Friday, October 20, 2017

Some Distinctive African American Male Names That Begin With "La"

Edited by Azizi Powell

Latest Revision- August 18, 2018

This pancocojams post provides some examples of distinctive African American male names that begin with "La".

The content of this post is presented for onomastics and cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those are quoted in this post.
The idea for this post came to me after reading about four members of the United States military-Sgt. La David Johnson (African American), Staff Sergeant Bryan Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright (White Americans)- who were killed in an ambush on October 4, 2017 in Niger, West Africa.
Click for information about that ambush. RIP to all who lost their lives in that tragedy.
Click for the companion pancocojams post "Some Distinctive African American Male Names That Begin With "La"

PANCOCOJAMS EDITOR'S NOTE (Revised August 18, 2018)
African Americans have always been known to have a larger name pool than most population groups within the United States. Nevertheless, most African Americans don't give non-standard names to their children.

This post focuses descriptions of certain types of given names that are given to the population of African Americans who do confer distinctive given names to their children.

"Ghetto names", "weird names" and other pejorative terms have also been used to refer to certain sub-types of "distinctive African American names" particularly those names that are re-purposed words (such as product names or certain adjectives), as well as names that begin with certain prefixes and/or end with certain suffixes, names that include an apostrophe or hyphen, names that include more than one capitol letter, and names that are longer than three syllables. However, I don't use negative references to refer to those types of names or any other names. I prefer to term "distinctive African American names" for non-standard given names that are more commonly used by African Americans than by other populations in the United States. It's important to note that some names that are generally considered to be "African American names/Black names" are also used by non-Black people (including non-African Americans) in the United States.

There are multiple reasons why African Americans and other people living in the United States choose non-standard names for their children.
Here are eight reasons (given in no particular order)

1. adhering to their family traditions, including giving children names that "run in the family" (are conferred to a child in that family) even though the name is now considered "old fashioned"

2. giving names that connect children to their heritage and express pride in their heritage
The rise of multiculturalism in the United States is partly responsible for some of these naming trends. In addition to the acceptance of multiculturalism, among African Americans and other Black Americans, the greater acceptance of African ancestry, and increased knowledge about African history and cultures has increased the use of traditional African names as given names

3. Giving names that are associated with a family's religion
However, many Black Americans who give Arabic personal names to their children aren't Muslim.

4. giving children unique names that will help them "stand out in a crowd"; parents are interested in "different names" but also names that aren't too different; some unique names may be variants of already existing names (with different spelling, and/or an added apostrophe, or combinations of two different names with or without a prefix and/or a suffix

expressing paternal and/or maternal relationships (for instance, creating a name that is a female form of the father's given name by combining a portion of that name with a suffix such as "isha" that usually is only used for females)

6. choosing a given name that appeals to a person's sound preferences (Note that sound preferences can vary among different populations living in the same nation, and also within a particular race and/or ethnicity within that same nation. This post includes my position that with regard to given names, African American sound preferences are often different than non-Black sound preferences within the United States.)

7. creating a variant form of an already existing name that more closely conforms to the way the name is pronounced and/or by adding a prefix and/or a suffix and/or adding an apostrophe or a hyphen, and sometimes also beginning the second syllable of the name with a capitol letter.

8.selecting names that are trending in the general population, because of these names have been popularized by television characters or celebrities, including names that celebrities give their children. Some of these names may have previously been categorized as non-standard names.

Distinctive African American names are already existing names that originate in a language that is usually not used as name sources in the United States, such as traditional African languages, or from Arabic. However, African Americans may select already existing names from other languages throughout the world, including certain names from European languages and from Hebrew which aren't that familiar in the United States or may have been retired from use because they have been deemed to be "old fashioned".

Distinctive African American names are also names that are newly created (coined) using a number of different strategies.

Among these naming strategies are
-respelling an already existing name so that it more closely fits how it is pronounced

-adding a certain prefix to a spelling variant of an existing name, or to a relatively newly coined name. For example, the prefix "La" is mostly, but not only added to certain female names, and the prefix "De" is mostly added to certain male names, but may also be added to some female names

-adding a certain suffix to an already existing name or to a spelling variant of an existing name, or to a relatively newly coined name. For example, the suffix "isha" is only added to female names. The suffix "tae" is mostly added to male names, but may also be added to some female names.

