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Updated July 18, 2023

Swahili is a member of the Bantu language family and is spoken primarily on the eastern coast of Africa in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Lamu Island. Swahili’s native African name is Kiswahili or kiSwahili. The people who speak Swahili as their only native language are called Waswahili. Other languages people often speak in conjunction with Swahili are English and French.

Swahili has been influenced by Arabic and uses many loan words from the language. For many centuries Arab traders would travel to the eastern coast of Africa. As a result, Swahili became the language used by African slave traders along the coast and ivory dealers. In fact, the oldest Swahili written literature is written in Arabic and dates to the early 18th century. 

Today, Swahili is written using the Roman Alphabet and has many root words based on Bantu. Its grammar also follows Bantu principles. There are approximately 15 different Swahili dialects spoken today. 

The African language's rich history has provided parents with a wealth of Swahili baby names to choose from for their little ones. If you have Swahili or East African roots, you may be wondering what your name means, or perhaps you’re looking for the perfect name for your baby to be! Choosing a traditional name is a beautiful way to pay homage to your cultural and ancestral heritage. 

Many people are already familiar with some Swahili names as the language-inspired names for Disney’s The Lion King. Pumba, Simba, and Mufasa may not come to mind as popular name choices for English speakers, but they are all boy names of Swahili origins.

We’ve combed the Swahili language to create a comprehensive list of names for boys and girls. So read on to discover some common Swahili names as well as some unique names for boys and girls!

Swahili Baby Girl Names and Meanings

  1. Adea - A gift from the gods.
  2. Ahadi - Promising.
  3. Aiysha - This popular name has been trending in the U.S. for some time. It means powerful and complete.
  4. Akina - Solidarity or family bond
  5. Amana - Faithful warrior or loyal warrior.
  6. Asani - Rebellious.
  7. Atiena - This beautiful name means guardian of the night.
  8. Barika - Bloom or flower
  9. Binti - Daughter. 
  10. Chiku - The one who talks a lot.
  11. Dalila - Gentle or delicate.
  12. Dara - Beautiful one. 
  13. Eshe - Giver of life. 
  14. Fahari - Splendor. A lovely name for a baby girl!
  15. Faizah - Victorious.
  16. Hasnaa - Very beautiful.
  17. Jamala - Friendly.
  18. Jasiri - Courageous.
  19. Jina - This name literally means named child.
  20. Kamaria - Bright like the moon.
  21. Lakeisha - Joyful. 
  22. Lulu - Precious, calm, pearl
  23. Nala - Disney didn’t pick this name by accident; it means queen or lion.
  24. Nea - Radiant, shimmering, or glossy.
  25. Niara - This name has Sanskrit origins and means with utmost purpose. 
  26. Pacca - The meaning of this one is mixed. Some say it means a lovely person; others say it means a cat-like woman. 
  27. Penda - Loved.
  28. Rafiya - Dignified.
  29. Rhama - Compassion.
  30. Sarabi - Mirage. 
  31. Shani - A wonderful woman.
  32. Shenzi - Savage. 
  33. Tabia - Talented. Someone who is polite.
  34. Tish - Strong-willed. 
  35. Uzima - Full of life. 
  36. Winda - To hun or hunter. 
  37. Yumna - Good fortune or luck,
  38. Zahara - Flower. One of Angelina Jolie’s and Brad Pitt’s daughters is named Zahara. 
  39. Zalika - One who is born well.
  40. Zuri - Both the name and meaning are beautiful!

Swahili Baby Boy Names and Meanings 

  1. Abedi - Worshipper.
  2. Akida - Chief or officer. 
  3. Amana - A warrior with a full heart.
  4. Azizi - Beloved or precious one.
  5. Bakari - Noble, promise or hopeful.
  6. Balozi - Ambassador. 
  7. Banzai - To skulk or lurk. 
  8. Baraka - Blessing. This Arabic name is the root for the 44th President’s name Barack; his father was Kenyan.
  9. Bomani - Mighty soldier.
  10. Haki - Justice. This name is also Norse for an enslaved person.
  11. Hasani - Handsome.
  12. Hashaan - Good looking. 
  13. Issa - God is our salvation. This Swahili boy name is believed to stem from Jesus.
  14. Jabari - Valiant. 
  15. Jahi - Dignified.
  16. Jelani - Great and powerful.
  17. Kanu - Wildcat. 
  18. Kito - Precious child. 
  19. Kondo - War.  
  20. Mufasa - King. 
  21. Pumba - Slow-witted.
  22. Rafiki - Friend. 
  23. Sadiki - Faithful or loyal
  24. Sefu - An Egyptian origin name that means sword. 
  25. Simba - Lion. Used as the main character in Disney’s film The Lion King.
  26. Sudi - Lucky.
  27. Timon - Foolish, silly, or careless. 
  28. Tumaini - Hope
  29. Zahur - A Muslim and Arabic name that means blossom or flower.
  30. Zakia - Intelligent. 
  31. Zuberi - One who is strong.

Swahili Unisex Names and Meanings 

Some Swahili names are considered unisex. Typically, Swahili unisex names were used for one gender but have become more acceptable for the opposite gender over time.

  1. Amani - A name with Arabic roots that means wishes, desires, or aspirations.
  2. Bahati - Luck or fortune. 
  3. Imani - Belief, faith. Typically used as a girl’s name but occasionally as a boy's name.
  4. Imara - Strong or resolute.
  5. Kamili - Perfect.
  6. Mosi - Often used in Kenya for the firstborn child. The name was traditionally used for firstborn sons but is now used for both genders. 
  7. Nuru - This name has Egyptian roots, and it means light. 
  8. Russom - Leader, head, the one in charge. 
  9. Zazu - A Hebrew origin name that means Movement. Traditionally a girl’s name but used for boys and girls.

L. Elizabeth Forry

About L. Elizabeth Forry

L. Elizabeth Forry is an Early Childhood Educator with 15 years of classroom… Read more

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