Edited by Azizi Powell
This is Part I of a three part series that provides information about the origins and meanings of distinctive names of some famous Black people.
Part I provides information about some famous Black people whose first name that they are known by begins with the letter A-L.
Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2015/02/famous-black-people-name-origins.html for Part II of this series. Part II provides information about famous Black people whose names begin with the letter M-R.
Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2015/03/famous-black-people-name-origins.html for Part III of this series. Part III provides information about selected names of famous Black people whose hames begin with S-Z.
This isn't meant to be a comprehensive listing of distinctive name origins/meanings of historically or currently famous Black people. Most of the people included in this list are African Americans. Additional Black people who are known in the United States because of their professional, cultural, and/or political activities are also included in this list.
Most of the information on this page is quoted from and credited to websites. A few of the name meanings given here may be speculative on my part, for instance, the possible origins of the name "Trayvon".
The name meanings that are given may not be accurate or may not be the meanings that those particular stars ascribe to their names.
Other pancocojams posts on names and nicknames can be found by clicking the tabs that are given below.
Thanks to all those who are quoted on this page.
LIST OF NAMES
These entries are given in alphabetical order. For the most part, this list focuses on first names (given names). However, in a few cases, information about the famous person's full name is also given along with the entry of their first name.
Aliyah, Aliyyah, Alia, A'lia - Exaulted, elevated, highest social standing"
Famous person with this name - Aaliyah
"Aaliyah Dana Haughton (January 16, 1979 – August 25, 2001) was an American singer, dancer, actress, and model."
"ABDUL عبد ال m Arabic, Pakistani, Urdu, Pashto
First part of compound Arabic names beginning with عبد ال ('Abd al) meaning "servant of the" (such as عبد العزيز ('Abd al-'Aziz) "servant of the powerful")."
Read the entry below for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
"ALI (1) عليّ m Arabic, Persian, Pakistani, Urdu, Pashto
Means "lofty, sublime" in Arabic. Ali was a cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad and the fourth caliph to rule the Muslim world. His followers were the original Shiite Muslims, who regard him as the first rightful caliph. This name is borne by the hero in 'Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves', the tale of a man who finds the treasure trove of a band of thieves. Another famous bearer is the boxer Muhammad Ali (1942-), who changed his name from Cassius Clay upon his conversion to Islam."
More information about Muhammad Ali is given under the entry for the name "Cassius".
"AMIR (1) أمير m Arabic, Persian, Pakistani, Urdu
Means "commander, prince" in Arabic. This was originally a title, which has come into English as the Arabic loanword emir."
"Amiri" is a Swahili form of the name "Amir".
Famous person with this name: Amiri Baraka
"Poet, writer, teacher, and political activist Amiri Baraka was born Everett LeRoi Jones in 1934 in Newark, New Jersey... For decades, Baraka was one of the most prominent voices in the world of American literature.
Baraka’s own political stance changed several times, thus dividing his oeuvre into periods: as a member of the avant-garde during the 1950s, Baraka—writing as Leroi Jones—was associated with Beat poets like Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac; in the ‘60s, he moved to Harlem and became a Black Nationalist; in the ‘70s, he was involved in third-world liberation movements and identified as a Marxist...
In addition to his poems, novels and politically-charged essays, Baraka is a noted writer of music criticism. His classic history Blues People: Negro Music in White America (1963) traces black music from slavery to contemporary jazz...
He died in 2014."
Luo (Kenya) -Early morning
Here's an excerpt from that article about Luos' naming practices:
"A Luo is given three names. A first name that now more and more often is an international name, as Joseph, Leonard, Florence etc. The second name depends on the conditions of the day or time of the day of birth. For example if it was an early morning or a rainy season. The day Obama was elected as a president, many children was given Obama as their second name!. The third name, the surname, is the fathers second name. Further on the second name starts with an A if it is a girl and an O if it is a boy. Take Josephs second name: Opiyo, which means fast, normally used for the first twin....But if it would have been a girl instead, the name would have been Apiyo."
"Omodi" is Luo for a male born in the early morning.
Read the entry below under the name "Lupita" for information about a famous person with this name.
Anika (Aneeka, Anieka, etc)
From https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0312961065 The Last Word on First Names: The Definitive A-Z Guide to the Best and Worst by Linda Rosenkrantz, Pamela Redmond Satran. page 13
[summary] - a Scandinavian diminutive form of Anne; also a Hausa (West African) word that means "sweet faced"
"Anika is a feminine given name, and may refer to many things.
Hebrew Meaning: Grace; favour, Beautiful
Latin Meaning: Grace; favour
Japanese Meaning: Apricot from Nara
Sanskrit Meaning: Graceful, favor, sweet faced, brilliance, Goddess Durga"
Famous person with this name: Anika Noni Rose
"Anika Noni Rose (born September 6, 1972) is an American singer and actress known for her Tony Award-winning performance in the Broadway production of Caroline, or Change and her starring role as Lorrell Robinson in the 2006 film Dreamgirls. She also starred as Tiana, an African American princess in the 2009 film The Princess and the Frog. In 2014 Rose played the role of Beneatha Younger in the Broadway revival of A Raisin in the Sun, for which she was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play. She was named a Disney Legend in 2011.
