Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Traditional African Languages, Arabic Languages, & Other Sources For Names In The 2018 Black Panther Movie

Edited by Azizi Powell

Latest Revision: February 20, 2018

Previous title: "Possible Origins & Meanings Of Names From The 2018 Black Panther Movie"

This is Part I of a three part pancocojams series on the 2018 Black Panther American movie.

Part I presents information about the 2018 American movie Black Panther and suggest possible origins and meanings for the names of various characters from that Marvel comic book series and that movie.

Click for Part II of this series. Part II showcases the official trailer for the 2018 Black PantherAmerican movie video and quotes excerpts from five online articles that highlight various African cultural elements that are found in that movie.

Click for Part III of this series provides selected comments from a YouTube discussion thread about reactions to the 2018 Black Panther movie from Africans and from people from the African diaspora.
UPDATE: I've added more about the 2018 Black Panther movie. Click the Black Panther tag below for more posts in this series.

The content of this post is presented for cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who have created, developed, written, and drawn the comic book series Black Panther character. Thanks also to all those who are associated with the 2018 Black Panther movie. Thanks also to all others who are quoted in this post and thanks to the publisher of this video on YouTube.

"Black Panther is a 2018 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name, produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. It is the eighteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The film is directed by Ryan Coogler from a screenplay by him and Joe Robert Cole, and stars Chadwick Boseman as T'Challa / Black Panther, alongside Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker and Andy Serkis. In Black Panther, T'Challa returns home as king of Wakanda but finds his sovereignty challenged by a long-time adversary in a conflict that has global consequences.:...


After the events of Captain America: Civil War, King T’Challa returns home to Wakanda. But when two enemies conspire to bring down the kingdom, T’Challa must team up, as the Black Panther, with CIA agent Everett K. Ross and members of the Dora Milaje—Wakanda's special forces—to prevent a world war.[3]....

This pancocojams post provides possible origins & meanings for the African names or African sounding names of the main characters in the 2018 Black Panther movie.

This selected list of character names is from

For information about these characters, read the Wikipedia article about the Black Panther movie whose link is given above.

I've numbered these names for referencing purposes only.

Additions and corrections are welcome.

The name of the actor playing this role is given first followed by the name in that comic series/movie.

1. Chadwick Boseman - "T'Challa" / Black Panther
I'm not sure what the name "T'Challa" means. However, I've found the following examples of "Challa" in Africa:
a) The name "T'Challa" may have been based on the actual name of a late 19th century "lesser king" in Angola as documented in the book Six Years of a Traveller's Life in Western Africa by Francisco Travassos Valdez, which was published in 1861.

Francisco Travassos Valdez, the Portuguese author of Six Years of a Traveller's Life in Western Africa, writes that his journey in Africa "commenced in 1852". Discussion of King Challa (termed the great king Challa at one point in this book) is found in chapter VI.. Challa's name is given earlier in that chapter, but the main portion that refers to him and his people is found on pages 192-211.

King Challa is also mentioned in the more widely known book The Golden Bough:
Google Books Result
James Frazer - 2013 - ‎History
"The Matiamvo is a great king or emperor in the interior of Angola. One of the inferior kings of the country, by name Challa, gave to a Portuguese expedition the following account of the manner in which the Matiamvo comes by his end”...
[WARNING: That 1861 book and the passage from that book which is quoted in The Golden Bough contains graphic descriptions of slaughter.]
"In the context of this quote "inferior kings " means "lesser kings" who owed submission to the great king" (in that region). That great king and all of his people-including his lesser kings-were formally under the control of the Portuguese, in large part because the Portuguese's guns "vomited death".

b) "Lake Chala, also known as Dschalla,[1] is a crater lake in a caldera[2] on the borders of Kenya and Tanzania on the eastern edge of Mount Kilimanjaro"...
"Lake Chala" is also given as "Lake Challa"

c) name of an ethnic group in Nigeria's Plateau State
From 21 JUNE 2013
Daily Trust (Abuja)
"Nigeria: Plateau - Fulani, Challa to Form Vigilante Group
Jos — Fulani, Challa and other tribes in Bokkos Local Government Area of Plateau State have resolved to form a joint vigilante group to help restore peace to the area.

