The Zulu ethnic group of Southern Africa has a tradition that is evident in most of their practices, including the monikers chosen for their babies. Most Zulu baby names prioritize the meanings rather than the name. These names also reflect their gratitude towards their ancestors. Hence, if you’re looking for a unique baby moniker, then the following Zulu baby names for boys and girls may be of your liking. These names reflect emotions and events significant to the Zulu’s. Check them out below.
Zulu Baby Naming Culture
Zulu babies are named even before they are born, and their names depend on the relationships in the family or circumstances.
Performance artist, poet, and author U-Meleni Mhlaba-Adebo, who has Zulu ancestry, recollects the story of how she got her name. She says, “I recall asking my parents why they gave me my name. My father says that I was late coming into the world. Apparently, there were still things I needed to do. I was two weeks overdue, and my mother kept saying, ‘What are we waiting for?’ my father translated that into his language, Ndebele/Zulu, and thus U-Meleni became my given name… My name has been a compass in my life. Names and words have power. In my culture, they always say, “be careful what you name your child, they will either live up or live down their names” (i).”
Besides, the Zulu tribe does not have a formal naming ceremony. Rather, they host a ceremony called ‘imbeleko’ to introduce the baby to its elders and ancestors. The person with the baby name has to announce the name of the child while the goat is being slaughtered (to pay respect to the ancestors) and then present to the elders.
Zulu Names For Boys
If you are not afraid of experimenting with your boy’s name, call him Bonginkosi, a Zulu baby boy name, meaning ‘thank the Lord.’ You are free to shorten it to Bongo for the nickname.
Here’s another fancy Zulu boy name, meaning ‘looking after the nations.’ This moniker sounds a lot like a heavy metal guitarist’s stage name, isn’t it?
If you want a rare Zulu name for your son, pick Bhekumbuso. It might be difficult to spell or pronounce, but it will ensure that your child stands out from the crowd. Bhekumbuso means ‘looking after the dominion.’
Shaka is the name of the Zulu tribal leader, who is compared with Attila, the Hun. He is credited with shaping an amalgamation of tribes in the Zulu nation in the 19th century.
Funani is one of the underused Zulu names, meaning ‘search’ or ‘want.’ This name is actually the plural imperative form of funa.
Kgabu is an African and Zulu name and means ‘to decorate richly.’ This snappy name is currently neglected in this tribe. So use it for your son before it becomes too familiar.
The Biblical name Solomon was borne by the former king of the Zulu nation. In the Old Testament, it was the name of the third King of Israel. It means ‘peace.’
If you want a nature inspired Zulu name for your son, go with Gatsha. It’s derived from the Zulu word igatsha and means ‘branch.’
This one’s for the lovers of astronomy. Langa is a Zulu word for ‘sun’ and is used widely for African baby boys. This moniker conjures up all kinds of positive meanings- lightness, brightness, renewal and rebirth.
Phila is a Zulu name, meaning ‘get well’ or ‘live.’ This moniker is not restricted to Zulu alone. Phila is also an English name derived from the Greek word Phileo and means ‘loving.’
This moniker stems from the Zulu word umsizi, meaning ‘helper.’
Nkosiyabo, meaning ‘the king’ is usually given by parents believing that their children will excel. Your child is guaranteed to be unique among the class of chubby kindergarteners.
Linda is quite popular in American and European countries as a baby girl name. But in Zulu, this moniker is used for boys and means ‘wait’. Even this name is also the singular imperative form of linda.
This one’s for people who want a break from conventional ‘o’ ending names like Milo or Marco. Mpilo means ‘life’ in the Zulu language. Whether you pronounce it as Mpilo or Milo, this one will signal the arrival of a little star.
Want an up-class name for your son? Then go with Siyanda, which means ‘we are increasing.’ You simply cannot get a better name with such an upper-class vibe.
Here’s another celestial object name for you to use for your baby. Nkanyezi is a Zulu name, meaning ‘star.’
Bafana is one of the widely used Zulu names. It is obtained from the word abafana and means ‘boy.’ How would Baffie sound like a nickname for Bafana?
If you are tired of the old and common names like Oceanus or Ocean, go with Lwandle. This name, meaning ‘ocean’ will nod subtly to your favorite water body.
Sfiso is a blingy Zulu name and means ‘wish.’ This name would work equally well as a middle name as well.
