How do you pick a baby name? What is the story behind your name? It is every parent’s desire to have an explanation to give, but babies do not come with a user manual. One day the baby will ask “What does my name mean?”
In picking a name for a baby, parents may consider who they are, where they are coming from and where they see their descendants in the future.
Naming traditions and naming ceremonies play a decreasing role in the scheme of things as more people disperse into the diaspora, even if they decide to use African baby names.
Kitwe is a good example of a community from different tribal groups who have intermarried and mingled with people from other tribes and nationalities. The use of ethnic names is not so much an effort to fight against change, but rather a preservation of cultural identity that recognizes that every tradition has good things that a group can bring to the table as new communities are re-defined wherever they are re-located.
The meaning and origin of African names has in the past been handed orally from generation to generation. Urbanization has interrupted this traditional oral information transmission. It is important to put in place a substitute way of transmitting that information forward into the future. We now have digital means of preserving the information and it is up to all of us to contribute to this growing record of our origins. The Internet makes it possible to get the information from different sites on the web.
Selecting a Baby Name
Traditionally, the elders were involved in this very important decision. Each occassion also provided a good opportunity to revise the source and meaning of traditional names, as the elders discussed name suggestions.
The emphasis is not always on the meaning of the name. Some of the reasons people chose a particular baby name include:
- If you are Bemba and your spouse is Tonga, does the baby get a Bemba,Tonga or a Lozi name?
- Traditional beliefs
- An important ancestor’s name
- The name of someone involved in a life event (e.g. a rescue)
- Unique name
- Unusual name
- Popular name (eg. Obama)
Are you expecting a new baby or are you just curious to explore? Here is a list of around 2,000 Zambian names. It will help you think about your options or answer your questions.
The distinction between boys names and girls names is not always clear. It is common practice in most of the 73 Zambian languages for the same name to be used as a baby boy name or as a baby girl name. The list also shows whether each name is a male , female or unisex one.
This is really a community project that requires your input to make it better. With your feedback, we will grow the list to include more information about the meaning of traditional Zambian names and their origins.
To our knowledge, this is the largest publicly available collection of Zambian baby names. Due to the arbitrary nature in which political borders were drawn, Zambian names overlap with those of its eight neighbouring countries (Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania).
NAME COUNT: 2,088 (11 Nov 2010)
If you are a mum to be or a dad to be, a name list is useful when you are considering whether to give your baby a traditional name or a popular baby name. This is a reference point for families who are picking a name for a baby, people with African names looking for the meaning of their Zambian name or just curious friends looking to learn the origins and meaning of a name they know.
Learn about your own name and share your knowledge about the meaning of Zambian names and your knowledge of the origin of Zambian names.
If you are an author who has written about Zambian names, have you considered re-publishing your book as an Ebook? This is a much cheaper option and easily done. It will ensure that your contribution is more widely available and will enhance the legacy you have already contributed to so significantly.
Any body can participate here. In the comments box below tell us the meaning of your name or the name of someone you know. We value any information on the source of the name.
If you would like your name to be included in the list of contributors, please include your full names, and indicate that you would like to be included on the list.
We wish to acknowledge the contributions of the following:
- Hope Chitambo Calter
- Chris Muzyamba
- Henry Musialela Nasilele
- Joan Kats