-using capital letter for the first letter that occurs after a prefix

-adding an apostrophe or a hyphen to a name

-combining parts of two names (usually the names of the child's parents) to create the child's name

-re-purposing certain words as personal names (for instance, using certain place names, product names, adjectives, or adverbs as given names

Choosing Arabic Names And Names From Traditional African languages
My interest in what I refer to as "distinctive" African American given names (meaning "first and middle names") was sparked when I received my "African free name"* "Azizi" in 1968. "African free names" is a term that afrocentric African Americans used in the late 1960s and 1970s to refer to traditional African or Arabic given names (or less often, to African or Arabic first names and last names) that were either chosen by individuals or given to individuals by other people. "Free names" replaced the European/Hebrew birth names which were called "slave names".

"Azizi" is a Swahili form of the Arabic female name "Aziza". In part because of KiSwahili's close relationship with Arabic, that East African and Central African language was the first traditional African languages that African Americans used as a source for our names and our children's names. After the 1970s, thanks to the availability of published books on African names and particularly thanks to the internet in after 2008 or so, more African Americans began choosing given names for themselves or their children from the Twi language of Ghana, in particular the male day names "Kofi" and "Kwame". More African Americans also began conferring given names from Yoruba, Zulu, and certain other traditional African languages.

Sound Preferences For Names
In my admittedly informal study of African American names, I've noticed that there appears to be certain sound preferences among some African Americans that aren't usually shared by other people in the United States.* Among those sound preferences are given names that begin with the prefix "La" (pronounced "lah"). There are many more female African American names with the prefix "La". However, as this post shows, there are also a number of male names that begin with that prefix.

Different Ways Of Spelling Names
In addition to the way a name sounds, since at least the 1970s for some African Americans, the way that a name is written is almost as important as how the name was pronounced. A name could be spelled "the regular way" or spelled differently to more closely conform to the way it sounds. The first letter in the second syllable could be capitalized and/or an apostrophe or hyphen could separate the first syllable from the second syllable. Less often, the name could include an accent mark. And, as the first excerpt given below, the African American custom of conferring distinctive given names began centuries before the late 1960s and 1970s, although that custom appears to have increased since the late 1960s and on. And it's important to note that some distinctive African American originated personal names are more common (among African Americans) than other distinctive African American originated personal names. Also, some people who aren't Black have names that are African American originated or which are most popular among African Americans.

*Some Mormons living in Utah and Idaho have certain naming practices that are similar to African Americans. For example, some distinctive Mormon names begin with "La", some names are created by combining two already existing names, and a number of given names include an apostrophe. However, Mormon originated are usually different from African American originated “La” names because the "base" names (the names before the prefix or apostrophe) are often unfamiliar to African Americans.

Read my speculation below in the comment section below about why I think the "la" prefix is one of the foremost sound preferences among African Americans who choose "distinctive African American names" for their children.
*Click for the 2011 pancocojams post entitled "How I Got My African Name".

** Of course, all names were "made up" at one time or another.

Pancocojams Editor Notes:
To emphasize, these "distinctive African American male names" can also be given to males of other races or ethnicities (with "ethnicity". (In the United States referring to Latinx/Hispanics. Latinx/Hispanics can be of any race.)

Except for this first excerpt, these lists are given in no particular order. These lists are numbered for referencing purposes only.

EXCERPT #1 [selected examples]
From Proud Heritage: 11,001 Names For Your African-American Baby editor Elza Dinwiddie-Boyd (Avon Books, 1994)
page 92
"La Quarius - newly created. This name is known among elementary school students in Detroit.

Labert - This name is another demonstration of the African American fondness for blending LA with a wide variety of endings that often make the new name a unique creation.

LaBron - also LeBron. Although used for several generations by black parents, these names smack of that African-American penchant for creating new sounds in naming their children. LeBron Simmons, a noteworthy atorney in Detroit during the 1950s and 1960s, was a staunch advocate for the poor and the underpriviledged.


Lafayette - Marquis de Lafayette, a French nobleman, joined Gen. Washington's army in 1777. His fame spread throughout the country, and his surname was often taken as a first name by free black and white parents. Rare in the 20th century.

Lamar French: Of the sea. Also Lemar. First used by black parents in the late 19th century. Lamar remains in

[page 93]

frequent use today. Lamar McGriggs played for the New York Giants football team.


