LanguagesAbout the Project

Naming in Zulu

Babies are named before they are born in Zulu. There is no naming ceremony in the culture, but only a ceremony called imbeleko to introduce the baby to the ancestors and to thank them and ask them to protect it. For imbeleko a goat must be slaughtered as a sacrifice to the ancestors (a goat is always slaughtered for a feast that involves talking to the ancestors), and the family elder responsible for talking to the ancestors will call the baby by its name when presenting it to the ancestors at the same time the goat is being slaughtered. Zulus usually carry more than one name, it can be several names given by members of the extended family. Names usually denote the family’s expectations and encouragement for a baby; some reflect the family’s experiences or how they relate to others in their community, sometimes they tell about the time/how the weather was like when the person was born, and so on. Also common are names that reflect religious beliefs and political beliefs.

Names denoting family’s expectations and feelings

Girls' Names

Boys' Names

Noxolo “Mother of peace”

Thembile “Hopeful/trusting”

Nomathemba “Mother of hope/trust”

Nokulunga “Mother of goodness/kindness”

Lungile “Kind/good”

Nomusa “Mother of kindness/mercy”

Nonhlanhla “Mother of luck”

Nomcebo “Mother of wealth”

Thembekile “Trustworthy/reliable”

Thembeka “Be reliable/trustworthy”

Nobuhle “Mother of beauty/goodness”

Nonjabulo “Mother of joy”

Thandiwe “Beloved”

Thandeka “Lovely”

Nothando “Mother of love”

Zibuyile “The dowry cows have come back”

Thabisile/Jabulisile “Has brought joy”

Thabisa “Bring joy”

Zinhle “(The girls) are good/beautiful”

Gugu “Treasure”

Nomagugu “Mother of treasures”

Olwethu “It's (love is) ours”

Owethu “She is ours”

Amahle “The beautiful ones”

Thalente “Talent”

Nomathalente “Mother of talents”

Gugulethu “Our treasure”

Xolani “You all have peace/take it easy”

Themba “Hope/trust”

Lunga “Be good/kind”

Lungani “You all be good/kind”

Musa “Kindness/mercy”

Nhlanhla “Luck”

Mcebisi “The one who brings wealth/

the one who gives wise advices”

Njabulo “Joy”

Thando “Love”

Thabani “You all be joyful”

Sandile “We have extended in number”

Siyabonga “We are grateful”

Andile “They have extended”

Vusumuzi “Rekindle the family”

S'fiso “Wish/what we had wished for”

Jabulani “Be happy”

Sibonelo “Example”

Mandla “Strength/power”

Luyanda “It (love) is growing”

Mthokozisi “The one who gives joy”

Olwethu “It's (love is) ours”

Owethu “He is ours”

Amahle “The beautiful ones”

Thalente “Talent”

S'thembiso “Promise”

SimphiweyiNkosi “He's our gift from God”

Bandile “They have extended in number”

Lwandile “It (love) has intensified”



For more information about African Languages at Penn please e-mail the Language Coordinator,
Dr. Audrey N Mbeje mbeje@sas.upenn.edu , or call: (215) 898-4299


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