35+ Popular African Last Names With Meanings And Origins

35+ Popular African Last Names Rich In Culture And History

February 11, 2020 Updated March 12, 2021

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.

    1. Adébáyọ̀
      Origin: Nigerian (Yoruba)
      Meaning: “He came in a joyful time'” or “the king/crown/royalty meets joy.”
    2. Abebe
      Origin: Ethiopian
      Meaning: “Flower” or “blossom.”
    3. Ababio
      Origin: Ghanaian
      Meaning: “Child that keeps coming or reincarnation.”
    4. Kanumba
      Origin: Tanzanian
      Meaning: Unknown.
    5. Keita
      Origin: Malian
      Meaning: “Worshipper.”
    6. Kimathi
      Origin: Kenyan
      Meaning: “Earnest provider.”
    7. Bankole
      Origin: West African (Yoruba)
      Meaning: “Build my house for me.”
    8. Gbeho
      Origin: Ghanaian
      Meaning: Unknown.
    9. Afumba
      Origin: Zambian (Lozi)
      Meaning: “When they plan.”
    10. Negga/Nega
      Origin: Ethiopian
      Meaning: “The night has passed.”
    11. Chidubem
      Origin: Nigerian (Igbo)
      Meaning: “Guided by God.”
    12. Abbas
      Origin: An Arabic name found throughout Algeria
      Meaning: “Lion.”

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    13. Quansah
      Origin: Ghanaian
      Meaning: “God is watching.”
    14. Mambwe
      Origin: Zambian
      Meaning: “The Lord is gracious.”
    15. Adomako
      Origin: Ghanaian
      Meaning: Unknown.
    16. Hassan
      Origin: An Arabic name found throughout Morocco
      Meaning: “Handsome,” “manly,” or “strong.”
    17. Mostafa
      Origin: An Arabic name found throughout Egypt
      Meaning: “The chosen one.”
    18. Kasongo
      Origin: Congolese
      Meaning: “Bushbuck.”
    19. Chizimu
      Origin: Malawian (Lambya)
      Meaning: Unknown.
    20. Abdallah
      Origin: An Arabic name found through Sudan
      Meaning: “Servant of God.”
    21. Badu
      Origin: Ghanaian
      Meaning: 10th-born child.
    22. Teklehaimanot
      Origin: Ethiopian
      Meaning: Derives from the name Tekle Haymanot; the name of an Ethiopian monk and saint.
    23. Okoro
      Origin: Nigerian (Urhobo)
      Meaning: “Child of the freeborn man.”
    24. Chedjou
      Origin: Cameroonian
      Meaning: Unknown.
    25. Abimbola
      Origin: West African (Yoruba)
      Meaning: “Born with wealth.”
    26. Abara
      Origin: West African (Igbo)
      Meaning: “Spirit.”
    27. Jelani
      Origin: Swahili
      Meaning: “Full of strength.”
    28. Abiodun
      Origin: Yoruba
      Meaning: “Born during the festival or war.”
    29. Acheampong
      Origin: Ghanaian (Ashanti)
      Meaning: “Destined for greatness.”
    30. Abioye
      Origin: Nigerian
      Meaning: “The son of royalty.”
    31. Adebisi
      Origin: Nigerian (Yoruba)
      Meaning: “We added to the crown.”
    32. Boujettif
      Origin: Northern African (Archaic)
      Meaning: “One who possesses a clever head.”
    33. Nwadike
      Origin: Nigerian (Igbo)
      Meaning: “Son of the brave” or “son of a hero.”
    34. Selassie
      Origin: Ethiopian
      Meaning: “Trinity.”
    35. Musa
      Origin: Nigerian
      Meaning: “Mercy”
    36. Akpan
      Origin: Nigerian
      Meaning: Title given to firstborn male children of the Ibibio/Efik people.

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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. To try and to fail is not laziness.
  23. Seeing is different than being told.