Last names provide a great bridge to our family’s past, and those from Africa are no exception. As Africa is made up of 54 countries (making it the second-largest continent in the world), its naming systems are diverse. Tribal, colonial, and linguistic influences all have a part to play. Many African countries also went without native last names until their colonizers imposed them. Given names, therefore, were adopted in local languages as surnames. And while African last names are popular around the globe, these names are particularly common throughout the United States and Europe due to a dark history of slave trade forced upon African colonies.
In West African culture, words have power, and certain names generate significant energy. This is why names are valuable and chosen carefully. Baby naming ceremonies don’t happen until ten days after the mother gives birth, which gives new parents a lot of time to think about the perfect name. In West African culture, names tell a story, and last names are the base of the narrative. Like in most cultures, they show where a family is from. Africa has many countries and if you’re versed in the different cultures, you can pinpoint the country or nation a person belongs to just by knowing their last name. Sometimes you can use it to determine the religious group they belong to as well. For example, there is a large Muslim presence in Africa, so if the last name is Arabic, it’s usually a good indication of what they practice.
We’ve compiled a list of the most common and popular African last names, along with their meaning and country of origin. Check them out to see if your name made the list!
If you’re interested in the last names and meanings of other countries, check out our package on last names from around the world. See how many you recognize: Hawaiian, Chinese, Indian, Irish, French, Russian, Spanish, Mexican, Brazilian, Portuguese, Italian, Japanese, Hawaiian, Jewish, British, and Korean last names, among others.
Origin: Nigerian (Yoruba) Meaning: “He came in a joyful time'” or “the king/crown/royalty meets joy.”
Origin: Ethiopian Meaning: “Flower” or “blossom.”
Origin: Ghanaian Meaning: “Child that keeps coming or reincarnation.”
Origin: Tanzanian Meaning: Unknown.
Origin: Malian Meaning: “Worshipper.”
Origin: Kenyan Meaning: “Earnest provider.”
Origin: West African (Yoruba) Meaning: “Build my house for me.”
Origin: Ghanaian Meaning: Unknown.
Origin: Zambian (Lozi) Meaning: “When they plan.”
Origin: Ethiopian Meaning: “The night has passed.”
Origin: Nigerian (Igbo) Meaning: “Guided by God.”
Origin: An Arabic name found throughout Algeria Meaning: “Lion.”
Origin: Ghanaian Meaning: “God is watching.”
Origin: Zambian Meaning: “The Lord is gracious.”
Origin: Ghanaian Meaning: Unknown.
Origin: An Arabic name found throughout Morocco Meaning: “Handsome,” “manly,” or “strong.”
Origin: An Arabic name found throughout Egypt Meaning: “The chosen one.”
Origin: Congolese Meaning: “Bushbuck.”
Origin: Malawian (Lambya) Meaning: Unknown.
Origin: An Arabic name found through Sudan Meaning: “Servant of God.”
Origin: Ghanaian Meaning: 10th-born child.
Origin: Ethiopian Meaning: Derives from the name Tekle Haymanot; the name of an Ethiopian monk and saint.
Origin: Nigerian (Urhobo) Meaning: “Child of the freeborn man.”
Origin: Cameroonian Meaning: Unknown.
Origin: West African (Yoruba) Meaning: “Born with wealth.”
Origin: West African (Igbo) Meaning: “Spirit.”
Origin: Swahili Meaning: “Full of strength.”
Origin: Yoruba Meaning: “Born during the festival or war.”
Origin: Ghanaian (Ashanti) Meaning: “Destined for greatness.”
Origin: Nigerian Meaning: “The son of royalty.”
Origin: Nigerian (Yoruba) Meaning: “We added to the crown.”
Origin: Northern African (Archaic) Meaning: “One who possesses a clever head.”
Origin: Nigerian (Igbo) Meaning: “Son of the brave” or “son of a hero.”
Origin: Ethiopian Meaning: “Trinity.”
Origin: Nigerian Meaning: “Mercy.”
Origin: Nigerian Meaning: Title given to firstborn male children of the Ibibio/Efik people.
Origin: Yoruba Meaning: “One has become two.”
Origin: Nigerian Meaning: “Warrior.”
Origin: Ashkenazic Jewish, North African Meaning: “Falconer.”
Origin: Tigrinya Meaning: “Faith.”
Origin: Ghana (Akan) Meaning: “The king gave birth to me.”
Origin: Nigerian Meaning: “The hardship is over.”
Africa is filled with countries brimming with beautiful and meaningful names. It’s also has a wealth of knowledge, which includes ancient proverbs and sayings you can apply to your everyday life. We’ve compiled a list that will help you see things differently and manage your troubles.
- A bird that flies off the earth and lands on an anthill is still on the ground.
- Teeth do not see poverty.
- Where water is the boss there, the land must obey.
- Only a fool tests the depth of a river with both feet.
- When the shepherd comes home in peace, the milk is sweet.
- Do not look where you fell, but where you slipped.
- The best way to eat an elephant in your path is to cut him up into little pieces.
- He who does not know one thing knows another.
- Rain beats the leopard’s skin, but it does not wash out the spots.
- No matter how hot your anger is, it cannot cook yams.
- A roaring lion kills no game.
- Rain does not fall on one roof alone.
- Ears that do not listen to advice accompany the head when it is chopped off.
- Not everyone who chased the zebra caught it, but he who caught it, chased it.
- Examine what is said, not who is speaking.
- If you want to know the end, look at the beginning.
- Even the lion protects himself against flies.
- However long the night, the dawn will break.
- If you heal the leg of a person, do not be surprised if they use it to run away.
- Once you carry your own water, you’ll remember every drop.
- Don’t set sail on someone else’s star.
- Nobody is born wise.
- A man who uses force is afraid of reasoning.
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