"Aretha is a feminine given name that is probably derived from the Greek arete, "virtue"."
Famous person with this name - Aretha Franklin
Aretha Louise Franklin (born March 25, 1942) is an American singer and musician. Franklin began her career singing gospel at her father, minister C. L. Franklin's church as a child. In 1960, at age 18, Franklin embarked on a secular career, recording for Columbia Records only achieving modest success. Following her signing to Atlantic Records in 1967, Franklin achieved commercial acclaim and success with songs such as "Respect", "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" and "Think". These hits and more helped her to gain the title The Queen of Soul by the end of the 1960s decade."
Barack, Barak, Baraka
"The given name Barak, also spelled Barac, Barack, and Baraq represents two distinct Arabic and Hebrew given names, one derived from the Semitic root B-R-K, the other from B-R-Q. These names are distinct in origin and meaning.
The name "Mubarak" (Arabic: مبارك, Mubārak) is an Arabic variation of one of these (see below).
The first consonantal spelling, B-R-K (Arabic: بارك, Bārak, and Hebrew: ברךּ Bārak), is most commonly associated in Arabic with the meaning "blessed" as well as the meanings "to make to kneel down" (said of the camel), "to stoop", and "to cower". In Hebrew, it can be traced from Phoenician, Ugaritic, Aramaic, Akkadian, and Classical Arabic roots having the meanings, "knee", "kneel", "prostrate", "venerate", "bless", "be blessed", and "boon" as well as (camel's, human) "chest" and sometimes "curse" or "blaspheme".:p.48:p.121
In Arabic, the prefix mu- as used in Arabic: مبارك, Mubārak connects the word which follows it with the word before it, making the former an adjective of the latter, hence its use as a surname translates to "the blessed".
The consonantal spelling B-R-Q (Arabic: بُراق, Burāq and Hebrew: ברק, Bārāq) is the second form. The meaning of this form in Arabic is "to shine", "to gleam", "to lighten", and "to open widely" (said of the eyes). Similarly, the Hebrew significance is "lightning", "flash", "to give light" and "to be visible"."
Famous person with this name -Barack Obama
"The 44th President of the United States is named after his father, who was a Kenyan economist. Barack is an African name meaning “blessed.” It is a form of both the Hebrew name Baruch and the Arabic name Mubarak, which also mean “blessed” and relate to the Arabic barakah. Another common spelling of the name is Barak...
Obama is an ancient Kenyan surname. The name is found frequently among the Luo, the third largest ethnic group in Kenya. It is believed that the name derived from the root word obam, which means “to lean or bend.”
Obama’s middle name Hussein is the first name of his paternal grandfather. The name, which is of Arabic origin, means “good” or “handsome one.””
Alternate information about the name "Obama"
"From a rare Luo (Kenyan) name, meaning a baby born with bent arm or leg or possibly a breech birth."
For what it's worth, a man I know who is Luo and was born and raised in Kenya shared with me that “Obama” isn’t a common name among Luos and he didn't know what that name means, except that that name was consistant with the Luo tradition of male names beginning with the letter "o".
For an example of a form of the name "Barak" being used as a last name, read the entry for Amiri Baraka below.
Information about this name is given below:
Famous person with this name - "Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter
"Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter (born September 4, 1981) (/bɨˈjɒnseɪ/ bee-YON-say) is an American singer, songwriter, and actress....
Beyoncé Giselle Knowles was born in Houston, Texas, to Celestine Ann "Tina" (née Beyincé), a hairdresser and salon owner, and Mathew Knowles, a Xerox sales manager. Beyoncé's name is a tribute to her mother's maiden name."
I don't know what the surname "Beyincé" means.
USAGE: Ancient Roman, English
Meaning & History
Roman family name which was possibly derived from Latin cassus "empty, vain". This name was borne by several early saints. In modern times, it was the original first name of boxer Muhammad Ali (1942-), who was named after his father Cassius Clay, who was himself named after the American abolitionist Cassius Clay (1810-1903)."
Information about Muhammad Ali is given in Part II under the name "Muhammad".
[added April 8, 2016]
Meaning: a warrior
*A young Black man who I know with this name pronounces it boh-MAHN-nee.
Famous person with that name:
"Bomani Babatunde Jones (born August 26, 1980) is an American sports journalist who is currently employed by ESPN. He is the co-host of Highly Questionable with Dan Le Batard, which airs daily on ESPN, and is also a regular panelist on Around the Horn. Jones also hosts The Right Time with Bomani Jones, which airs daily at 4:00 pm Eastern on ESPN Radio, and the podcast The Evening Jones. He has also written for SB Nation, Salon and Page 2 at ESPN.com. His sister is award-winning novelist Tayari Jones."
"Babatunde" (pronounced bah bah TOON-day) is a Yoruba male reincarnation name meaning "Father has come again."