Are you interested in a moniker with a traditional twist? Then you might want to check out Thulani, a traditional Zulu name, meaning ‘be quiet or be comforted.’
This unisex name, meaning ‘love,’ would make a lovely name for your child. This name may be unisex, but its sound makes it appropriate for boys more than girls.
Sanele is a Zulu baby boy name, meaning ‘we are satisfied’ or ‘we have enough.’ This name has contentment written all over it. We’d suggest you naming your last child Sanele. IYNWIM.
Anele is a Zulu name, meaning ‘sufficient or adequate.’ We believe this unisex name is a variation of Sanele. You can use the names Anele and Sanele for your twins.
Lungelo, meaning ‘right’ is much more flexible than you think. It would sound great as a first, in the middle and the last name too!
Dumisani, meaning ‘praise’ has a strong sense of aptitude and competence.
If you want something bold for your son, pick Bangizwe, which means ‘fighting for land.’
Fanyana, meaning ‘little boy’ manages to stay friendly and cute at the same time. It also comes with the nickname option Fannie. But that would be slightly girlish, right?
Bhekimuzi is a traditional name meaning ‘look after the household’. This religiously and culturally specific name is confined entirely within the Zulu population.
Mandla meaning ‘power or energy’ is one of the least used names in Zulu. So use it for your son before it becomes too familiar.
Maphikelela means ‘preserves.’ It may be inspired by a traditional Zulu name, but follows the beat of its own drum.
Mpumelelo is trendy and has been doing the rounds as one of the hottest Zulu names for years. It means ‘success.’
This Zulu name, meaning ‘shadow’ has seen moderate success in other Xhosa tribes. We’d suggest you consider a playful nickname for this somewhat serious name.
Philani is precious, majestic and truly unforgettable. And with such a beautiful meaning, (to be alive), Philani is sure to be one of the top ten Zulu baby names in the years to come.
Do you have a taste for an international flavor? Then pick Musawenkosi for your son. Plus, who does not love a name that means ‘God’s grace.’
This classic Zulu name will never go out of style. It’s kind, smart and considerate, traits that parents want the children to grow up with. Nkosenye means ‘one king or another king.’
Nkosinhle is truly versatile. When your son is in preschool, you can use the name Nikko, and when he grows up, he will be the dependable Nkosinhle. Nkosinhle means ‘the king is good.’
Straddling in the line of strength and sensitivity, Phiwokwakhe is one of the top picks for Zulu parents. It means ‘he who was given what was rightfully his.’
Sifiso is a serious and sturdy name for a boy who is destined to achieve great things in life and is just a few wishes away. This name means ‘wish.’
The meaning may be slightly strange, but the name is definitely a winner. And ‘z’ beginning names sound great anyway.
Sithembiso is one of the thoroughly likable Zulu baby names. The pronunciation and spelling might be a tad difficult, but once your friends get a hang of it, they might consider it for their offspring as well. It means ‘promise.’
This moniker may be small, but it’s full of life. Sipho means ‘gift.’
Siphiwe is one of the coolest, modern sounding Zulu names for your baby boy. It means ‘we have been given.’
This moniker, meaning ‘blessing’ would sound good with the last name of any length and ethnicity.
Here’s another melodious Zulu name. It means ‘where from.’ Yes, we know the meaning is outlandish, but the sound compensates for it.
This ancient Zulu name has a clean and simple elegance, which account for the surge in its popularity. The meaning of Thamsanqa is ‘luck.’
This classic Zulu baby name does not need any fancy embellishment to retain its attractiveness. It means ‘Raise the household.’
Themba was one of the top Zulu names for baby boys. Meaning ‘hope,’ this moniker has a revivalist feeling to it.
This moniker has been inching its way up the baby name list in the last few years. Zenzele means ‘do for self.’
Zulu Names For Girls
Ayanda is a Zulu baby name, meaning ‘they augment.’ This name sounds endearing, particularly when you think you have added a new member to your family.
This unisex name means ‘he is love’ for boys and ‘she is love’ for girls. Any child with this name is sure to be loved by everyone.
Nofoto is a Zulu baby name, meaning ‘like her grandmother.’ You would be giving one of the greatest gifts to your mother or mother in law by bestowing this name on your daughter.
Yibanathi is both Xhosa and Zulu name, meaning ‘be with us.’ This name conveys a tomboy coolness, but we’re sure it will age nicely into “Dear Yibanathi”.
