The Book

The African Book of Names 3DTHE AFRICAN BOOK OF NAMES

5,000+ Common and Uncommon Names from the African Continent
Askhari Johnson Hodari, Ph.D.


THE AFRICAN BOOK OF NAMES: 5,000+ Common and Uncommon Names from the African Continent (Health Communications, Inc.; February 2009) by Askhari Johnson Hodari, Ph.D., shares names from 37 African countries and at least 70 ethnolinguistic groups, and provides in-depth insight into the spiritual, emotional, social, and political importance of names from Angola to Zimbabwe. It is the most current and comprehensive book on the subject, in which Dr. Hodari offers more than 5,000 names organized by theme — from religion, birth circumstance and physical characteristics. This timely and informative resource guide vibrates with the culture of Africa and encourages Blacks across the world to affirm their African origins by selecting African names.
It is clear that Dr. Hodari loves African names. She truly appreciates their sounds and meanings, which are different from names of North America. “Each time a person calls me by my African name, they remind me that my roots are indeed in Africa,” says Dr. Hodari. In the last twenty years she has consulted in the naming of hundreds of babies, and in the renaming of hundreds of children and adults. She explains in THE AFRICAN BOOK OF NAMES that naming in African societies is more of a communal process than in other societies; in fact, it is common for parents, young people or adults to consult with community members or African Studies practitioners before bestowing a name upon an infant, or upon themselves.


Dr. Hodari explores the various circumstances under which a person is named, and the factors that come into play. For example, she helped name a child Jasir Dia, and explains that each time a person speaks to Jasir, they are calling him a “fearless champion.” Dr. Hodari says that this name helps and influences Jasir’s life, and that the expectation is for him to become all that his name implies long after his parents and other family members have passed on. Choosing an African name does not have to happen shortly after birth, and new names can represent various stages of development as one grows and matures — Sojourner Truth, Muhammad Ali, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar all took on new names as adults.
Dr. Hodari promotes the use of African names because she says that the importance of African culture is often minimized, leading to the exclusion of African names from many baby and name books. This negligence, she explains, deprives parents, researchers, students and other readers of the philosophy and wisdom of African societies. Also, since many traditional and modern African societies tend to rely on and emphasize oral communication more than written communication, Dr. Hodari wanted to contribute to as much of a written record of African names as possible, particularly since Africans are no longer in one large space, but are scattered across the planet.


Despite enormous cultural variety throughout Africa, there are central themes common to African naming. A name evidences the day of birth, time of birth or the birth order, such as Akua (Wednesday) and Layla (born at night). Conditions and circumstances of birth also are taken into consideration, like Alfryea (born during good times) or Lesa (child born unexpectedly). Location of birth event or season of birth, religious concepts, desired characteristics and even physical traits can play a role in the naming process. With 16 percent of the world’s population residing on the African continent, Africa has given birth to millions of lyrical, intriguing and significant names — thousands of which are listed in THE AFRICAN BOOK OF NAMES.


While the birth of a baby is a joyous time that creates a need to choose a name, THE AFRICAN BOOK OF NAMES does not focus solely on “baby names.” Readers of any age can embrace this collection to select names for themselves, events, or other entities. Dr. Hodari believes that the use of African names must be guided by a love and appreciation for African culture. “However, it is not my duty to judge what may or may not be an appropriate name,” she explains. This book provides a diverse and comprehensive selection of names. The rest is up to readers.



Askhari Johnson Hodari, Ph.D., is a practitioner of Black/Africana Studies and regularly studies and travels the African Diaspora. She has visited numerous countries in Africa, South America, and the Caribbean. She is the co-author of Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs.


THE AFRICAN BOOK OF NAMES: 5,000+ Common and Uncommon Names from the African Continent
Askhari Johnson Hodari, Ph.D.
Health Communications, Inc.; February 2009
ISBN: 0-7573-0779-5

17 people like this post.


  1. Isaac Mathew Sullivan

    My name is Isaac and I am a 29 year old black African male from Bridgeport, CT. I would like to change my name from having a biblical name to having a name of the African culture, but I have no idea how to choose one. I would like to select a name that is suitable for me, my character, my personality. How should I go about this? Should I just read a book with African names and just choose one I like. One thing I do not wish to do is offend my mother or anyone else in my family by doing so.

    • It may help if you have take one of the DNA genetic test like African Ancestry, you’ll find where your Y chromosome comes from…this may be a good start as far as origin, tribal etc…Good luck

      • Is black ancestors own by people of color, I don’t trust the one who took the the truth from us to tell me the truth about my blood line,

    • What’s up Brother Issac! I just stumbled across your question. There are typically two ways of being named. Here in the states, most adults simply choose a name they believe captures who they are and/or how they want to be seen in the world. This is ok, however alot of people choose out of ego. A name has power, each time you say it, you are putting an affirmation of it into the universe and that energy is affecting your life. So choose wisely man. I went the more traditional route. I went through a rite of passage. It was a process where elders got to know me and the folks who were on my journey for a period of time and then named us based on our attributes both spiritual and finite. So yea man, a 2nd option would be to do something like this. Either way, good luck!

      Wigasi B

      • Hello all!

        Wigasi, I am looking to undergo a similar naming process to yours. Could you provide information about how you got started and any connections you’d be able to create for me?

        Good luck to everyone on their awakening journeys!

    • Isaac, you already have an African name baby because the Bible is our history book.

  2. the following wild life names in the Ngoni language of Chipata:

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