Friday, December 15, 2017

What The African Name Touré Means (Etymology, History, & Examples Of Famous People With That Name)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post provides information and commentary about the African name "Touré".

The content of this post is presented for etymological, historical, and cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.
Click for the closely related pancocojams post Lists Of Mandinka (West African Language) Given Names Ending In "Ou".

1. The African name "Touré" is of ancient Soninke (West African) origin.

"Soninke" is a branch of the Mande people of West Africa. "Mandinka" is one of the other branches of this large ethnic group.

"Touré is the French transcription of a West African surname (the English transcription is Turay). The name is probably derived from tùùré, the word for 'elephant' in Soninké, the language of the Ghana Empire.[1]

[1] Diagana, Ousmane Moussa (1995), La langue soninkée : morphosyntaxe et sens à travers le parler de Kaédi (Mauritanie), Paris : L'Harmattan."
Also, read excerpts below from a discussion about the Mande people. Those excerpts include references to Soninke names in general and the name "Toùré" in particular.

2. "Touré" is traditionally used as a surname (last name, family name) by the Soninkes and doesn't appear to also be used as a given name (personal name) in West Africa.

3. "Touré" is used as a given name by at least one African American - the writer, music journalist, cultural critic, and television personality Touré Neblett;(born March 20, 1971) who is known by his first name only

While I don't know of other African Americans with the given name "Touré", I wouldn't be surprised if other Black American males (and other Black males in the African Diaspora) were given or self-selected that name.

4. The Soninke (West African) surname "Touré" means "elephant". Elephants traditionally symbolize royalty and power (and other positive attributes) for the Soninkes and for other West African cultures. (Read the Wikipedia excerpt about elephants that is given below as note #4).

Therefore, the surname (and the given name) "Touré" can be said to mean "nobility and power".
Pancocojams Editor's notes about the statements that are given above:
I purposely refer to the African etymology of "Touré" to distinguish it from the unrelated etymology of the European surnames "Tour", De la Tour, Latour, Torre, etc. Click for a post about the etymology of those surnames.

Here's some general information about the Soninke people and the Soninke language (These excerpts are numbered for referencing purposes only.)
Note #1.
"Mandé is a family of ethnic groups in Africa who speak any of the many related Mande languages of the region. Various Mandé groups are found in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Chad, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone. The Mandé languages belong to it's own language family despite what some western scholars have said and are divided into two primary groups: East Mandé and West Mandé.

The Maninka (also known as Malinke), a branch of the Mandé, are credited with the founding of the largest ancient African empires. Other numerous Mandé groups include the Soninke, Bambara, and Dyula. Smaller groups include the Ligbi, Vai, and Bissa."...
"Mandingo" is an outdated referent for a branch of the Mande people more appropriately referred to as "Mandinka", "Manding" or "Malinke".

The referent "Mandingo" became known in the United States as a result of the 1957 novel and 1975 movie, both with the title Mandingo

Note #2.
"The Soninke, also called Sarakole, Seraculeh, or Serahuli, are an African ethnic group found in eastern Senegal and its capital Dakar, northwestern Mali and Foute Djalon in Guinea, and southern Mauritania.[2] They speak the Soninke language, also called Maraka language, which is one of the Mande languages.[3]

Predominantly Muslim, as the Soninke were one of the early ethnic groups of Africa to convert to Islam in about the 10th century.[4] The contemporary population of Soninke people is estimated to be over 2 million.[1]

Soninke people were the founders of the ancient empire of Ghana c. 750-1240 CE. Subgroups of Soninke include the Maraka and Wangara. When the Ghana empire dispersed, the resulting diaspora brought Soninkes to Mali, Senegal, Mauritania, Gambia, Burkina Faso, and Guinea-Bissau where some of this trading diaspora was called Wangara.[5] The cultural practices of Soninke people are similar to the Mandé peoples...

Note #3
“The Soninke language (Soninke: Sooninkanxanne[3]) is a Mande language spoken by the Soninke people of West Africa. The language has an estimated 1,096,795 speakers, primarily located in Mali, and also (in order of numerical importance of the communities) in Senegal, Ivory Coast, The Gambia, Mauritania, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea and Ghana. It enjoys the status of a national language in Mali, Senegal, The Gambia and Mauritania.