Movie over Sadie and Maggie. The time is now ripe for Thadie, a Zulu baby girl name, meaning ‘loved one.’ This cute name has started showing up beyond the borders of its country as well.
Here’s another Zulu word name, meaning ‘knowledge.’ This cute name would make a good pick for parents who want a no-nonsense name for their daughter.
Is there any emotion more beautiful than love? No! So welcome the little one in your life with this simple, yet pretty name, Lerato, which mean ‘love.’
Amahle is a rhythmic Zulu name, meaning ‘beautiful one.’ It’s highly unlikely you will find this name outside the Zulu community. So pick it up for your daughter, now!
This unique name, meaning ‘salute,’ has struck a cord with hundreds of Zulu parents. In fact, it grew significantly over the last decade.
The meaning of this Zulu name is ‘be cheerful, be happy’. Cute, isn’t it? But could be a bit exotic for an average English parent’s liking.
Mthunzi is a classic name with a modern day feel. We doubt that it would ever go out of style. This name means ‘shade.’
Sindisiwe is a modern and sweet name, meaning ‘saved.’ And the vowel ending makes it look and sound even better.
Inyoni is an out and out feminine name, meaning ‘bird.’ This name has shown a remarkable growth in baby name charts of late.
Ntombizodwa is a quirky three syllable name derived from the Zulu word Ntombi. It means ‘lady’.
Zobuhle might be unpretentious and low-key, but it’s definitely a darling of the name. It means ‘lady of beauty’.
We must say this name has one of the coolest meanings we have come across in the recent times. Samukelisiwe means ‘we have been welcomed’.
This Zulu name means ‘luck’. The fact that more and more parents are using Nonhlanhla as a bonafide name has given it a bold edge.
This female Zulu name is derived from the word inhlakanipho and means ‘wisdom’. The pronunciation of the name can be a pain. But if you can get past it, you are good to go.
This name Liyana is taken directly from the Zulu language and means ‘it’s raining’. We think it would make a fresh alternative to the name Liana.
This name is derived from the element Jabula and means ‘happiness’. This fresh and lively name is an understated beauty in the truest sense.
This one’s for parents looking for a peaceful and exotic name for your child. Nokuthula means ‘peace and tranquility’. You can use Thula as the nickname.
Buhle is a feminine name derived from the word ubuhle, which means ‘beauty and goodness’. The pet names (Bibbie or Bobby) further strengthen the popularity of this name.
Isisa, meaning ‘tenderness’ is a name of cultural importance and charming old-woman style. It’s not much used now, but it can make a comeback any time.
Thobeka, meaning ‘humble’ is a refreshing choice for modern parents. A spelling variation of this name is Thoebeka. It won’t make much of a difference, though!
This lovely Zulu name, meaning ‘delight’ has been in use since forever and its popularity is going further with every passing year.
Zanele meaning ‘they are enough’ is way less common and perfectly legitimate. It might not be very popular, but is expected to stick around.
Sizani meaning ‘be advantageous’, started quite slow. But after ten years, this name has begun being used in light moderation. And its momentum is definitely noteworthy.
This is such a thoughtful name. This erudite and dignified name means ‘Lord, I’m in good health’.
Mhambi is a Zulu baby girl name and means ‘traveler’. Mhambi would make a great pick a gypsy name as well.
Rain, Raina and Rainey are passé. It’s time to embrace something exotic, some unconventional that nods the monsoon. So opt Nomvula for your daughter, which means ‘after the rain’.
Thulisile is a pretty, feminine choice for a baby girl. It means ‘she who made things quiet’.
This name means ‘it’s available’.
If you want a unique floral name for your child, pick Mbalienhle. It’s actually a combination of Mbali and Enfle and means ‘a beautiful flower’. You can use Mbali for the nickname.
This name sounds distinctly different. It has four syllables, has a rhythmic ring to it and is less harsh than most of the names on the list. The meaning of Sizakele is ‘be helped’.
This charming name would be exotically cool sounding to English names. It’s difficult for this name to reach high spots on the naming charts because of the small Zulu population. So it will be a unique pick for your daughter. The meaning of this lovely name is ‘the chosen one’.
Want your child to be smart and intelligent, just like Einstein? Then pick Nolwazi, which means ‘knowledgeable’. African-Americans, especially, are using this gem of a name to celebrate their roots.