Tayari Jones indicates that her name is Swahili, but I haven't found this name on any Swahili name pages.
Here's a news item about Bomani Jones
"Bomani Jones filled in for one of the Mikes on ESPN’s Mike and Mike this morning and wore a “Caucasians” shirt, which featured a parody of the Cleveland Indians’ Chief Wahoo logo. Molly Qerim and Jones actually dedicated airtime to the shirt, which was supposedly “dominating the social media conversation” as the show progressed." http://deadspin.com/bomani-jones-wears-shirt-1769642578
A form of the name "Shaka" (tShaka)
Meaning - a beetle
information about that name is given in Part III of this series under the name Shaka (Shaka Zulu)
Famous people with that name - Chaka Khan
"Chaka Khan (born Yvette Marie Stevens; March 23, 1953) is an American singer-songwriter whose career has spanned four decades, beginning in the 1970s as the frontwoman and focal point of the funk band Rufus. Often dubbed the "Queen of Funk", Khan has won ten Grammys and has sold an estimated 70 million records worldwide."
"Yvette adopted the African name "Chaka" - meaning "fire" - while working as a volunteer on the Black Panthers' Free Breakfast for Children programme. The "Khan" is from her first marriage to Rufus's bass guitarist, Hassan Khan. "
Note: That article gives an incorrect meaning for the name "Chaka".
The name "Chaka" ("Shaka") is said to mean "beetle". Perhaps by extension, the bite from a beetle stings, and therefore might have the meaning "fire". However, the meaning that Chaka Khan learned from a Black Panthers' event serves as an example of how African Americans made up positive meanings or high status meanings to traditional African names.
Famous people with that name - Chaka Fattah
"Chaka Fattah (born Arthur Davenport; November 21, 1956) is the U.S. representative for Pennsylvania's 2nd congressional district, serving since 1995. He is a member of the Democratic Party. He previously served in the Pennsylvania Senate and the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
The district includes portions of North Philadelphia, South Philadelphia, and West Philadelphia along with Lower Merion Township in Montgomery County."
"Chaka Fattah was born to Russell Davenport and Frances Brown on November 21, 1956, under the name Arthur Davenport. His parents divorced when he was young, and his mother soon remarried to a man she met at a national conference on black power in 1968. Following this conference, his mother decided to change her name to Falaka Fattah, to acknowledge her African ethnicity, and Arthur she renamed Chaka Fattah."
Information about the name "Fattah" is given below.
Information about Shaka (known as "Shaka Zulu") is also found in Part III of this post.
"Chiwetelu Umeadi "Chiwetel" Ejiofor (CHEW-i-tel EJ-i-oh-for) ... born 10 July 1977) is an English actor of film, television, and theatre..."
[Chiwetel] Ejiofor Is British, of Nigerian Igbo parentage.
"Name is pronounced Chew-eh-tell Edge-ee-oh-for."
[Added January 22, 2019]
The prefix "chi" is found in a lot of Igbo Nigerian names. "Chi" is also used as a suffix for other Igbo names or used within still other Igbo names. Here's a comment about the meaning of "chi" from http://www.nairaland.com/1902797/common-beautiful-names-igbo-tribe/7
"Re: Common Beautiful Names From The Igbo Tribe by Nobody: 10:03am On Sep 16, 2014
For those complaining about "chi" being in many names, its origin had nothing to do with the christian God. In igbo culture /mythology, every man has a guiding spirit or chi. A defining spirit which protects and guides the physical. When someone starts facing challenges, you hear sayings like,"your chi has abandoned you" there are common sayings in igbo land to butress the fact, e.g. "onye kariri mmadu kariri chi ya" , meaning that when you are stronger than someone, you are stronger than his "chi"., "onye ya na chi ya so", or "onye chi ya mu anya", meaning someone that is still in sync with his chi (someone who hasnt been forsaken by his chi). The origin of the word chi is not from any foreign religion. The advent of Christianity transformed that into the God almighty (Chukwu, Olisa) we all talk about. So yes! Name your child "chi" anything, you would still be keeping touch with the original igbo tradition, not a christianized tradition as some would have you believe. Your " chi" is an important force in shaping one's life patterns"...
Information about this name is given below:
Famous person with this name- Condoleezza Rice
"Condoleezza "Condi" Rice (/ˌkɒndəˈliːzə/; born November 14, 1954) is an American political scientist and diplomat. She served as the 66th United States Secretary of State, and was the second person to hold that office in the administration of President George W. Bush...
Her name, Condoleezza, derives from the music-related term con dolcezza, which in Italian means, "with sweetness".
Information about a famous Black person with this name is given below:
DeFord Bailey, musician/singer
"DeFord Bailey (December 14, 1899 – July 2, 1982) was an American country music and blues star from the 1920s until 1941. Bailey was both the first performer to be introduced as playing on the Grand Ole Opry and also the first African-American performer on the show. He played several instruments but is best known for his harmonica tunes...