Larnell - Apparently a recent African-American creation, only a few generations old. Also Larney.


[page 94

LaSalle French: the hall. NBA stalwart LaSalle Rhompson is an Indiana Pacer.


Laval - An African American original. Laval Perry is the CEO of All American Ford, Inc., the nation's 71st largest black-owned automobile dealership.

Lavar- An African-American original. Also Levar, Le Var, La Var. Popularized in the late 1970s when actor Le Var Burton played Kunte Kinte in the TV miniseries of Alex Haley's Roots.

Lavon - An African American original

Lawanza - Newly created. Lawanza Spears was a cum laude graduate of the class of 1993, Howard University."

From the chapter "Newly Created names for boys"
[page 217]
Labarius-----------Lakendrick---------La Prese
Lacatron-----------La Mare------------Laquon
Ladall-------------Lamario------------La Ray
Ladarian-----------Lamark ------------Larmel
La Derek-----------Lamarr-------------La Rocque
Ladrius------------Landell------------La Ron
La Jack------------Lanorris-----------Laron
La Juan------------Laphonso-----------Lashajuan

[page 218]
La Shawn
La Vance
La Vaughn
La Vaughn
La Vell
La Vonte
La Waan

From the chapter "African Names For Boys"

Lasana Central Africa:A poet of the people


Lateef = Arabic: Gentle, pleasant one

"LAMAR m English, African American
From a French and English surname, originally from a place name in Normandy, which was derived from Old French la mare meaning "the pool".
LASHAWN f & m African American
Combination of the popular prefix La with the name SHAWN.
LASHAY m African American (Rare)
Combination of the popular name prefix La and SHAY (1)."
The only other "L" name on this list is "LEBRON m African American (Rare)
Meaning unknown, probably an invented name. This is the name of basketball player LeBron James (1984-)."

African American Baby Names Dictionary
This list includes seventeen additional names. Nine of those names begin with the letters "Le".

[Pancocojams Editor: This website purports to list the top Black baby boy names. The numbers listed are the numbers that this site's editors have given for these names.]
"299 La Dorian
300 Labron"
"301 Ladarrell
302 Laelim
303 Lamarcus
304 Laquez
305 Latrelle"

[Note: Excerpts from don't distinguish between which race or races or ethnic group (meaning Latino/Hispanic) uses or used these names]
“La- baby names and what they mean with 77 results. La- names are used more often as feminine names. Usage of these boy names was at its apex in the 1940s ... and is now much less... with names like Laurence going out of style. The most fashionable birth names in this list are Lawson (#438), Langston (#691), Lachlan (#768), Lane (#296) and Layton (#544), while Lauer (TOP 2%) and Laws (2%) are conventional La- last names...

La-, var. Lavonte, Lavon, Lavell, Lavaughn, Lavante, Lavar, Laval, Latrell, Lashawn, Laroyce, Lasean, Laroy, Laron, Larenzo, Laray, Larell, Lamont, Lamario, Lamarcus, Lajon, Lamar, Ladell, Ladale
Root fr. American. .. Pronunciation emphasis is on the second .. Adoption of Laval and forms was more pronounced 45 years ago and has become diminished.


Derived fr. French. .. Historical. A moderately offbeat boys' name, Lafayette is found more frequently as a surname.


Lamar2, var. Lamarre, Lamarr
Based on Old French, Old German elements. "The water; land famous." Lamar was among 2015's Top names.


Lambert and variants
Lambert, var. Landbert, Lambirt, Lamberto, Lambart
Stems fr. Scandinavian. "Land brilliant." Usage of Landbert and forms was expansive during 1910-1919.

Lamont and variants
Lamont2, var. Lamonte, Lamond, Lammond
Root fr. Old Norse. "Law man." Lammond and Lamond are more rarefied as boys' names among the forms of Lamont.

Lamont and variants
Lamont2, var. Lamonte, Lamond, Lammond

Root fr. Old Norse. "Law man." Lammond and Lamond are more rarefied as boys' names among the forms of Lamont.


Lamar2, var. Lamarre, Lamarr
Based on Old French, Old German elements. "The water; land famous." Lamar was among 2015's Top names.

Lambert and variants
Lambert, var. Landbert, Lambirt, Lamberto, Lambart
Stems fr. Scandinavian. "Land brilliant." Usage of Landbert and forms was expansive during 1910-1919."

