A Complete List of Nigerian Last Names and Meanings
Since Nigeria is one of the most populated countries in Africa, it makes sense that there are so many names, languages, and customs. If you have Nigerian roots, take a look at this list of the most common surnames in Nigeria to see if you can find out more information about your ancestors.
The History of Nigerian Surnames
Nigeria has other 250 ethnic groups and over 500 languages are spoken there. The most common groups are Igbo, Yoruba, and Hausa. This is why many of the most popular surnames come from one of those 3 languages. Just like the rest of West Africa, Nigeria is so culturally diverse and it is also the most populated country.
Before the people were colonized, surnames didn’t exist in Nigeria. After the colonization, Nigerians adopted some of their given names as last names. It’s also important to note that the two main religions that are practiced are Islam and Christianity. This is why you will see some last names of Arabic and even Hebrew origin.
African surnames can be found all over the globe, especially in the Americas and Europe. This is of course due to the slave trade.
Naming Practices in Nigeria
Surnames in Nigeria come from a couple of different sources. These include occupation, clan, place of origin, and even a person’s physical appearance. Many family names also come from religion as well, and they use it as a way to connect people. The given names are often very unique and give someone their own identity, so the last name is used to bring a specific group of people together.
Common Nigerian Surnames and Meanings
- Abdullahi - This last name is of Arabic origin and it means “servant of God.”
- Abimbola - This is a Yoruba name that means “born with wealth.”
- Abiola - This is a variant of “Abimbola.” It is a Nigerian name of Yoruba origin that means “born with wealth or honor.”
- Abubakar - The meaning of this surname is “father of a young camel” in Arabic.
- Adebayo - This is a Yoruba surname that means “he came in a joyful time.”
- Adeoye - This is one of the most common Nigerian surnames. It means “crown prince” in Yoruba.
- Adesina - Another last name of Yoruba origin, “Adesina” means “crown opens the way.”
- Adeyemi - The meaning of this name in Yoruba is “worthy to be a king.”
- Akinyemi - This Nigerian surname of Yoruba origin means “fated to be a warrior.”
- Amaechi - This common Nigerian last name means “who knows tomorrow” in Igbo.
- Babangida - This common surname means “master of the house” in Hausa.
- Balogun - The meaning of this Yoruba surname is “meet at war.”
- Bankole - This Yoruba name means “build my house for me.”
- Bassey - This African surname is mostly found in Nigeria. It means “God” or “king.”
- Bello - This Nigerian last name is of Latin and Spanish origin. It means “handsome.”
- Bolaji - This name is both a Yoruba given name and surname. It means “wakes with wealth.”
- Chukwu - This surname originates from the Igbo language. It means “the great God or spirit.”
- Danjuma - This name of Hausa origin means “born on Friday.”
- Eze - This is a common surname in Eastern Nigeria. It means “king.”
- Gbadamosi - This is a Yoruba surname that means “the independent one.”
- Hassan - This is an Arabic name that means “handsome” or “manly.”
- Ibeh - This last name is of Igbo origin and it means “in one’s relation to a friend, family member, or acquaintance.”
- Igwe - This is a common surname in Nigeria for someone who holds a title of honor in Igboland.
- Kalu - This last name refers to the Igbo God of thunder and lightning.
- Lawal - This Nigerian last name means ”handsome boy.”
- Mohammed - This surname means “praiseworthy” in Arabic. It is also the name of a Muslim prophet.
- Njoku - This is the name of the Igbo guardian deity of the yam.
- Nwadike - This Igbo name means “son of the brave.”
- Obi - The meaning of this last name of Igbo origin is “heart.”
- Okeke - This is the name of one of the Igbo days of the week.
- Okoro - This Igbo surname means “greatness.”
- Okpara - This name is of Egyptian origin and it means “firstborn.”
- Oni - This name is of Hebrew origin. It means “born on the holy ground.”
- Taiwo - This Yoruba last name means “the first twin to taste the world.”
- Tyjani - This is a surname of Hausa origin and it means “gift.”
- Unigwe - This name means “heaven” in Igbo.
- Zabu - This Nigerian last name means “gold.”
Stefanie is a freelance parenting writer and blogger, and has published works on other publications such as Motherly.