Bailey was a pioneer member of the WSM Grand Ole Opry, and one of its most popular performers, appearing on the program from 1927 to 1941. During this period he toured with many major country stars, including Uncle Dave Macon, Bill Monroe, and Roy Acuff. Like other black stars of his day traveling in the South and West, he faced many difficulties in finding food and accommodation because of the discriminatory Jim Crow laws."...
Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2015/07/pan-american-blues-four-other-tunes.html for more information about DeFord Bailey and five examples of his performances.
That an African American male born in 1899 was given the name "DeFord" demonstrates that the African American custom of "making up" names with the "De" prefix isn't new. The surname name "Ford" is English and means "river crossing". I'm not sure if the name "DeFord" had that meaning or any meaning. Like many other names, that name may have been selected because of its sound and not any possible meaning.
"The name Denzel is a baby boy name.
The name Denzel is an English baby name. In English the meaning of the name Denzel is: A place-name in Cornwall."
Famous person with this name- Denzel Washington
"Denzel Hayes Washington, Jr. (born December 28, 1954) is an American actor and filmmaker.
Washington has received much critical acclaim for his film work since the 1990s, including his portrayals of real-life figures such as South African anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko (in the 1987 film Cry Freedom), Muslim minister and human rights activist Malcolm X (in the 1992 film Malcolm X), boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter (in the 1999 film The Hurricane), football coach Herman Boone (in the 2000 film Remember the Titans), poet and educator Melvin B. Tolson (in the 2007 film The Great Debaters), and drug kingpin Frank Lucas (in the 2007 film American Gangster)."
The name Dionne is a baby girl name.
The name Dionne is an English baby name. In English the meaning of the name Dionne is: A, derived from Dionysius, the Greek god of wine. Also From the sacred spring. The mythological Dione was wife to Zeus and mother of Aphrodite."
The male form of this name is "Dion".
Famous person with this name - Dione Warwick
"Dionne Warwick (born Marie Dionne Warrick on December 12, 1940) is an American singer, actress and TV-show host, who became a United Nations Global Ambassador for the Food and Agriculture Organization, and a United States Ambassador of Health."
Meaning & History
Combination of the English word earth with the feminine name suffix a. It has been used in honour of African-American philanthropist Eartha M. M. White (1876-1974). Another famous bearer was American singer and actress Eartha Kitt (1927-2008)."
Information about Eartha M. M. White
"Eartha Mary Magdalene White (November 8, 1876 - January 18, 1974) was an American humanitarian, philanthropist, and businesswoman.
==Early life== Born in Jacksonville, Florida, White was the 13th child of a former slave. She was adopted by Clara English White at a very young age and the two had an extremely loving relationship. It was from her mother's example that White sought to improve the condition of the poor and helpless people in Jacksonville."
Information about Eartha Kitt
"Eartha Mae Kitt (January 17, 1927 – December 25, 2008) was an American actress, singer, cabaret star, dancer, stand-up comedienne, activist and voice artist, known for her highly distinctive singing style and her 1953 recordings of "C'est Si Bon" and the enduring Christmas novelty smash "Santa Baby", which were both US Top 10 hits."
Information about this name is given below.
Erykah Abi Wright (born Erica Abi Wright; February 26, 1971), better known by her stage name Erykah Badu (/ˈɛrɨkə bɑːˈduː/), is an American singer-songwriter, record producer, activist, and actress....
By the age of 14, Badu was free-styling for a local radio station alongside such talent as Roy Hargrove. In her youth, she had decided to change the spelling of her first name from Erica to Erykah, as she believed her original name was a "slave name." The term 'kah' signifies the inner self. She adopted a surname of Badu because it is her favorite jazz scat sound; also, among the Akan people in Ghana, it is the term for the 10th-born child."
Among many afro-centric African Americans in the late 1960s - 1970s, "slave names" refer to birth names that were from European and Hebrew origins. "Free names" were names that were from African, Arabic languages. Presumably, "free names" could also be from other languages that originated from People of Color. The terms "slave names" and "free names" don't appear to be used any longer [since the 1980s?].
Read the information under the name "Lalah" below.
Meaning & History
Variant of Evandrus, Latin form of the Greek name Ευανδρος (Euandros) which meant "good man", derived from Greek ευ "good" and ανηρ (aner) "man" (genitive ανδρος). In Roman mythology Evander was an Arcadian hero of the Trojan War who founded the city of Pallantium near the spot where Rome was later built."
USAGE: Irish, Scottish, Welsh, English (British)
Meaning & History
From the Old Norse name Ívarr, which was derived from the elements yr "yew, bow" and arr "warrior". During the Middle Ages it was brought to Britain by Scandinavian settlers and invaders, and it was adopted in Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
VARIANTS: Íomhar (Irish), Evander, Iomhar (Scottish)..."
Famous person with this name: Evander Holyfield
"Evander Holyfield (born October 19, 1962) is a retired American professional boxer. He is a former Undisputed World Champion in both the cruiserweight and heavyweight divisions, earning him the nickname "The Real Deal." He is the only four-time World Heavyweight Champion, winning the WBA, WBC, and IBF titles in 1990, the WBA and IBF titles in 1993, and the WBA title in 1996 and 2000."
