovu, UK

My name means "lets laugh" or lets rejoice. African names are special and they have meaning. I would never give up my name for an English one or a christian name!!
TTVK, Malawi/ UK

Personhood in Africa is marked by a name, which often relates to the situation of the person's birth. That is where Africans differ from the West who attach little or no importance to names.
Ezekwonna, Nigeria

I love the names that I have been given. I was named after my father's mother. I grew up in London and at times was teased about my name. I was even once told by an adult that I should think about changing my name and even as a child found that offensive. When I started University in Britain I was put in an English-support class as it was assumed that I was an international student and that I would need language support in writing essays. I guess they didn't read the form too well and missed the fact that I had a high grade in English Language. It has been a mixed bag of fortunes. My husband and I intend to give our children Ghanaian names, they are beneficiaries of a great heritage and this a way of reflecting that.
Akua Boatemaa, UK

I remember two and a half years ago when working in the lab for my masters degree and I asked my fellow lab mates what the meaning of their names were. I had known for a long time what the meaning of mine was - royalty with wealth (Ademola). They were unable to say what their names meant. For the next quarter to third of an hour, they literally disappeared from the lab and got on the internet to carry out name searches for the meaning of their names!
Ademola Adeyemi, UK

What a wonderful and a proud topic for Africans. Names are usually given after tragedy like several still births or after the religious belief of the parents or after the grandparents. My sister is called Bamijoko. She came after 2 previous still born babies. (Bamijoko-come sit down and eat with us) My name Adefemi, means "Big man came to town"
Kenneth Adefemi Hamilton, Sierra Leone / Canada

I am exceedingly proud of my name! It is a bit annoying that I have to spell my name whenever I call somewhere. But I must say that many, especially elderly people, associate my name to the late Emperor of Ethiopia, HIM Haile Selassie I. That fills me with pride! Yared is a biblical name meaning "Sent from heaven" and Yared was an Ethiopian Saint in the 6th century, who composed the Liturgical chants of the ancient Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. And it's a name that isn't difficult to pronounce for foreigners. Haile Selassie means "Power of the Holy Trinity". So you could translate my name as "The heaven sent power of the Holy Trinity". My two brothers have two even more fitting names. The first is called Maren ("forgive us" Haile Selassie (for what we did to you...) and the second is called Kedus ("Holy" or "Saint") and with the surname this is "Saint Haile Selassie" or "Holy Power of the Holy Trinity". I wouldn't change my name for nothing!
Yared Haile Selassie, Ethio-Swiss / Switzerland

I recently returned from 3 months volunteering in an orphanage in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. During my stay I was given a Zulu name by the children of the orphanage. They called me Mandla, which means power and strength because I could lift the children above my head and carry them on my shoulders!! I was so proud to be gifted a name that actually carries meaning and love the way the zulu people reflect their hopes and aspirations for their children through the name. This is a tradition that should be preserved and used to maintainan an African sense of cultural identity.
Paul "Mandla" Taylor, UK

It puzzles me when I see people coming to the West and getting rid of their names for one reason or the other. It is even more galling when people advise you to take easier sounding names or local names so as to forge ahead. One thing that people are not taking into consideration is that for most westerners, there is little meaning to names and so they could basically answer to anything. It is not like that in Africa and I think it is a shame for an African to come here and loose consciousness of the fact that names speak volumes back home.
Abolade St. John, Nigeria/Canada

My name is Hezekiah an Old Testament name that belongs to a king of Judah and means 'YAHWEH strengthens'. My 4 brothers have the names, Azariah, one of the three Old Testament men the Babylonian king ordered cast into a fiery furnace and means 'YAHWEH has helped'. Zechariah, a minor prophet of the Old Testament, author of the Book of Zechariah and means 'YAHWEH remembers'. Isaiah, a major prophet of the Old Testament the author of the Book of Isaiah and means 'YAHWEH is salvation'. And Malachi one of the minor prophets in the Old Testament, the author of the Book of Malachi and means 'my messenger'. Born in a religious family in Ethiopia (Orthodox Christians) our parents gave us these biblical names, but it wasn't until recently (7 years or so ago) that we became Christians and are now happier with our names.
Hezekiah, Born in Ethiopia, Live in England

My first name Beteselam means house of peace and my last name Tsegaye means my wealth (not necessarily of worldly possessions). Together it could mean my wealthy house of peace. I love my name, I m really a peaceful and calm person and my name makes me feel wealthy.
Beteselam Tsegaye, Ethiopian in U.S.

'Bradley' is a name my father gave me because he like his headmaster in the colonial days of Kenya. 'Ngana' was my grandfather's brother's name and seems to have no meaning - at least I haven't found one to date. 'Kisia' is my dad's name and means born after twins. My father was born after twins. African names sound good and give us a sense of where we come from, especially in these days when we are taking up a Western culture without trying to understand it.
Bradley Ngana Kisia, Kenya

I don't have a Western name and don't intend having one now
Chinedu Ibeabuchi, Lagos Nigeria

The practice of giving children meaningless names is not just confined to Africa - there is a trend in South America of giving kids brand names like Ericsson, and in UK and the US you get kids with surnames (like Paige) as first names, and mis-spelt names like Lacresha and Kaddisha (apparently from Lucretia and Khadija). But actually most English people don't know what their names mean, because they are not English names but of Latin, Greek, or Hebrew origin. Who knows what Matthew (my original name), Mary, or Alexander mean?
Yusuf Smith, UK

African names are beautiful. I can't and won't change or modify them for all the money in the world. When mispronounced I correct the offender. I of course understand that such a person is unfamiliar with the name. I'll never understand people who name their kids or themselves with no reference to their heritage, ancestry or ethnicity. Africans suffer this particular malaise - even in the post-independence era. The subject is worthy of sociological & psychological study.
Jide, United States

Infact, a person's name has no effect on his personality. Your personality and your whole being is the mental attitude and training.
Asante Wiafe Seth, Ghana

A little bit of care is needed when we name our children after big events. These events may not last long. Names like 'Abiyot' meaning 'Revolution' were very common during the early days of the Ethiopian revolution. It is now futile!! After the new Ethiopian government came to power names like 'Ifoyta' meaning 'quietude' appeared. The revolution is calmed down!! And in the future...
Jambo, Ethiopia

My name does not really symbolise anything, BUT from the region where I come from which is Kisii the following names are symbolic: Kiage - Someone born during a heavy harvest where Kiage means Granary; Makori - One born on the way(roadside) for a man and Nyanchera for a woman; Ondeu - One born with small body size; Omache - Some one born near a river. African names are good. For example in a party when people introduce themselves, it is easier to identify one who comes from your locality. This therefore means a name is an identity.
Paul Gisemba Atisa




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