This name is formed by the elements sine, which means ‘we have luck’ and ‘inhlanla’, which means ‘luck’. This ancient Zulu name has given birth to a remarkable number of variants. But so many syllables in a single name could make it a cause of a few jokes.
Ayize is probably the variation of Arabic name Aiza and means ‘let it happen’. This name is so widely embraced by the Europeans and Americans that it has started to feel familiar. The spelling variation is giving it an edge of originality.
If you want to remain faithful to your African roots, choose Duduzile for your daughter. This feminine name means ‘consoled’. And considering its popularity, Duduzile is here to stay.
Busisiwe is a Zulu origin name and means ‘blessed’. As a ‘blessed’ name, it’s clear why this name is used so heavily among in African, Zulus in particular.
Hlengiwe is a great pick for parents who are looking for something vintage, but not too overused or trendy. Some people may find it a bit tongue-twisting, but we think Hlengiwe is a charmer. It means ‘redeemed’.
This cheerful name meaning ‘be happy’ has an old-fashioned charm, a feisty and strong image and a most importantly, sounds great.
Khanyisile, meaning ‘bringer of light’ would appeal to parents who are drawn to the fanciful African name.
Nandi is one of the super trendy zulu names for baby girl right now. It sounds more classy and sophisticated and less flashy or flowery. It means ‘sweet’.
This elaborate name witnessed a tremendous success a year back, but has retreated down to low levels of usage. But we adore this name for its gender-neutral sensibility. Ndondoloza means ‘prudence’.
This name has managed to hold onto its popularity more than any of the above names. It means ‘bearer of gifts’.
This moniker carries a beauty on its own. Nonkululeko means ‘freedom’, one of the best gifts you can give your child.
Sibongile is a feel good name with a positive meaning. This name has never been overused, so it is not very common. Sibongile means ‘we are thankful’.
Here’s another rock solid zulu girl name that would appeal to parents looking for something different. The meaning of Siphephelo is ‘place of peace’.
Zulu baby names originate from the Zulu people, a Nguni ethnic group of South Africa. Parents who have connections with these ethnic groups or who like to give unique and meaningful names can find suitable Zulu names for their babies. Zulus are named even before they are born, and they may carry more than one name. Their extended family may give them other names to show their expectations for the baby. Thus, you may give your baby a Zulu name that matches your expectations for their personality.
Discover More Names
When you have to choose a name for your baby, a few hundreds of names may not be just enough. Keep digging our mine of baby names until you find that one precious gem.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What are the unique characteristics of Zulu baby names that make them a popular choice?
In Zulu culture, names often relate to natural or historical events connected to a child’s birth. Moreover, names can be chosen to encourage positive qualities or behaviors linked to their meaning, such as Ntokozo (meaning ‘happiness’), Thobeka (meaning ‘humble’), and Nonhlanhla (meaning ‘luck’). Thus, a name holds greater importance in African society than just being a label, making it a significant choice (1).
2. How do Zulu baby names compare to names from other African cultures in popularity and meaning?
Zulu baby names vary widely in popularity and meanings based on their regional and cultural contexts and linguistic influences. For instance, Nomusa, meaning ‘merciful,’ is a unique Zulu name that has not entered the list of top 1000 US names since 1900, per the US Social Security Administration (SSA) data. On the contrary, Zuri, which means ‘beautiful’ is a popular African name ranking at position 194 in 2022 as per the latest SSA reports (2) (3).
3. What factors should parents consider when choosing a Zulu name for their baby, especially if they are from a different cultural background?
Parents must learn the cultural importance, meanings, and pronunciations of Zulu names before choosing them. Furthermore, exploring the background stories, traditions, language, and history about the chosen name can help them make an appropriate and informed choice.
Infographic: Intriguing Zulu Baby Names With Meanings
Zulu is Southern Africa’s largest ethnic group. Therefore, Zulu names are widespread across the region. So, take a look at the infographic below for some names of Zulu origin you might consider for your baby if you’re looking for something unique.
Here are some beautiful Zulu names for girls. Discover their meanings and origins in this informative video.
Personal Experience: Source
i. Whats in a name?
- Turner Noleen; (2000); Zulu Names and Indirect Expression.
- Popularity of name Nomusa.
- Popularity of name Zuri.