"Al Fattah is one of the Names of Allah. It is part of the 99 Names by which Muslims regard God, and which are traditionally maintained as described in the Qur'ān and Sunnah, amongst other places..
The word for "Fattah" comes from the root word fataha (فتح). Fataha means to open, grant, explain, disclose, to make victorious or let out. The name of first surah of the Quran, al-Fatiha, is based on this same root, and is generally translated as The Opener, or The Opening. The Arabic word miftâhî, translated as key, means that which opens or unlocks, is also based on this same root."
Read the information about Chaka Fattah above.
Read the entry below for "Jamal"
From http://www.sudairy.com/arabic/masc.html "Masculine Arabic names"
"Hakim, Hakeem - Wise, one of God's ninety-nine qualities"
Famous person with this name Hakeem Sekou Jeffries
"Hakeem Sekou Jeffries (born August 4, 1970) is a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing New York's 8th congressional district in Brooklyn and Queens and is running again for the seat in 2014"
Information about the name "Sekou":
"Guinean name meaning "learned."
Read the entry in the "S" page of this series about the famous Guinean named "Sekou Toure".
Information about this name is given below:
"Halle Maria Berry (born Maria Halle Berry; August 14, 1966) is an American actress and former fashion model. She won an Academy Award for Best Actress in 2002 for her performance in the romantic drama Monster's Ball (2001), becoming the first and, as of 2014, the only woman of color to win an Oscar for a leading role...
Berry was born Maria Halle Berry, though her name was legally changed to Halle Maria Berry at the age of five. Berry's parents selected her middle name from Halle's Department Store, which was then a local landmark in her birthplace of Cleveland, Ohio."
Read the information given above under the name "Barack".
"Idris‘ (Arabic: إدريس) is an ancient prophet mentioned in the Qur'an. He is described in the Qur'an as "trustworthy" and "patient" and the Qur'an also says that he was "exalted to a high station",  Because of this and other parallels, traditionally Idris has been identified with the Biblical Enoch, and therefore Islamic tradition usually places Idris in the early Generations of Adam, and considers him one of the oldest prophets mentioned in the Qur'an, placing him sometime between Adam and Noah. Idris' unique status inspired many future traditions and stories surrounding him in Islamic lore."
Information about a famous person with this name - Idris Elba
"Idrissa Akuna "Idris" Elba (born 6 September 1972) is a British actor, producer, singer, rapper, and DJ...
Elba was born in Hackney, London. His father, Winston, was a Sierra Leonean who worked in a Ford motor factory, and his mother, Eve, was a Ghanaian who had a clerical job. Elba's parents married in Sierra Leone and later moved to London. Elba was raised in East Ham, and shortened his first name at school in Canning Town, where he first became involved in acting."
The nation name "India" is derived from the name of the Indus river, one of the longest rivers in Asia.
"The word "Indus" is the romanised form of the ancient Greek word "Indós" (Ἰνδός), borrowed from the old Persian word "Hinduš", which in turn was derived from the Sanskrit word "Sindhu" (सिन्धु pronounced [sɪndʱuː]). The word "Sindhu" or "Sindh" is still the local appellation of the Indus River. The original Sanskrit word "Sindhu" is an amalgamation of two words, "sim" (region or entirety or border) and "dhu" (to tremble or shake) and means "a body of trembling water, river, stream or ocean"."
Famous person with this name - India Arie
"India.Arie (born India Arie Simpson; October 3, 1975) is a Grammy Award-winning American singer-songwriter, musician, and record producer. She has sold over 3.3 million records in the US and 10 million worldwide. She has won four Grammy Awards from her 21 nominations, including Best R&B Album."
Read the information given under the name Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Jamal (Arabic: جمال Jamāl/Ǧamāl ) is an Arabic masculine given name, meaning beauty. The use of this name is widespread across the Muslim world and among communities of African descent.
In Egypt the name is pronounced [ɡæˈmæːl] and so is normally spelled Gamal . Tunisians may spell it Jamel. In Turkish, the name is transliterated as Cemal, Albanian as Xhemal and in Bosnian as Džemal.
In the Western world the name is also used as a masculine (Jamal, Jameel) and feminine given name (Jameela).
In the United States, "Jamal" is said to mean "handsome" instead of "beauty".
Famous person with this name: Gamal Abdel Nasser Hussein
"Gamal Abdel Nasser Hussein (Arabic: جمال عبد الناصر حسين, IPA: [ɡæˈmæːl ʕæbdenˈnɑːsˤeɾ ħeˈseːn]; 15 January 1918 – 28 September 1970) was the second President of Egypt, serving from 1956 until his death
Famous person with this name: Malcolm-Jamal Warner
Malcolm-Jamal Warner (born August 18, 1970) is an American actor, director, and musician. He is best known for his roles as Theo Huxtable on the long-running NBC sitcom The Cosby Show and as Malcolm McGee on the UPN sitcom Malcolm & Eddie. He also starred as Dr. Alex Reed in the sitcom Reed Between the Lines."
