A name bestowed on an African child can traditionally depend on birth order in the family, or the occupation the family is associated with. The name can reflect names of deities and other religious entities in the culture. A name can also reflect praise or expectations of the child. Many African names reflect circumstances at birth that can include praise or negative opinion of neighbors or other family members.
Many African names reflect the composition of the family. Hence, they can reflect discontentment over gender imbalances among family offspring, family ancestry, and the family in extended form. Children are named after their forefathers so as to appease the ancestral spirits, given that dead ancestors of good reputation are believed to have become spirits who protect their descendants. The ancestral spirits are also said to be mediators, whereby they plead to God for protection and mercy toward their descendants. Because ancestral spirits protect their living descendants, they are carefully appeased through carrying out the proper observances and referring to them with respect. In many of the ethnic groups of the Bantu African mega group, the first-born male is named after his paternal grandfather, the second-born is named after his father, and those who follow in birth-order are less specifically named, but are many are named after a variety of forefathers and forefathers’ brothers and their other relatives. This allows for ancestors to be retained in history, given that they are mentioned in everyday speech. It is also believed that the spirits of ancestors watch over their namesakes. Many names that are associated with clans are often descendent from ancestors of good reputation or status. Many of the children of the same family line are given names of such ancestors.
Among the Nuba of southern Kordofan in Sudan, the first-born son is called Kuku, the second is Kafi, the third is Tia, the fourth-born son is given the female name Tia in case a daughter has not been born, and the fifth son is named Nalu. Regarding girls, if a daughter is born first she is called Kaka, the second-born is Toto, the third is named Koshe, the fourth is Kiki (or Ngori, or Kikingori), and the fifth-born (regardless of gender) is named Nalu (Seligman 1932: 386-387). Giving a boy a female name, or vice versa, is a displaying of gender preference. A first-born child who is female can thus be given a male name, though she would be given a proper female name upon the birth of a male sibling. Names can therefore also exhibit quantity of births in the family, as well as progeny sequence of birth.
Names have numerous origins. Many began as nicknames, many as proverbial names. Many are derived from occupations and their implements, many are adapted from neighbors’ and foreigners’ names, while many reflect natural phenomena. It is also common for a child to be given the name of a renowned person who is not related to the family. It was very common, in the past for people to take on names of their neighbors through a variety of assimilation 토토 꽁머니 processes. These included conquest and capture, blood-brotherhood rituals, merging of clans into one, marriage, and long-term residence in a clan village.
Names can corroborate the spiritual or religious backdrop of the child. A name can, therefore, reflect gratitude towards the Supernatural for the birth of the child. Among the Baganda of Uganda, despite the extensive conversions to Christianity and Islam from the nineteenth century, the names of the native deities are still honored and they still serve as popular personal names. Names of the Goddesses of the Baganda include Nakayaga, Nalwoga, Nagaddya (Nagajja), Nanziri, and Namirembe. The Gods include Sserwanga (Lwanga), Mukasa, Kyobe Kibuuka, Kiwanuka, Musisi, Musoke, Muwanga, and Kitinda. Names that express gratitude to supernatural agencies for the birth of the child given the name, are common. The Zulu use the names Bonginkosi ‘thank the Lord,’ Sipho ‘gift (from God),’ Thembinkosi ‘trust the Lord,’ Sibongile ‘we are grateful,’ and Bongani ‘be ye grateful’ (Koopman 1987: 148-149).
Names can also promulgate an opinion of negative or positive bearing that the namer may direct to neighbors, family and kin, enemies, the newborn itself, or even to ancestral spirits and Gods. The Shona of central and southern Africa have such names as Ruvengo ‘hatred,’ Hamundidi ‘you do not love me,’ Vengwa ‘the hated one,’ Masemani ‘you despised me,’ Ibvai ‘get away,’ Mativengerei ‘why have you been hating us?’ and Chomunorwa ‘what is all the fighting about?’ (Jackson 1957: 116-117).