What does Larron mean?


Pronunciation of Larron [lar-ron] as a boys' name. Modern name: possibly blend of Darron with L-, or a variant of Lawrence.

VARIANTS Laren, Larin, Laron, Larran, Larren, Larrin

RELATIONS VIA DARRON, LAWRENCE Daran, Daren, Darin, Daron, Darran, Darrin, Darryn, Daryn, Derren, Derrin, Derron, Laranz, Larenz, Larrance, Larrence, Larrens, Larrey, Larry, Lars, Lauren, Laurens, Laurent, Laurenz, Laurie, Lavrans, Lavrens, Lawrey, Lawrie, Lawry, Lon, Loren, Lorin, Lorrenz, Lorry"

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  1. I used Google search to see if I could find any names beginning with "L" and "La" in particular in certain traditional African languages. Here are my results:

    Swahili - no names beginning with "La" (male or female)

    ** Igbo names
    “Lotachukwu [variants] Lota, Lotachi=Remember God
    Lotanna [variants] Lota, Nna= Remember the father/God”

    No male names beginning with La
    23 male names beginning with L

    Akan List of Akan(Twi, Asante) Names

    No Akan names beginning with L

    no names beginning with “L”: [List of Yoruba Names And Their English Meanings]

    However, there are lots of Yoruba names that either begin with or end with the element "ola".*

    Given that many people of Yoruba descent were enslaved in the United States, the Caribbean, and South America, and given how much Yoruba culture has influenced the cultures of the Americans and the Caribbean, perhaps the "ola" name element is one of the reasons why the "lah" sound appears to be so popular among African Americans.

    *Click for a pancocojams post about the "ola" prefix and suffix in Yoruba names.

  2. Click for another pancocojams post on distinctive African American names. I updated that post which focuses on the female name "Keisha" to include the example "Myeshia". Myeshia Johnson is the widow of Sgt La David Johnson who was killed on October 4, 2017 in an ambush in Niger, West Africa. Sgt Johnson's mother "Cowanda" also has a distinctive name.

    RIP to Sgt Johnson and all others who lost their life in that ambush.

    1. Correction:
      from Washington Post article: The private life of Sgt. La David Johnson, the slain soldier ensnared in a Trump controversy

      ...[Sgt La David's] "biological mother, Samara, died when he was a child, according to the slain soldier’s obituary. Cowanda Jones-Johnson and her husband, Richard Johnson, were entrusted with his care after his mother died."

  3. Less there be any confusion, I want to be very clear that just because Sgt Johnson had a distinctive name, that absolutely does not absolve Trump from referring to the Sgt. during his so-called "condolence call" to his widow as "your guy".

  4. There's really no way to know if the Yoruba (Nigeria, West Africa) name element "ola" is the reason for what is a long held Black American preference for the "lah" sound as a prefix in given (first and middle) names.

    But, given that the Yoruba prefix "ola" means "honor or wealth", putting that prefix before a name could have been a coded way for oppressed people to call into being their best hopes and wishes for their children who embodied those names.

    1. Dr. Farooq Kperogi is the author of a February 13, 2017 Daily Trust [Nigerian] newspaper column entitled "Nigerian and African Muslim Personal Names Among the Gullah of Georgia and South Carolina".

      That column includes a few examples of African personal names that African American linguist Lorenzo Dow Turner found among the Gullah people in the United States in the 1930s.

      Some of those names may help explain why African Americans seem to have a preference for the "La" prefix in personal names for females and males.

      Here are some excerpts from that article which I reprinted in this pancocojams post:*

      "Among the hundreds of Yoruba names Turner recorded among the Gullah people in the 1930s are names like ... Alafia [ "Alafia" is an Arabic-derived word; see Arabized African names below], Alabo, Alade, Alawo....Otunla,...."


      He [Lorenzo Dow Turner] also recorded names like.... Lafiya ( derived from the Arabic word for good health, which is borne as a royal name among the Borgu people in Nigeria and Benin Republic, and as an everyday personal name in Senegambia and other historically Muslim polities in West Africa; Laila; Laraba, a Hausa name given to a girl born on Wednesday, derived from al-arbi'aa', the Arabic word for Wednesday ....

      They also bear the names of West African ethnic groups as personal names, indicating the ethnic origins of some of the Gullah people. They bear names like Fulani, Fulbe, Fula (which refer to the same people)... according to Turner's records"...

