Swahili, also known by its native name Kiswahili, is a Bantu language and the native language of the Swahili people. It’s the lingua franca of the African Great Lakes region and many other parts of East and South Africa. Because it is used to bridge so many linguistical divides, Swahili, the official language of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, is highly influenced by other languages and dialects. We wanted to discover which Swahili baby names for girls are popular today and which ones will appeal to American parents who want to honor their heritage.
We took a deep dive into the world of Swahili baby names to better understand their origins. After 12 centuries of contact with the Arabic peoples, Arabic informs a great many of the names that have been traditionally given by Swahili speakers as well. However, Swahili is a living language that does not exist in a bubble! You will also encounter English, Persian, Portuguese, German, and French names adopted into the tradition as well. Our goal is to share with you a spectrum of Swahili baby names for girls ranging from very popular to very unique! Check out these amazing baby names!
Lulu is a baby name for girls with Arabic origins that means “pearl.” Lulu was very popular in the US as it is a shortened form of Louise and Lucy in the early 20th century. However, the Arabic origins of this name present a standalone favorite with a gem of a meaning.
Nyah is a Swahili baby name for girls that is sometimes spelled Nia, as in the fifth principle of Kwanzaa. The Swahili origins of this name mean “purpose,” or “resolve,” or “brilliance.” Both spellings of this baby name have appeared in the US top 1000 most popular baby names and Nia is currently the favorite, ranking in the US top 500 last year.
Zalika is the Swahili form of the Arabic name that usually looks closer to Zuleika. Zalika has that wonderful, zippy Z-sound so many parents are after today. Zalika not only sounds great, but it also means “wellborn.” In Arabic tradition, this name can also mean “fair.”
A top 1000 name off and on since the seventies, Ayanna is a gorgeous Swahili name that means “beautiful flower.” You will also find this name in Arabic and other traditions in Africa as a name meaning “big eyes” or “time.” The most high-profile Ayanna in America today is likely Ayanna Pressley, the US Representative for Massachusetts’s 7th congressional district.
Safia is the preferred Swahili form of the Arabic name Safiyya. Safiyyah bint Huyayy is a wife of the Prophet Muhammad so will find this name and many of its variants around the world. Safia is pronounced sah-FEE-yah so, be prepared to correct people when they try and say Sophia instead.
Dalili is a girl’s name of Swahili origin meaning “a sign from the gods.” Somehow, this gorgeous name has never appealed to many American parents, but we find it accessible and lyrical. This name is very popular in Tanzania today.
Popular with Muslim and African-American parents, Amani works as a virtue name due to its meaning in “faith.” Kenyan singer-songwriter Amani has given this name renewed energy in recent years. Amani has been in the US top 1000 since 1996 and we hope it stays there for years to come. This name has Arabic origins and is sometimes spelled Imani.
Nuru is a Swahili baby name for girls that means “light” or “born during the day.” The name is related to the Arabic name Noor. The latter is currently more popular in the US, but we have a soft spot for the sweet sound of Nuru.
Onto another popular N-name that you have likely heard before, Nala. Nala is a multicultural name that can mean many things in many traditions. In Swahili, the name is considered to mean “gift.” The name Nahla is also present as a name coming from Arabic meaning “first drink of water in the desert.” The name can also mean “Queen,” “lion,” and “woman of success.” The Nala spelling has been on the rise in the US since 2014 when it debuted in the US top 1000.
A popular name in Kenya, Sikudhani is a rhythmic choice that has a fabulous meaning in “pleasant surprise.” This Swahili baby name has not caught on with parents in the US yet, but give it time. This luscious name deserves more praise.
Tabia is an East African, Swahili baby name that means “talents” or “gifts.” The name carries a connotation of being well-behaved. Tabia sounds playful and casual and we love it!
Shani is very popular among Swahili speakers and you will find it many other African traditions as well. In Swahili tradition, this name for girls means “marvelous.” The name enjoyed mild popularity in the US in the sixties and seventies and we would for this one to make a comeback.
You will find the name Zahara in Hebrew tradition meaning “to shine.” But, if you look at its Swahili application, the baby name means “flower.” With the name Zara growing in popularity, Zahara could be a logical alternative for the right parents.
Marjani is a Swahili name with Arabic origins that means “coral.” The name is trending but not widely used in the US today. As nature names become more popular than ever, we expect this baby name to land in the US top 1000 by the end of the decade.
Eshe is East African and Swahili in origin. It is considered a variant of Asha, which is related to the classic Arabic name Aisha. Eshe has a thriving meaning in “life.” Aisha and Asha are both more popular than Eshe in the US, but all names share the same Arabic root.
Kamaria is a Swahili baby name for girls that means “moonlight.” This name comes from the Arabic Qamar which means “moon.” The best-known Kamaria in the US is the Black feminist poet Kamaria Muntu
Sanaa is a girl’s name of Swahili origin meaning “work of art” or “shining light.” Actor Sanaa Lathan helped bring this name acclaim in the US. Shaquille O’Neal used it as the middle name of his daughter Amirah. It was in the US top 1000 from 2003 until 2011. We hope it returns!
Pronounced chah-oo-SEE-koo, Chausiku is a Swahili baby name that means “born at night.” Only a handful of girls are given this baby name in the US. Last year, there were only five!
Subira is a Swahili baby name that means “patience.” Subira is an African name that’s virtually unknown in the western world, but sounds both soft and strong.
Nyimbo is a name with Swahili origins that means “song” or “music.” This name is generally off the radar of many American parents which could make it perfect for those looking for a unique appellation.
In East Africa Enzi is considered a gender-neutral option and it’s given to both baby boys and girls freely. This Swahili baby name means “powerful.” This zesty name would be welcome here in the US, no doubt!
Imara is such an incredible baby name for girls that has not been discovered by many US parents yet. It’s rather perfect with its Swahili origins that mean “firm.” If you are after a powerful and strong baby name for your daughter, this could definitely check those boxes as well as sound absolutely stunning.
Sarabi is a lovely African name that you may recognize from The Lion King. Sarabi is a Swahili baby name that means “mirage.” This name has not taken off like others in its class, so we hope new parents will consider this gem of a name.
You can spell Zuri or Zuhri, it’s completely up to your preference. Zuri is a Swahili baby name for girls and boys that means “beautiful” or “good.” Zuri has become a remarkably popular name in the US. After debuting in the US top 1000 in 2010, the name climbed up the list with a quickness. Last year, it was the 278 most popular name for girls.
Asali is a Swahili baby name that you will find in Arabic tradition as well. Asali means “honey” or “sweet like honey.” This name is very sweet and ripe for the taking for American parents as it has not been a popular choice here, yet!
There you go! We hope you enjoyed these baby names for girls with Swahili origins. These Swahili baby names hold a lot of promise with their beautiful and distinct meanings and lyrical sounds. If you are looking to honor your heritage, a great way to do that is by choosing a name from that tradition to gift your child with for life. We wish you luck on your baby naming journey!
Andrew is a Chicago-based writer who enjoys finding the best of the internet, obsessively making lists, and cooking for friends. After studying Film and Art History, he developed a deep love for both topics. Celebrity news, pop culture, and stories that bring people together are his passions.
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Baby Name Generator
No baby name sounding good? Want a quick way to generate unique baby name ideas? Try our baby name generator below!
Set your terms (sex of the baby, number of letters, popularity, etc.) and then get a list of names that meet your criteria. Maybe the perfect name is just waiting to be generated for you.