Information about this name is given with information about Jomo Kenyatta.
"Jomo Kenyatta (c. 1889 – 22 August 1978) was the leader of Kenya from independence in 1963 to his death in 1978, serving first as Prime Minister (1963–64) and then as President (1964–78). He is considered the founding father of the Kenyan nation.
Kenyatta was a well-educated intellectual who authored several books, and is remembered as a Pan-Africanist. He is also the father of Kenya's fourth and current President, Uhuru Kenyatta...
Jomo Kenyatta was born Kamau wa Ngengi to parents Muigai wa Kung'u and Wambui in the village of Gatundu, in British East Africa (now Kenya), a member of the Kikuyu. His date of birth, sometime in the early to mid-1890s, is unclear... and no formal birth records of native Africans were kept in Kenya at that time...
Kenyatta published his own book, Facing Mount Kenya (his revised LSE thesis), in 1938 under his new name, Jomo Kenyatta. The name "Jomo" is translated in English to "Burning Spear", while the name "Kenyatta" was said[by whom?] to be a reference to the beaded Masai belt he wore, and later to "the Light of Kenya"."
Information about the name "Kamau" is given below. Information about the name "Uhuru" is given in Part III of this post.
Since the 1960s, the name "Kenya" has been given to African American females. It is probably popular because of its sound much more than the fact that it is the name of an African nation.
The name "Kenyatta" is much less frequently given to African Americans (or selected by African Americans to replace their first or middle birth names, or to replace their last name). "Kenyatta" has been used as a male or a female name.
The name "Jomo" is even less frequently given (or used by) African Americans. I knew one man by that name.
probably an American form of the Arabic name Kadeen
"Kadeen, Kadin - Friend, companion, confidant"
Famous person with this name - Kadeem Hardison
"Kadeem Hardison (born July 24, 1965) is an American actor. He is best known for his role as Dwayne Wayne on A Different World, a spin-off of the long-running NBC sitcom The Cosby Show."
Famous person with this name - Ka'Deem Carey
"Ka'Deem Carey (born October 30, 1992) is an American football
running back for the Chicago Bears of the National Football League (NFL). He was drafted by the Bears in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He played college football at Arizona, where he was recognized as an All-American."
Uniqueness in names (within certain cultural parameters) appears to have been highly valued by some African Americans for generations. However, but the custom of giving distinctive, unique names has increased since the 1960s. Some African Americans believe that adding an apostraphe to a name and capitolizing the first letter of the second syllable is a way of adding uniqueness to that name.
Another example of this practice is the name of the African American actress "Mo'Nique."
"Kanye is an Igbo name meaning "Let's give" or to give honor, tribute. The name is usually a shorter version of another name e.g. Kanyechukwuekele (let's give God praise) etc."
"Re: Common Beautiful Names From The Igbo Tribe by phabulous88(m): 10:09am On Sep 16, 2014
Kanyechukwuekene (Kanye) - Let me praise the Lord "
Famous person with this name- Kanye West
"Kanye Omari West (/ˈkɑːnjeɪ/; born June 8, 1977) is an American rapper, songwriter, record producer, director, entrepreneur, and fashion designer
Information about the name "Omari" is given in Part II of this series.
"Karim, Kareem - Generous, noble, friendly, precious and distinguished"
Famous person with this name - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Read information about this name in the entry for "Jomo".
Kesha, Keziah, Keisha, Keshia
The name "Kesha", "Keisha" etc. has been relatively common among African Americans since the 1960s.
There are a number of etymologies that have been offered for the name "Kesha" ("Keisha") et. al. However, I think that the Hebrew source for this name is the most probable origin.
"Keziah is a person in the Hebrew Bible. She was the second of the three daughters born to Job after his sufferings (Job 42:14). Her elder sister was Jemima and her younger sister Keren-Happuch.
A number of etymologies have been suggested for her name, among them the Hebrew for Cassia, from the name for the spice tree. The name has been taken to symbolize female equality, since all of Job's three daughters received an inheritance from their father, an unusual circumstance in a time period when women and men were not treated equally."
There's little documentation of "Keisha" actually having its source in an African language. Words with the same or somewhat similar spelling can have different etymologies and meanings. The only entry that I've found to date for the name "Keisha" that attributes it to a traditional African language is from http://www.babynamewizard.com/baby-name/girl/kesha which cites
A World of Baby Names by Teresa Norman - Of African origin, meaning "favorite.".
Note that this book doesn't indicate which African language "Kesha" is said to come from. I find this suspect.
