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Stories Behind Africa’s Unusual Names
 
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30-Dec-2016  
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Traditional African names often have unique stories behind them. From the day or time a baby is born to the circumstances surrounding the birth, several factors influence the names parents choose for their children.

Whichever ethnic group you look at, these local names reveal a wealth of information about the bearer.

Here are nine different ways African parents name their children:

Events surrounding birth
Among several ethnic groups, picking out names can be influenced by positive or negative circumstances the family finds themselves in around the time a child is born.

Often, such names are complete sentences.

- Ayodele (joy has come home) is a unisex name for a baby whose birth brought happiness to their Yoruba parents in Nigeria.

- Yetunde or Yewande (mother has come back) is a Yoruba name given to a girl whose grandmother or other female relative died before she was born.

- Adetokunbo (crown/wealth has come back home) is a unisex Yoruba name often given to a child born abroad.

- Ajuji (born on a rubbish heap) is a Hausa name given to a baby after those born before it failed to survive. It is believed that giving the child a "terrible" name will deceive evil spirits into thinking the child is not loved and as a result, allow it to live.

- Kgomotso and Pumza (comfort) are given to babies born shortly after a death or tragedy in Sesotho and Xhosa families in South Africa.

- Kiptanui and Cheptanui are often given to babies whose mothers may have suffered extreme difficulties during childbirth among the Kalenjin ethnic group in Kenya.

- Kimaiyo and Jemaiyo are names sometimes given to baby boys and girls whose births coincide with men drinking locally brewed beer (Maiywek) among the Kalenjins.

- Misrak (east) was given to an Ethiopian baby girl whose father was in Japan at the time she was born.

- Lindiwe (we have waited) is an isiZulu name often given to a baby girl after a long line of boys.

Emotional warnings

Some names, especially in Zimbabwe, reflect the mood or circumstance of the family at the time of birth. Some of them serve as warnings or rebukes.

Nhamo means misfortune

Maidei asks the question "What did you want?"

Manyara tells someone "You have been humbled"

Yananiso means bringing the family together

Sometimes these names are translated into English, where they can sound quite surprising, for example: Airforce; Kissmore; Brilliant; Psychology; Hatred; Nomatter; Jealous; Furious or Hardlife.

But this is not unique to Zimbabwe.

Gospel Mavutula from neighbouring Malawi was originally named Misery but decided it was too negative and changed it.

"I was born at a period when my parents were miserable," he told the BBC.

He said his parents, both teachers, had been experiencing pressure at work and problems with their neighbours and this influenced his birth name.

"I have avoided that scenario by giving nice names to my children," he added.

Day-born names

Even before parents select a western or religious name for their child, the baby already has a name.

Among some Ghanaian ethnic groups like the Akan, Ga, Ewe and Nzema, a name is automatically assigned based on the day the child is born. These day names correspond to the day of the week someone is born and so by default, everybody has one - though the name may not necessarily appear on official documents.

Monday - Kojo (male), Adwoa (female)

Tuesday - Kwabena (male), Abena (female)

Wednesday - Kwaku (male), Ekua (female)

Thursday - Yaw (male), Yaa (female)

Friday - Kofi (male), Efua (female)

Saturday - Kwame (male), Ama (female)

Sunday - Akwesi (male), Akosua, (female)

These day names can vary slightly depending on the ethnic group.

Faith-based names

Edem Adjordor, from Ghana, believes there is a higher power than black magic and so through his three-year-old son, he sends a strong message to those he considers spiritual enemies.
 
 
 
Source: BBC
 
 

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