Africa has a long history of Monarchy and Kingdoms that became Empires. This has left an impression on today’s Africa, and on the Culture of the Peoples of Africa. Among the evidence of the impressions on our culture are the words, or names that our people bear. Many African babies are given names that in one way or another, are translated to King.
Whether in North, West, East, or South Africa or even the African community in the Diaspora, there are many African words for King and an abundance of people who bear these words as names. Would you like to know some of these words and African names for King? I listed them in the Paragraphs below to describe some of these names, their origins, and where they are most popular today.
African Words/Names that Mean King
Kgosi is from the Tswana language, and means “king” or “chief.” The name is popular in South Africa. It is common as both a first name and as a Surname, especially among families who trace their lineage to Royalty.
Malik is an Arabic word or name which means “king” or “sovereign.” The title is found among the desert tribes, of Africa, and as a name, it is found among the Sub-saharan peoples, especially among those that are heavily influenced by Arabic/Islamic Culture. This name can come in variants, such as Abdul-Malik, which is a name commonly found among Muslim boys.
Sultan is the Arabic word for Ruler. In Africa, this is mostly a title reserved for the ruler and is mostly used in the Desert tribes, and in the Sub Saharan part of the continent which is heavily influenced by the Muslim/Arabic culture. There are Sultans in Northern Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger, and many other parts of the continent.
The Word Oba is an African name for King. This word is the title of the ruler in many cultures of Western Nigeria. The history of this word is the richest and farthest in Nigeria, dating back several hundreds of years. There is a bit of controversy about the Origins of this title, but some assert that the first Oba was Oduduwa, a king in what is now Southern Nigeria. The Oba’s territory once stretched as far as all the coastal areas of Nigeria, and even what is now other countries. Now there are Obas in many states of Nigeria.
Eze means King. This is the reverential title of the Ruler of Kingdoms of what is called Eastern Nigeria. Apart from being the Ruler, the Eze is sometimes vested with spiritual powers, by which he communes with the gods, and by which he carries out certain spiritual and ceremonial functions. Aside from being the name of the ruler, this name is also popular among the Igbo people of Nigeria, both as a first name, and as a surname, particularly among people of royal decent.
Ovie is a reverential word for King or Chief or even Leader. This is in the Urhobo Language, in Nigeria’s Niger Delta. Ovie is also the title of the Ruler of other tribes living in close proximity with the Urhobo people. Furthermore, this is a very popular name for people of the Region. It can be a first name, or a surname, particularly among people who trace their lineage to Royalty.
Chibueze is a name that means God is the king, and the name is Popular among the Igbo people of Eastern Nigeria. The origins of this name are Unclear.
Tafari is a word or name of the Ancient Kingdom of Ethiopia. The name translates to ‘He who inspires awe.’ Tafari as a title was made popular by His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie II of Ethiopia whose birth Name was Mekonem Ras Tafari. His Victories over invading European armies earned him fame and he was deified, especially by the people of Jamaica who chant his name till this day ‘Rastafari,’ and call themselves ‘Rastas.’
Mandlekosi is a derived name from Nkosi which means King in the Tswana language of South Africa. Mandlekosi means Strength, power, and king, and is popular as names, especially among males, or families of noble decent.
Igwe is the title of King in the language of the Igbo People of Eastern Nigeria. This particular title is more revered than the first one, it is almost exclusively reserved for Royalty. Igwe may also be taken as a name, but in the rare cases where this exists, it is found as Surnames for families that trace their lineages to royalty.
Other Words which may not exactly mean King, but which connote Rulership. One Such Word is Ade which is the Yoruba word for Crown. There can be no crown without kingship, nor kingship without a crown.
Ade appears as part of so many popular names, either as a prefix or as a suffix. Some of such names are:
This is a Yoruba name which means the Crown has come home. It is usually a male name given to a prince or a boy child in a family with Royal connections.
Adebolu is a Yoruba name that translates to ‘Crown meets Mushroom.’ When expanded, this name also means crown meets seed or crown meets life. This is usually a surname of families that come from Royalty, or that trace their lineage to Royalty.
Owoade is a Yoruba name that translates to ‘Crown Wealth.’ It could also be expanded to mean money of the crown. This is usually a surname of the noble families of Yorubaland, in Western Nigeria.
Adesua is the name of an ancient princess of the Bini Empire.
Adeniyi is a Yoruba name that translates to Crown has Value. The name is usually a surname among the nobles- those who trace their lineage to royalty.
With so many beautiful words and names for King, you can see that Africa was never meant to be a land of poverty and slavery. The land was once a region of thriving empires flowing with wealth.
As you research these names and the cultural value in them, we hope that you find a sense of pride and self-worth, as you do your part to bring back the glory of Africa.