Here are some entries from books on African names for names that spelled somewhat similarly to "Kesiah":
Ogonna Chuks-orji's 1972 book Names From Africa includes an entry in the female names section for the Luganda *Uganda) name "kissa" (pronunciation kiss-SAH) meaning "born after twins". Eliza Dinwiddie-Boyd's 1997 book Proud Heritage 11,001 Names For Your African American Baby includes the entries "kissa" and "kizza" Luganda, "born after twins" in the female names section. And Tyra Mason & Sam Chckwas's 1997 book Real Names witrh Real Meanings for African Children includes these entries in the female & male names section: "Kesi" (North Africa) = born at a time when father worked hard" and "Kiiza" (Cameroon) - "born after twins". That book also includes this entries in the female name section only: "Kesi" (North Africa) -"judging" and this entry in the male name section only "Kiah" (Bobangi) - "always".
I also happened upon a Nigeria referent that a person could stretch to say is similar to the female name "Keisha":
Explore the caves to see the large colony of bats of various sizes as well as spotting the incredible fauna across the site including deer, antelope, grass cutter, porcupine, alligator and snakes. In one section a stream flows out from one of the tunnels into the River Nkissa
River Nkissa." [Nigeria, Yoruba language]
Claiming that "Keisha" and its many forms including "Keshia" and "LaKeisha" come from an African language is probably an case of fake etymology. That mistaken etymology may be the result of African Americans in the late 1960s/1970s with very little information about African names indicating that a name that "sounded African" was African. My recollection of that time was that a lot of fake etymology occurred for names that were said to be from "Africa". People would often make up meanings for these names and pass those origins and meanings on either verbally or in writing.
Famous people with this name:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keisha_Jackson [African American] Keisha Jackson
"Keisha Jackson (born August 17, 1965) is a R&B singer, and is the daughter of R&B & Soul singer Millie Jackson"...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keisha_Buchanan Keisha Buchanan [Black British singer/songwriter]
"Keisha Kerreece Fayeanne Buchanan (born 30 September 1984) is a British singer-songwriter and was a founding member of the BRIT Award-winning girl group the Sugababes alongside Mutya Buena, Siobhan Donaghy, Heidi Range and Amelle Berrabah. With the Sugababes, Buchanan had six number one singles and two number one studio albums, making the Sugababes one of the most successful British pop acts of the 21st century....
On 20 July 2012, Buchanan and her former Sugababes bandmates, Buena and Donaghy confirmed their reunion. The original trio will not be able to release music under the name "Sugababes" as it is still being used by the current members of the band. They will instead release music under the new band name, Mutya Keisha Siobhan"...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keshia_Knight_Pulliam[African American actress] Keshia Knight Pulliam
"Keshia Knight Pulliam (born April 9, 1979) is an American actress. She is best known for her childhood role as Rudy Huxtable, the youngest child of Cliff and Clair Huxtable on the NBC sitcom The Cosby Show (1984–92) and as reformed con artist Miranda Lucas-Payne on the TBS comedy-drama Tyler Perry's House of Payne (2007–12)."
Read information under the name "Boris Kodjoe".
Akan [Ghana and Ivory Coast] language - name for "male born on Friday"
Famous person with this name - Kofi Annan
Kofi Atta Annan (born 8 April 1938) is a Ghanaian diplomat who served as the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations from January 1997 to December 2006. Annan and the United Nations were the co-recipients of the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize "for their work for a better organized and more peaceful world." He is the founder and the Chairman of the Kofi Annan Foundation, as well as being the chairman of The Elders, a group founded by Nelson Mandela.
Atta is an Akan name for "twin".
"The meaning of the name Kyrie is The Lord
The origin of the name Kyrie is Greek"
Famous Black man with that name - Kyrie Irving
"Kyrie Andrew Irving (born March 23, 1992) is an American professional basketball player for the Cleveland Cavaliers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Irving was born in Melbourne, Australia, but grew up in West Orange, New Jersey. He played college basketball for Duke University before being selected with the first overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft by the Cavaliers. Irving has achieved a number of accolades, including the 2011–12 NBA Rookie of the Year, 2014 NBA All-Star Game MVP, and an NBA championship in 2016. He has also played for the United States national team, with whom he has won gold at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics...
In 2012, he took on the role of "Uncle Drew" in a series of Pepsi Max advertisements. He wrote and directed episode 2, in which he starred alongside Bill Russell and Kevin Love, and episode 3, in which he starred alongside Nate Robinson and Maya Moore. In the same year, he appeared on an episode of the Disney XD series Kickin' It. Irving also wrote and directed episode 4 of "Uncle Drew", which was released in November 2015, an episode he starred in alongside Baron Davis, J. B. Smoove and Ray Allen."
Akan [Ghana and Ivory Coast] language - name for "male born on Saturday"
Famous person with this name - Kwame Nkrumah
"Kwame Nkrumah, P.C. (21 September 1909 – 27 April 1972) was the leader of Ghana and its predecessor state, the Gold Coast, from 1951 to 1966. He became the first Prime Minister of the Gold Coast in 1951, and led it to independence as Ghana in 1957, becoming the new country's first Prime Minister. After Ghana became a republic in 1960, Nkrumah became President. An influential 20th-century advocate of Pan-Africanism, he was a founding member of the Organisation of African Unity and was the winner of the Lenin Peace Prize in 1963...