This was contained in a communique presented at the end of a stakeholders meeting between the joint security committee and relevant stakeholders from Bokkos Local Government Area in Jos yesterday. The meeting which was chaired by the commander of the Special Task Force (STF), Major General Henry Ayoola, resolved that measures must be put in place to regulate the influx of illegal immigrants into the state for peace to be sustained."..
UPDATE March 7, 2018
Here's another African name that is quite similar to the name "TChalla":
"Tshala Muana is a [female] singer from the Democratic Republic of Congo. She began her career as a dancer for the great Zairian singer Abeti Massikini, practising "mutwashi" dances from the Kasai region. In the 80's she began performing as a singer. She has enjoyed success in several West African countries, more so than in her own country."...
-end of quote-
Also, "tshala" is Zulu word that means "sow"/"plant" and is the title of a contemporary South African Gospel song.

I don't know whether any of the information given here had any influence on the selection of the name TChalla as the name for the 1966 Black Panther comic book character (and later the name for the movie character).
ADDED: March 13, 2018: The traditional African word "tshala" and name "Tshala" appears to be pronounced with a silent "t", but the "t" is pronounced in the name of the fictional character "T'Challa".

2. Lupita Nyong'o - "Nakia"
"Nakia is a unisex given name of Arabic origin, meaning "pure" and "faithful."[1]"


The meaning of the name Nakia is Pure, faithful"
Note that a lot of contemporary African American female names are from Arabic, or Swahili, or from other language sources, including newly coined African American names end with "a" (pronounced "ah").

3. Danai Gurira - "Okoye"
"Okoye is a family name (surname) originating in Nigeria. It is an Anambra dialect derived from the central Igbo name Okorie (meaning someone born on orie market day).
Pronunciation uh-KOY-ay
Region of origin: Nigeria
Language(s) Igbo"...

4. Daniel Kaluuya - W'Kabi
It's possible that the name "Kabi" is a clip of the Arabic male name "Kabir" (prefaced by a "W" + an apostrophe.
Here's information about the name "Kabir" from
"Meaning of Kabir
Kabir is an Arabic name for boys that means “great”, “powerful”, “leader”. It is used 40 times in the Quran."
The Arabic male name "Kabir" is also spelled "Kabeer".

5. Angela Bassett - "Ramonda"
Ramonda is a variant form of the female name "Ramona". Inserting a "d" in the name "Ramona" gives this name a contemporary African American feel (as adding a "d" or a "da" [pronounced "dah"] suffix to a name is one way that African Americans coin names; example "Towanda" [instead of "Towana"] and "Shalonda".

Here's information about the name "Ramona" from
"Gender: F Meaning of Ramona: "wise protector" Origin of Ramona: Spanish, feminine variation of Ramon"
Also, it occurs to me that the name "Ramonda" is similar to the currently popular Igbo female name
Chimamanda", meaning "God knows" (nickname "Amanda"). A famous Nigerian with this name is novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Read my comments below about the close similarity between the name "Wakanda" for the fictional African nation and the name "Uganda" and "Rwanda" for real African nations.
6. Forest Whitaker - "Zuri"
a) From
"Zuri - Baby Girl Name Meaning and Origin | Oh Baby! Names
Zuri is a name used among African-Americans as a way of celebrating their heritage; Zuri is the Swahili name for “beautiful”. After consulting a Swahili dictionary, we also came upon other following definitions: good, nice, pretty, lovely, cute and attractive."
Although the name "Zuri" is usually used among African American as a female name, it also has been given to African American males.

b) From
Zuri-el [N] [E] [H]
(my rock is God ) son of Abihail, and chief of the Merarite Levites at the time of the exodus. ( Numbers 3:35 )"

7. Letitia Wright - "Shuri"
a) This name may have been coined by rhyming the Swahili name "Zuri". The etymology of the name "Shuri"

Given Name SHURI
GENDER: Feminine & Masculine
USAGE: Japanese


Meaning & History
From Japanese 秋 (shu) meaning "autumn" combined with 里 (ri) meaning "village". Other kanji combinations are possible."