The language is relatively homogeneous, with only slight phonological, lexical, and grammatical variations.”...
More Information about the Soninke people is given below in this post.

Note #4.
"Elephants have been depicted in mythology, symbolism and popular culture. They are both revered in religion and respected for their prowess in war. They also have negative connotations such as being a symbol for an unnecessary burden. Ever since the stone age, when elephants were represented by ancient petroglyphs and cave art, they have been portrayed in various forms of art, including pictures, sculptures, music, film, and even architecture.


In Africa
Many African cultures revere the African Elephant as a symbol of strength and power.[41][42] It is also praised for its size, longevity, stamina, mental faculties, cooperative spirit, and loyalty.[43] South Africa, uses elephant tusks in their coat of arms to represent wisdom, strength, moderation and eternity.[44] The elephant is symbolically important to the nation of Ivory Coast (Côte d'Ivoire); the Coat of arms of Ivory Coast features an elephant head escutcheon as its focal point.

In the western African Kingdom of Dahomey (now part of Benin) the elephant was associated with the 19th century rulers of the Fon people, Guezo and his son Glele.[j] The animal is believed to evoke strength, royal legacy, and enduring memory as related by the proverbs: "There where the elephant passes in the forest, one knows" and "The animal steps on the ground, but the elephant steps down with strength."[45] Their flag depicted an elephant wearing a royal crown."



Notable people with the surname include:

Ahmed Touré (born 1987), Ivorian footballer (El Gouna)
Ahmed Sékou Touré (1922–1984), Guinean politician, first President of Guinea (1958–1984)
Aida Touré, Gabonese poet, artist and composer
Alhassane Touré (born 1984), Malian footballer
Ali Farka Touré (1939–2006), Malian musician, father of Vieux Farka Touré
Alioune Touré (born 1978), French footballer
Almamy Touré (born 1996), Malian footballer (AS Monaco FC)
Amadou Touré (born 1982), Burkinabé footballer (FC Wiltz 71)
Amadou Toumani Touré (born 1948), Malian politician, former President of Mali (2002–2012)
Aminatou Maïga Touré, Nigerien diplomat
Ansu Toure (born 1981), Liberian footballer
Askia M. Touré (born 1938), American poet and essayist
Assimiou Touré (born 1988), Togolese footballer (SpVgg Burgbrohl)
Bako Touré (1939-2001), Malian footballer, father of José Touré
Bassala Touré (born 1976), Malian footballer (Levadiakos)
Bassary Touré, Malian economist and politician
Cheikh Touré (born 1970), French athlete (long jump)
Demba Touré (born 1984), Senegalese footballer (Grasshopper)
Doudou Touré (born 1991), Mauritanian footballer (Vancouver Whitecaps)
Hamadoun Touré, Malian diplomat, Secretary General of the International Telecommunications Union (2007–present)
Hervé Touré (born 1982), French basketball player
Ibrahim Touré (1985–2014), Ivorian footballer (Smouha), brother of Kolo and Yaya Touré
Ibrahima Touré (born 1985), Senegalese footballer (Wydad Casablanca)
José Touré (born 1961), French footballer (Nantes)
Karidja Touré (born 1994), French actress
Kolo Touré (born 1981), Ivorian footballer (Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester City), brother of Yaya and Ibrahim Touré
Larsen Touré (born 1984), Guinean footballer (Ipswich Town F.C.)
Mamam Cherif Touré (born 1981), Togolese footballer (Livingston)
Samory Toure (c. 1830–1900), founder of the Wassoulou Empire
Sanoussi Touré (born c.1950), Malian politician
Sékou Touré (1934–2003), Ivorian footballer (Montpellier)
Sidi Touré (born 1959), Malian singer and songwriter
Sidya Touré (born 1945), Guinean politician, Prime Minister of Guinea (1996–1999)
Thomas Touré (born 1993), Ivorian footballer (FC Girondins de Bordeaux)
Vieux Farka Touré (born 1981), Malian musician, son of Ali Farka Touré
Yaya Touré (born 1983), Ivorian footballer (Manchester City), brother of Kolo and Ibrahim Touré
Younoussi Touré (born 1941), Malian politician, Prime Minister of Mali (1992–1993)
Youssouf Touré (born 1986), French footballer (Colmar)
Zargo Touré (born 1989), Senegalese footballer (Lorient)

Notable people with the forename include:
Touré (journalist) (born 1971), American novelist, music journalist, cultural critic, and television personality

Touré Kunda, a Senegalese music group
Revised December 16, 2017
Black activist Kwame Toure who coined the term "Black power" (birth name Stokely Carmichael, June 29, 1941 – November 15, 1998) is another example of a famous person whose [self-chosen] surname is an adaptation of the surname Touré.

