42 Popular African Last Names Rich In Culture And History

by Laura Grainger
Originally Published: 
African last names
Bartosz Hadyniak

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.

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  1. Adébáyọ̀

Origin: Nigerian (Yoruba) Meaning: “He came in a joyful time'” or “the king/crown/royalty meets joy.”

  1. Abebe

Origin: Ethiopian Meaning: “Flower” or “blossom.”

  1. Ababio

Origin: Ghanaian Meaning: “Child that keeps coming or reincarnation.”

  1. Kanumba

Origin: Tanzanian Meaning: Unknown.

  1. Keita

Origin: Malian Meaning: “Worshipper.”

  1. Kimathi

Origin: Kenyan Meaning: “Earnest provider.”

  1. Bankole

Origin: West African (Yoruba) Meaning: “Build my house for me.”

  1. Gbeho

Origin: Ghanaian Meaning: Unknown.

  1. Afumba

Origin: Zambian (Lozi) Meaning: “When they plan.”

  1. Negga/Nega

Origin: Ethiopian Meaning: “The night has passed.”

  1. Chidubem

Origin: Nigerian (Igbo) Meaning: “Guided by God.”

  1. Abbas

Origin: An Arabic name found throughout Algeria Meaning: “Lion.”

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  1. Quansah

Origin: Ghanaian Meaning: “God is watching.”

  1. Mambwe

Origin: Zambian Meaning: “The Lord is gracious.”

  1. Adomako

Origin: Ghanaian Meaning: Unknown.

  1. Hassan

Origin: An Arabic name found throughout Morocco Meaning: “Handsome,” “manly,” or “strong.”

  1. Mostafa

Origin: An Arabic name found throughout Egypt Meaning: “The chosen one.”

  1. Kasongo

Origin: Congolese Meaning: “Bushbuck.”

  1. Chizimu

Origin: Malawian (Lambya) Meaning: Unknown.

  1. Abdallah

Origin: An Arabic name found through Sudan Meaning: “Servant of God.”

  1. Badu

Origin: Ghanaian Meaning: 10th-born child.

  1. Teklehaimanot

Origin: Ethiopian Meaning: Derives from the name Tekle Haymanot; the name of an Ethiopian monk and saint.

  1. Okoro

Origin: Nigerian (Urhobo) Meaning: “Child of the freeborn man.”

  1. Chedjou

Origin: Cameroonian Meaning: Unknown.

  1. Abimbola

Origin: West African (Yoruba) Meaning: “Born with wealth.”

  1. Abara

Origin: West African (Igbo) Meaning: “Spirit.”

  1. Jelani

Origin: Swahili Meaning: “Full of strength.”

  1. Abiodun

Origin: Yoruba Meaning: “Born during the festival or war.”

  1. Acheampong

Origin: Ghanaian (Ashanti) Meaning: “Destined for greatness.”

  1. Abioye

Origin: Nigerian Meaning: “The son of royalty.”

  1. Adebisi

Origin: Nigerian (Yoruba) Meaning: “We added to the crown.”

  1. Boujettif

Origin: Northern African (Archaic) Meaning: “One who possesses a clever head.”

  1. Nwadike

Origin: Nigerian (Igbo) Meaning: “Son of the brave” or “son of a hero.”

  1. Selassie

Origin: Ethiopian Meaning: “Trinity.”

  1. Musa

Origin: Nigerian Meaning: “Mercy.”

  1. Akpan

Origin: Nigerian Meaning: Title given to firstborn male children of the Ibibio/Efik people.

  1. Adedeji

Origin: Yoruba Meaning: “One has become two.”

  1. Agrinya

Origin: Nigerian Meaning: “Warrior.”

  1. Albaz

Origin: Ashkenazic Jewish, North African Meaning: “Falconer.”

  1. Amani

Origin: Tigrinya Meaning: “Faith.”

  1. Afia

Origin: Ghana (Akan) Meaning: “The king gave birth to me.”

  1. Agwuegbo

Origin: Nigerian Meaning: “The hardship is over.”

African Proverbs

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.

  1. A bird that flies off the earth and lands on an anthill is still on the ground.
  2. Teeth do not see poverty.
  3. Where water is the boss there, the land must obey.
  4. Only a fool tests the depth of a river with both feet.
  5. When the shepherd comes home in peace, the milk is sweet.
  6. Do not look where you fell, but where you slipped.
  7. The best way to eat an elephant in your path is to cut him up into little pieces.
  8. He who does not know one thing knows another.
  9. Rain beats the leopard’s skin, but it does not wash out the spots.
  10. No matter how hot your anger is, it cannot cook yams.
  11. A roaring lion kills no game.
  12. Rain does not fall on one roof alone.
  13. Ears that do not listen to advice accompany the head when it is chopped off.
  14. Not everyone who chased the zebra caught it, but he who caught it, chased it.
  15. Examine what is said, not who is speaking.
  16. If you want to know the end, look at the beginning.
  17. Even the lion protects himself against flies.
  18. However long the night, the dawn will break.
  19. If you heal the leg of a person, do not be surprised if they use it to run away.
  20. Once you carry your own water, you’ll remember every drop.
  21. Don’t set sail on someone else’s star.
  22. Nobody is born wise.
  23. A man who uses force is afraid of reasoning.

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