      * That pancocojams post also includes information about Gullah people in the United States, information about Dr. Lorenzo Dow Turner, and information about Dr. Farooq Kperogi.

      I have a copy of the book The African Heritage Of American English, editors Joseph E. Holloway and Winifred K. Vass (Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1993) which is based on Dr. Lorenzo Dow Turner’s 1949 book Africanisms In The Gullah dialect. I intend to compile some of those names and feature them in a future pancocojams post or posts.

  5. Here's an African American male in the news with an "La" beginning name: Trump Blasts LaVar Ball: ‘I Should Have Left Them in Jail!’ by Benjamin Hoffman; November 19, 2017
    "A day after LaVar Ball, the outspoken father of the basketball players LiAngelo and Lonzo Ball, played down President Trump’s involvement in getting LiAngelo safely out of China without any criminal charges, the president fired back on Twitter."...
    Here' some information about La Var Ball from <a href="
    LaVar Ball (born October 23, 1967) is an American media personality and businessman who is the father of basketball players Lonzo of the Los Angeles Lakers, UCLA freshman LiAngelo, and Chino Hills High School basketball player LaMelo.[1][2][3][4] A former basketball and American football player himself, LaVar is the founder and CEO of the sports apparel company Big Baller Brand.[5]


    Ball met his wife, Tina, at Cal State Los Angeles, and they have three sons, Lonzo, LiAngelo, and LaMelo.[88] Lonzo is currently a point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers, while LiAngelo is a shooting guard/small forward for the UCLA Bruins men's basketball team, and LaMelo was originally supposed to be a junior point guard at Chino Hills High School before being taught solely by LaVar."...
    Notice the use of the "L" beginning letter in each of these male names and the use of an "L" + a vowel prefix for each of these male names (if you stretch to include "Lo" in the name "Lonzo" as a prefix.) Having names that begin with the same letter as one parent is a familiar (although not always followed) African American naming custom. Another familiar but not always followed African American custom is to give siblings (males and/or females) with the same or similar beginning letter. Another African American naming custom (although not applicable in the Ball family being reviewed here) is to give twins names that begin with the same letter or, I think even more often, "rhyming names"*

    I believe that the name "LiAngelo" is a form of the more familiar (although still distinctive) name "DeAngelo". I also believe the "Li" is a distinctive adaptation of the element "Le" (as in the female name "LeAnn". For the record, there are no examples of male names with the element "Li" in the Proud Heritage: 11,001 Names For Your African-American Baby editor Elza Dinwiddie-Boyd (Avon Books, 1994) book.

    Also, the male name "Lonzo" is a clip of the male name "Alonzo". That name isn't commonly given in the United States.

    *An "old school" (1950s or so) African American example of female twin rhyming names that I've come across a lot is "Brenda" and "Linda". A contemporary African American example of either male or female twin rhyming names are "Zion" and "Zaire".

    1. Notice that on the same day- November 19, 2017, An African American female with an "La" prefix just made the news:
      "LaToya Cantrell becomes New Orleans' first female mayor
      Los Angeles Times November 19, 2017

      "LaToya Cantrell, a City Council member who first gained a political following as she worked to help her hard-hit neighborhood recover from Hurricane Katrina, won a historic election Saturday that made her the first female mayor of New Orleans."
      The link to the pancocojams post on distinctive female names that begin with "la" is given at the beginning of this post.

    2. I should have given the male name "LeVar" as an example of a distinctive name with a "Le" prefix. A famous person with this name is African American actor "LeVar Burton".

  6. I just happened upon this portion of an article entitled "Our Evolving Black American Naming Traditions"
    by Elisabeth Pearson Waugaman Ph.D., Mar 01, 2015

    "Because of the vibrant Creole culture in Louisiana, there is also a French influence in some African-American names. This includes not only French surnames but also given names beginning with “La,” (e.g. Lawanda), “De” (e.g. Deandre’) and with the use of apostrophes (e.g. Andre’, Mich’ele), that represent accents that were not yet available on American typewriters at the time.
    I hadn't considered the influence of French Creole culture on the use of "La" and "De" prefixes in African American names. That certainly may be a factor in the use of those prefixes among African Americans.

    However, I believe that the use of apostrophes (or hyphens) in African American names has to do with the way the name looks and not at all with how the name is pronounced.