Here's an excerpt about Kwame Touré

Stokely Carmichael was a U.S. civil-rights activist who in the 1960s originated the black nationalism rallying slogan, “black power.” Born in Trinidad, he immigrated to New York City in 1952. While attending Howard University, he joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and was jailed for his work with Freedom Riders. He moved away from MLK Jr’s nonviolence approach to self-defense.

...."In 1967, Carmichael took a transformative journey, traveling outside the United States to visit with revolutionary leaders in Cuba, North Vietnam, China and Guinea. Upon his return to the United States, he left SNCC and became Prime Minister of the more radical Black Panthers. He spent the next two years speaking around the country and writing essays on black nationalism, black separatism and, increasingly, pan-Africanism, which ultimately became Carmichael’s life cause. In 1969, Carmichael quit the Black Panthers and left the United States to take up permanent residence in Conakry, Guinea, where he dedicated his life to the cause of pan-African unity. “America does not belong to the blacks,” he said, explaining his departure from the country. Carmichael changed his name to Kwame Toure to honor both the President of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, and the President of Guinea, Sekou Toure.

In 1968, Carmichael married Miriam Makeba, a South African singer. After they divorced, he later married a Guinean doctor named Marlyatou Barry."...

Pancocojams Editor's Note:
"" is a discussion blog that about Nigerian topics. Almost all of the people posting on that blog appear to be from Nigeria.

These excerpted comments, from an August 2012 discussion entitled "Soninke (serahule) People And Ghana Empire" include general information about the Soninke people and references to some Soninke surnames, including the name "Touré" ("Touray"). I've numbered these comments for referencing purposes only and used italics for certain words or sentences to highlight them.

1. Soninke (serahule) People And Ghana Empire by Nobody: 9:04am On Aug 26, 2012
"The Soninke people

Before going further, we have to precise that the Ghana empire (ancient Ghana ) has nothing to do with the Republic of Ghana in modern times. This is because it was the first independent black republic in Africa that Kwame Nkrumah and his companions decided to give the name of Ghana (the first west african empire ) to former Gold coast as a powerful symbol for millions of Africans and also to promote the rich traditions of the past.

The builders of the Empire of Ghana are from Soninke ethnic . Their descendants today live in Mali, Guinea and Senegal. Depending on the location, Soninke are called Serahule by Wolof people, Marka by Bambaras etc .... Later, after the disintegration of the empire, Soninkes will adopt the profession of Diula (trader) a hitherto specialty of their Malinke neighbors. But they were mostly rulers of states , due to their keen sense of power.

Soninke ethnic is very broad. Due to war and drought, Soninkes are scattered throughout West Africa. Their dispersion is such that certain elements are difficult to identify because of their absorption by the natives of their country of residence. In some cases they have gradually lost the use of their native language to take that Aboriginal and today it is hard to take them for Soninkes. This is the case for example in Guinea, where the Soninke were absorbed by the Malinke, and to a lesser extent by the Fulani and Susu. But they did keep their surnames which are generally Cissé, Sylla, Diakité, Drame, Tounkara, Diané etc ...

Later, some simply preferred to adopt new names that fitted better with their activities. Such as Kaba or Yansané
This portion of this comment is fully given "as is", including the ellipses "...".