8. Winston Duke - "M'Baku"
Here are some possible sources for the name "M'Baku" (minus that name's beginning consonant and apostrophe)
"Baku is a Japanese name for boys meaning “A good spirit known as the eater of dreams”

"Johannesburg … also known as Jozi, Joburg and Egoli) is the largest city in South Africa and is one of the 50 largest urban areas in the world.[8] It is the provincial capital and largest city in Gauteng, which is the wealthiest province in South Africa.[9] While Johannesburg is not one of South Africa's three capital cities, it is the seat of the Constitutional Court. The city is located in the mineral-rich Witwatersrand range of hills and is the centre of large-scale gold and diamond trade."...

b) From
"Jobu is of course the voodoo doll of big-hitting Cuban refugee Pedro Cerrano in the 1989 film, [Major League](played by Dennis Haysber"...

10. John Kani - "King T'Chaka"
a) From
"Shaka kaSenzangakhona (c. 1787 – 22 September 1828), also known as Shaka[a] Zulu..., was one of the most influential monarchs of the Zulu Kingdom.


The figure of Shaka still sparks interest among not only the contemporary Zulu but many worldwide who have encountered the tribe and its history. The current tendency appears to be to lionise him; popular film and other media have certainly contributed to his appeal. Certain aspects of traditional Zulu culture still revere the dead monarch, as the typical praise song below attests. The praise song is one of the most widely used poetic forms in Africa, applying not only to spirits but to men, animals, plants and even towns.[42]

Other Zulu sources are sometimes critical of Shaka, and numerous negative images abound in Zulu oral history. When Shaka's mother Nandi died for example, the monarch ordered a massive outpouring of grief including mass executions, forbidding the planting of crops or the use of milk, and the killing of all pregnant women and their husbands. Oral sources record that in this period of devastation, a singular Zulu, a man named Gala, eventually stood up to Shaka and objected to these measures, pointing out that Nandi was not the first person to die in Zululand. Taken aback by such candid talk, the Zulu king is supposed to have called off the destructive edicts, rewarding the blunt teller-of-truths with a gift of cattle.[10]

The figure of Shaka thus remains an ambiguous one in African oral tradition, defying simplistic depictions of the Zulu king as a heroic, protean nation builder on one hand, or a depraved monster on the other. This ambiguity continues to lend the image of Shaka its continued power and influence, almost two centuries after his death.[25]

He is Shaka the unshakeable,
Thunderer-while-sitting, son of Menzi
He is the bird that preys on other birds,
The battle-axe that excels over other battle-axes in sharpness,
He is the long-strided pursuer, son of Ndaba,
Who pursued the sun and the moon.
He is the great hubbub like the rocks of Nkandla
Where elephants take shelter
When the heavens frown...

Traditional Zulu praise song, English translation by Ezekiel Mphahlele"...

b) From
"Given Name SHAKA
GENDER: Masculine
USAGE: History
OTHER FORMS: Tshaka, Tchaka, Chaka


Meaning & History
Allegedly derived from Zulu iShaka or uShaka, the name of an intestinal beetle that causes abdominal bloating and menstrual irregularities. Shaka is the name of the most influential Zulu warrior king, supposedly given because his unmarried mother blamed her pregnancy symptoms on the iShaka beetle. (Zulu names often refer to the situation of the bearer's family when he or she was born.)"
"TShaka" is also spelled "T'Shaka".

11. Florence Kasumba - "Ayo"
"Ayo" is a Yoruba (Nigeria) unisex name element meaning “joy”
Here are some examples of this name element from
Ayoade - The Blessed Crown
Ayobami - Wealth Meet Me
Ayobamidele - My Joy Follow Me Home
Ayobamiji -Joy Wakes Up With Me
Ayodeji - Twice The Joy / My Joy Is Doubled
Ayodele - Joy Arrives Home

12. Sydelle Noel - "Dora Milajes" #1 / "Xoliswa"
"Xoliswa" is a female name from the nation of South Africa and the nation of Zimbabwe (and perhaps other nations in the Southern Africa region).
Here's some information about that name or examples of that name
a) From
xoliswa is a Baby Girl name of Ndebele origin meaning forgiveness."

"Xoliswa Ndoyiya - Nelson Mandelas Personal Chef since 1992"
Steve Kokor, Published on Mar 9, 2013

C) From
“A user from South Africa says the name Xoliswa is of Xhosa-African origin and means "Peace".”
"Dora #1" refers to the fictional "Dora Milajes"
Who Are the Dora Milaje? What You Need to Know About the Badass Women of ‘Black Panther’
Posted on Thursday, February 15th, 2018 by Jazmine Joyner

"Supermodels to Soldiers
Christopher Priest, the comic book writer touted as “The Man Who Made Black Panther Cool,” says he based the Dora Milaje on supermodels Tyra Banks and Naomi Campbell: “The first time we see [Black Panther] is not in the costume, but in Armani silk with a shaved head, flanked by Tyra Banks and Naomi Campbell – famous models the Dora Milaje were based upon.”

