African last names or surnames have deeper meanings than many think. This is why you hardly see an African man bearing a Western name as his last name. Names are of huge significance in the continent and that is why some cultures go as far as having naming ceremonies where families officially name their children in the presence of other people.
Africans attach lots of importance to their culture and roots or where they came from. When in diaspora in the United States, Britain, France or anywhere else, a typical African man would always go back to his roots. People from the African continent hold on fast to their culture and tradition. The importance of culture and tradition while choosing a last name in Africa, cannot be overemphasized.
Cultural and religious diversity are conspicuous elements of the African continent. This is seen in a wide range of languages of different ethnic groups. You can tell a person’s ethnic group or country by the language they speak. But another way to detect nationality or cultural background is a person’s last name.
When you look deeply into different last names of Africans, you will discover that these names are rich in culture, often with unique meaning reflecting either religious, cultural or sexual affiliation. The origin of these names can be traced from the first tribes on the planet to the present modern-day societies. These names not only have cultural meaning but also have blessings attached to them either by a family head or by traditional rulers.
African last names are also expressions that are written and pronounced in the mother tongue for easy understanding. Understanding, in the sense that these expressions either tell or represent a proverb, an adage or a story.
African Names as Means of Cultural Identification
As stated earlier, a person’s surname in Africa has a lot to say about his culture and family background. A family’s history can be easily traced from a given surname. In a country like Nigeria, family lineages are easily identified, traced and analyzed by those who have good knowledge of culture and history. A surname like ‘Balogun’ in Western Nigeria depicts the resilience, determination, and strength of warlords in the olden days. In this case, anyone who bears the surname is identified as a descendant of a warlord.
A more explicit explanation to this is that family last names also come as a result of actions, characters, and achievements of people. Sometimes they even start out as nicknames given to people for some reasons, which then passes down to a lineage.
African Last Names a Result of Family Values
Family values is a very important aspect of any African society. Values can come in form of a family’s way of life which can be traced from that family’s history. In some cases, kindreds or households may want to uphold, continue and respect those values and norms. Having lived communally, they mostly wish to uphold these values which are sometimes transcribed in their last names; hence, the continued usage of the last name. This is why some Africans hold their last names in high esteem and frown upon mispronunciations of the names by other people who may not have full knowledge the origin.
With Africa as the second largest continent on the planet with a huge population of over 1 billion people, you are in for lots of very interesting African last names. These do not represent a particular country but are carefully handpicked as the most common last names. However, these are only a few last names in Africa. There are millions of last names in the continent, which tell stories about a tribe, a family, a kindred and much more.
Unique List of African Last Names
Common African Last Names