2. Re: Soninke (serahule) People And Ghana Empire by Nobody: 7:51pm On Aug 26, 2012
Soninke names.
"I (Tried) to put the english equivalents in parenthesis
Original soninke names are:

Cissé ( Ceesay)
Bathily (Bacciley??)
Wague (Wageh)
Tandian, Tandi (Tanjah)
Yatabéré (Yatabarey)
Sakho (Saho)
Bomou (Bomu)
Soukhouna (Sohna)
Doucouré (Dukurey)
Kaba (kabah)
Niakhaté (Niaxatey)
Diawara (Jawara)
Tabouré (Taburey)
Fissourou (Fisuru)
Bérété (baratey)
Tounkara (Tunkara)
Touré (Touray)
Soumaré (Sumareh)
Diakhaba (Jaxabah)
Daffé (Dafey)

Due to mixing they also bear mandinka names:

Dramé (Drameh)
Diakité (Jakitey)
Diarra (Jara)
Sidibé (Sidibey)
Coulibaly (Kulibaley)
Dioumassi (Jumasi)
Dembélé (dembaley)
Cissokho (Cisoho)
Kébé (Kabeh)

You can also find fulani names among them mostly Ba (Bah), Diallo (jallow) , and Dia (Jah)
One sonike clan has the name N'Diaye (Njie) which is wolof by origin."

3. Re: Soninke (serahule) People And Ghana Empire by Nobody: 7:32pm On Aug 26, 2012
kandiikane: Ohhhh, so ceesay could also be a serahule name? Ahh.

I was wondering which ethnicity has the spelling "cisse" in senegal. Do the mandinkas there use the last name "cisse" or "ceesay"?

"Kandii I put the names in french because I don't know how u write it in english...Cisse( ceesay) means "Jumper" in soninke language , the most famous Ghana emperor was Khaye Maghan Cisse who defeated the berber dynasty and realized soninke unity. The same goes for names " Sy" (horse in soninke) , particularly found among toucouleur people and "Savane" ( white) mosty found among jola people. But a lot of people of all mende groups use the name ceesay, due to migrations of soninke people. It is also very frequent among wolofs, because soninkes were the first group to be islamized and were very reputed as marabouts. So when a soninke marabout visited a wolof village, people to make him stay with them would give him a wife, so he would have no choice but to stay. That's why you can find wolofs with names like Touray, ceesay, Jaxateh, tunkara etc
But in Senegambia at least , you can tell the group of someone whose name is cisse by his 'dakantal" (it'S the suffix we use after last names like "Njie Jata" or " Joob Juba". So Cisses who are mandinka or bambara will use "Cisse mandi Mory" ( Cisse marabout of mande) , Soninkes will say "Cisse Xaresi Wagadu Niame", Toucouleurs will say "Cisse Ngarey Njar mew" (Ngarey=bull, Njar mew=mix the milk with water=also ancient name of eastern senegal area) while wolofs will say " Cisse madamel" (damm= to break in wolof, madamel= the sir who broke)."
Her's a definition for the word "marabout" from
"A marabout (Arabic: مُرابِط‎, translit. murābiṭ, lit. 'one who is attached/garrisoned') is a Muslim religious leader and teacher[1] in West Africa, and (historically) in the Maghreb. The marabout is often a scholar of the Qur'an, or religious teacher. Others may be wandering holy men who survive on alms, Sufi Murshids ("Guides"), or leaders of religious communities."

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  1. Here's a short list of Soninke given (personal) names from

    Soninke Common Names
    Soninkes were founders of the Ghana Empire and the early Tichitt Civilization. They are mainly located in the western Sahel. They can be found in regions like northeast Senegal, south central Mauritania, and southwest Mali, east along the Mali-Mauritanian border. They can also be found in Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, and Niger.






  2. wow I am Kausara Toure and I am Fula. Is that possible?

    1. Hello, kausara Toure.

      Is Kausara a female or male name (or both)?

      Thanks for your comment.

      One Love!

  3. Kausara (that is Al-kauthar in Arabic) I am a female. what I want to know is, Is it possible to find Toure in Fula? I am fula but I use Toure.
    Thank You, One Love

    1. Thanks for your reply, Kausara.

      I hope that someone who is Soninke or someone else who is Fula will respond to your comment.

      But since there are many countries in West Africa that have people who are Soninke and Fula, I wonder if any of your ancestors were Soninke. If so, you could be Fula and have that Soninke last name.

      Best wishes to you, sister.

  4. Azizi Powell you are right as a soninke myself I know that Toure is a typical soninke name . Toure , Cisse , Wague and so on were the dynasties who ruled in Wagadu empire .

    1. Greetings, Ibrahim.

      Thanks for sharing that information with me and with pancocojams visitors.

      Best wishes and one love!