When they first appeared in the comics, the Dora Milaje looked very much like their model inspirations, with long flowing hair, fabulous flowing dresses, and high heels. They were a far cry from how they’re now seen in the new Marvel film and recent comic book iterations. Clad in full armor, wearing face paint, and rocking shaved heads, these women are presented as true soldiers.

Comic Book Origins
The first appearance of the Dora Milaje was in Marvel Comics’ Black Panther #1, written by Christopher Priest with art by Mark Texeira. Prior to that, there were warrior women present in Black Panther comics, but they weren’t officially Dora Milaje until Priest took over.

On his blog, Priest talks about how the idea of the Dora Milaje evolved out of the need to show the discord in Wakanda: “The concept of the Dora Milaje (Wakandan for ‘Adored Ones’) evolved out of the brilliant work of Panther scribe Don McGregor, who theorized Wakanda was actually made up of a great many indigenous tribes, and that not all tribes liked each other.”

The hero and king, constantly trying to keep the peace, decides to have girls from each of his nation’s tribes sent to the Golden City to unite as an army and protect Wakanda and the Royal Family. The Dora Milaje exist in the comics as visual representations of the peace and strife within T’Challa’s home."...
Click for more information about the Dora Milajes.

13. "Jabari" (fictional tribe/ethnic group)
"Jabari is a masculine name popularized by African-Americans. It comes from the Swahili language and means “the brave one” (i.e., fearless). Swahili is an East African language spoken primarily in the counties of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. African naming customs (like many cultures around the world) reflect the hopes and the dreams of the parents for their children. With a name like Jabari, parents are wishing bravery upon their sons.

Popularity of the Name Jabari
Jabari first appeared on the American male naming charts in 1974 which coincides with a time when African-Americans began to look toward African names (particularly Swahili) in keeping with their own ancestral heritage. Since Jabari is almost exclusively used within the African-American community (roughly 14% of the U.S. population), the name hasn’t climbed too far up the charts. His peak popularity was actually in 2006 at position #608 on the charts (pretty respectable considering the name gets a smaller audience). Today Jabari is back down at the bottom of the Top 1000 boy’s naming list, but we think high school basketball phenom Jabari Parker might change all that in the coming years. We expect Parker to bring some national media attention to his unusual yet powerful name."...
The Swahili name "Jabari" (pronounced jah-BAH- re) comes from the Arabic male name "Jabbar" meaning "mighty; brave"
UPDATE: I haven't found a traditional African language origin/meaning for the "N'Jadaka", the given name of Erik Killmonger portrayed by Michael B. Jordan. My guess is that this is a contemporary made up name which fits the science fiction custom of using an apostrophe for African and other "exotic" names, and also fits the American preference for names beginning with"J".

Some of these names are actual names from certain traditional African languages (and Arabic*) or are clips (a portion), or other forms of those names.

Given in no particular order, those languages and names are:

1. "Zuri" - Swahili

2. "T'Shaka" Zulu

3. "Okoye" - Igbo ("Okoye")

4. "Ayo"- Yoruba

5. "Xoliswa" - Xhosa/Ndebele

6. "Nakia" - Arabic

7. "Kabi" is a clip of the Arabic name "Kabir"
*Note that Arabic has been spoken in North Africa, East Africa, West Africa, and Central Africa for centuries before European colonization of those regions. As such, Arabic could be considered a "traditional" African language.

Some names in the Black Panther movie follow -the longstanding custom by science fiction and fantasy writers of giving "apostrophe names" to signal exoticism ("T'Challa", "T'Shaka", "M'Baku", "and "W'Kabi")

The African American's long standing preference for the sound "sh" or "ch" may have influenced the selection of the names "T'Challa", "T' Shaka", and "Shuri"

The name T'Challa may be a variant form of a East African geographical name; the name of a Nigeria ethnic group, and/or the name of a historical king in Angola (also given as "Western Africa), and/or name of a lake in Tanzania/Kenya - ("Challa" as in the name "T'Challa)

The name "Shuri" may be a variant name "Zuri" or may have been created by rhyming an a "real" (already existing) name ("Shuri" rhymes with "Zuri")

Alternatively, the name "Shuri" may be a clip of a Hebrew (Biblical) name ("Zuri-el" for the name "Zuri")

The name for the fictional nation "Wakanda" also rhymes with the names of the real African nations of Uganda and Rwanda. The made up name "Wakanda" also rhymes with Kinyarwanda", the official language of Rwanda.