Kwame Nkrumah was born as Francis Nwia Kofi Ngonloma in 1909 in Nkroful, Gold Coast."
I don't know what "Nwia" means. If Kwame Nkrumah was born on Saturday, I don't know why he was given the name "Kofi" (male born on Friday)".
Nkrumah is an Akan birth order name for ninth born.
"Etymology : Variant of KWASI
Origin : Western African"
"Akan (Ghana, Ivory Coast) name "Kwasi" (male born on Sunday)"
Famous person with a form of this name - Kweisi Mfume
"Kweisi Mfume (born Frizzell Gerald Gray; October 24, 1948) is the former President/CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), as well as a five-term Democratic Congressman from Maryland's 7th congressional district, serving in the 100th through 104th Congress....
In the early 1970s, in recognition of his heritage and his success over his beginnings, he legally changed his name to Kweisi Mfume, a name from Ghana that translates to "Conquering Son of Kings".
"The name Langston is an English baby name. In English the meaning of the name Langston is: From the long enclosure 'long stone."
Famous person with this name - Langston Hughes
"James Mercer Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967) was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist.
He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form called jazz poetry. Hughes is best known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance...
After the separation of his parents, while his mother traveled seeking employment, young Langston Hughes was raised mainly by his maternal grandmother, Mary Patterson Langston, in Lawrence, Kansas"
Information about Lalah Hathaway:
"Eulaulah Donyll Hathaway (born December 16, 1968) best known as Lalah Hathaway, and sometimes referred to as the First Daughter of Soul, is an American artist. She is the daughter of soul singer Donny Hathaway and a classically trained vocalist."
Lalah Hathaway's name is a shortened form of the name "Eulaulah". I believe that the name "Eulaulah" is a variant form of the name "Eulalia".
USAGE: Spanish, Italian, English, Ancient Greek
PRONOUNCED: yoo-LAY-lee-ə (English)
Meaning & History
From a Greek name meaning "to talk well" from ευ "good" and λαλεω (laleo) "to talk". This was the name of an early 4th-century saint and martyr from Merida in Spain. She is a patron saint of Barcelona.
VARIANT: Olalla (Spanish)
DIMINUTIVES: Eula, Lalia (English)"
Layla, Leila, Laila
[Arabic female name] - Layla, Leila, (Born at) night; rapture, elation
Famous person with this name - Laila Ali
"Laila Amaria Ali (born December 30, 1977) is a retired American professional boxer. She is the daughter of retired heavyweight boxing legend Muhammad Ali and his third wife, Veronica Porsche Ali. Laila is the eighth of her father's nine children and his youngest daughter."
"The Lebron surname derives from the old French word "brun" meaning "brown" and as such was a nickname for someone who habitually dressed in the color brown".
The nickname "brun" might also have been applied to someone who had brown hair, or someone who skin complexion was darker than the norm in that area.
Alternative origin: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lebr%C3%B3n
"Lebrón, Lebron or LeBron is usually a surname of Spanish origin."
"Spanish (Lebrón): nickname from lebrón, an augmentative of liebre ‘hare’ (Latin lepus), applied in the sense ‘cowardly’, ‘timid’."
That last website also gives the origin of "LeBron" as "African American" and its meaning as "king". This is an example of how a person might attribute any origin and meaning to any name, although attribution isn't actually the original source or the established meaning of that name.
Famous person with this name- LeBron James
"LeBron Raymone James (/ləˈbrɒn/; born December 30, 1984) is an American professional basketball player for the Cleveland Cavaliers of the National Basketball Association (NBA)... James has won two NBA championships, four NBA Most Valuable Player Awards, two NBA Finals MVP Awards, two Olympic gold medals, an NBA scoring title, and the NBA Rookie of the Year Award"..."
a diminitive form of the name "Guadaloupe"
GENDER: Feminine & Masculine
Meaning & History
From a Spanish title of the Virgin Mary, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, meaning "Our Lady of Guadalupe". Guadalupe is a Spanish place name, the site of a famous convent, which means "river of the wolf" in Arabic. In the 16th century Our Lady of Guadalupe supposedly appeared in a vision to a native Mexican man, and she is now regarded as a patron saint of the Americas.
DIMINUTIVES: Lupe, Lupita"
Famous person with this name -Lupita Nyong'o
"Lupita Amondi Nyong'o (loo-PEE-tə NYAWNG-oh; born March 1, 1983) is a Mexican-Kenyan actress and film director. She was born in Mexico, but was raised in Kenya. She attended college in the United States, graduating from Hampshire College with a bachelor's degree in film and theater studies...
Nyong'o was born in Mexico City, Mexico, to Dorothy and Peter Anyang' Nyong'o, a college professor turned politician from Kenya. Nyong'o identifies as Mexican-Kenyan. It is a Luo tradition to name a child after the events of the day, so her parents gave her a Spanish name, Lupita (a diminutive of Guadalupe)."
The meaning of the Luo female name "Amondi" is given above.
This completes Part I of this series.
What distinctive names of famous Black people would you add to this list?
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