"Wakanda" also sounds a lot like "Luanda", the name of the capital and largest city in Angola. Among the other real African names that end with "anda" or "da" is the currently popular Igbo female name "Chimamanda" and its nickname "Amanda". ("Chimamanda" is the first name of the highly acclaimed Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.)

The name "Wakanda" is also similar to the name "Zamunda", the fictional African nation in the 1988 American movie Coming To America, starring Eddie Murphy.

The name "Ramonda" "sounds like" an African American variant form of a Spanish female name or is actually an African American variant name ("Ramonda"); also consider the name that was given to this fictional African nation - "Wakanda".

The name "N'Jobu" may have its source in "Joburg". "Joburg" is the nickname of "Johannesburg".

Alternatively, the name "N'Jobu" may be a variant form of the name of a Voodoo doll figurine from the 1989 movie Major League.

The name "M'Baku" may be a form of the Japanese name "Baku".

Alternatively, the name "Baku" may be a form of the name of an Azerbaijan city ("M'Baku")

From Apostrophes in Science Fiction and Fantasy Names" by Mignon Fogarty, Tue Aug 27, 2013
...."Who Started Using Apostrophes in Sci-Fi and Fantasy Names?

Apostrophes in science fiction and fantasy names are often attributed to Anne McCaffrey, whose popular Dragonriders of Pern series included character names such as F’lar. Dragonflight, the first book in the series was published in 1968, but appeared in short story form in Analog science fiction magazine in late 1967. Although McCaffrey may have been extraordinarily influential in popularizing this use of the apostrophe, I did find a few earlier examples:

1955—J’onn J’onzz (Martian Manhunter), character introduced in Detective Comics #225


1965—Muad’Dib, creature and constellation in Frank Herbert’s Dune
1967—T’Pau and T’Pring, characters in Star Trek episode “Amok Time” by Theodore Sturgeon


Even though McCaffrey wasn’t the first author to use apostrophes to give her characters an exotic feel, the popularity of her books did seem to boost the idea. A few years later, in 1969, Roger Zelazny (another popular author who probably helped solidify the trend) wrote about a race of people called the Pei’ans and a place called D’donori.

Note: Commenters have pointed out and I have confirmed that H.P. Lovecraft used apostrophes in names much earlier. The earliest character name I found with an apostrophe was Pth’thya-l’ya in his 1936 novella The Shadow over Innsmouth. The earliest general name I found with an apostrophe was the city R’yleh in his short story “The Call of Cthullhu.”


In fact, although my search wasn’t exhaustive, the earliest example I could find of a character in science fiction or fantasy whose name had an apostrophe was the Frenchman Paul D’Arnot in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ book Tarzan of the Apes, which was first published in a magazine in 1912.3

Maybe American authors such as McCaffrey and Zelazny thought European or Arabic names were a little more exotic and drew on that for their characters’ names, and it’s also worth noting that McCaffrey was of Irish descent and had such strong ties that she actually moved to Ireland later in life, so perhaps she was influenced by all those O’Sullivans and O’Connors.”...
This author also speculates that the new American state of Hawaii in 1959 with locations that included apostrophe spellings ("including the islands of Hawai‘i, Maui, O‘ahy, Kaho‘olawe, Lana‘i, Moloka‘i, Kaua‘i, and Ni‘ihau") also influenced the use of apostrophe in names for science fiction and fantasy writings to denote exotic characters.

As Mignon Fogarty mentioned in this article, a number of Arabic given names include apostrophes. And, from my admittedly limited research, it seems to me that Irish, French, and Arabic names include more apostrophes than traditional African language names.

With regard to this pancocojams post about the "African names" from the 2018 Black Panther movie, except for the name T'Shaka, I've disregarded the consonent + apostrophe beginning of those names, and focused on "sussing" out the remaining part of those names.

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