African Dog Names: From Africa, With Love

close-up image of a basenji kongo dog
Written by David Jones

So, you just got yourself a new puppy or adopted a dog at another point in his maturity stage. Whatever it is, now is the time to start bonding with your new best friend. The first step to achieving that closeness with your dog is by giving him a name that he will come to associate with himself. That being said, we know how overwhelming a task it can be, given the sheer number of dog names out there. However, one thing we are almost sure of is that you have not considered African dog names. Well, you’re missing out!

Most people love to be unique. That same mindset should be kept when you want to pick a name for your dog. You don’t want to go to the park to play with your buddy and then hear a dozen other dog parents calling their canines by what is supposed to be exclusively yours. For that reason, you will find out that African dog names are not as common, and they sure have a nice ring to them. If you have an African dog breed such as the Rhodesian Ridgeback, your dog will certainly appreciate your nod at his heritage.

image of two african wild dogs sitting

This might not be the biggest list of dog names, but we have kept your needs, and that of your dog, at heart when piecing it together. Not only have we come up with some amazing names your dog would love to flaunt to his friends, but we have also made sure to choose the ones that can be easily pronounced. On top of that, you get to learn the meaning of some of these names.

African Dog Names Based on Gender

One of the main reasons we could think of as to why you’d deem it fitting to give your dog an African name is because your dog is an African breed—perhaps the famous Rhodesian Ridgeback.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is one very tough breed. Before the breed came to be known as the Rhodesian Ridgeback, the dog was famed for the way he could tussle with a lion while his owner got into a favorable position to attack and kill the lion. For this kind of exploit, the dog was initially known as the African Lion Hound.

image showing two rottweiler puppies

These kinds of dogs are no doubt, very strong, so you will want to compliment them with strong names too. Even if your dog is not a Rhodesian Ridgeback, we’re certain they would feel honored to be given names befitting of such a mighty beast. Here we have rounded up some strong-sounding African names for both male and female dogs.

Dog Names Based on Gender #1: Males

If your dog is strong, fierce, and so agile that they can survive the harsh African environment no problem, they deserve a powerful African name. You can pick from any of the options below.

  • Ata – From the Xhosa tribe in South Africa, this name means ‘to increase.’ In a time when the hunting of game was more rampant, hunters with dogs were known to always have an increase in the number of game they could bring home

  • Beka – Wherever you see a Rhodesian, the dog commands deep respect. Yet they still manage to exude high levels of love. For that reason, this name which translates to ‘Honor and Respect’ is befitting of the dog

  • Ceba – While it is true that dogs don’t talk, they could be there for you when you need to unwind. Calling your dog a name that translates to ‘Advisor’ doesn’t sound like much of a stretch now, does it?

  • Chana – Translates to mean ‘a marksman,’ need we tell you why this is another apt name?

  • Dada – The Xhosa tribe translates this to mean ‘Float and Swim’

  • Duma – How would you feel if your dog wrestled a lion and gave you the room to have an advantage over the roaring beast? I don’t know about you, but the hunters of past would have given a ‘Shout of Triumph.’ For you, having a best friend for life is enough reason for you to give off the same shout

  • Dunga – Don’t take this literally, so that when you name your dog something that means ‘to fly away,’ you don’t start losing sleep over when he’s actually going to grow wings and obey the calling of his name. All jokes aside, the name does sound stronger than what it means. Leave people guessing for a while, will you?

  • Ibo – If your dog is the first in his litter, you could consider calling him ‘the first fruits’

  • Lebo – Not only does the name have a nice ring to it, but it also means ‘Thankful.’ What are you thankful for? Why don’t you make your dog a reminder of it? This is a way to associate the new pet with good memories and start the journey off nicely

  • Polo – No, this is not a move to turn your dog into a Ralph Lauren ambassador. Rather, it is to liken the dog to something more menacing. That is, if you also consider an ‘alligator’ scary as we do

Dog Names Based on Gender #2: Females

Female Rhodesian Ridgebacks are just as fierce and reliable as their males—although, at the same time, they also exude a kind of feminine charm.

Two Rhodesian_Ridgeback females lying on the grass

If yours is female, why don’t you take one of these beautiful names for your beautiful dog?

  • Damba – A sweet name for a ‘calm’ dog. Even if your dog turns out to be a hyperactive fellow, she is sure to still be calm at that moment when you both are just lying on the couch enjoying each other’s company

  • Dansa – If you also guessed on the first read that this translates to ‘Dance,’ you should consider honing your natural talent and mastering the African language as a whole

  • Dula – We find this funny ourselves, but if your dog cost you a good amount of money, you could be tempted to name her something that translates to ‘Expensive’

  • Pula – What else is more beautiful than naming your female dog after the ‘rain?’

  • Zibu – Speaking of beautiful names, ‘Water Lily’ sure falls into that category

  • Zula – Dogs are often classified as very intelligent beings. Complement that by making sure everyone—everyone that knows the language or cares to ask, that is—knows that your dog is ‘brilliant’ too

Dog Names Based on Gender #3: Unisex

It could happen that you have picked the perfect dog name, then you got to the breeder’s and fell in love with a sex other than the one you had in mind. You are now torn between turning away the dog you love because the name doesn’t fit the sex, or using it anyways.

Image showing a cute little white dog looking up

To solve your dilemma, we have come up with a list of cool, unisex African dog names. Pick one of these, and you can go home with any sex of your choice. How wow is that?

  • Ane – When people come up to ask you what your dog name means, you should keep them guessing. No, we’re serious here. We mean the name translates to ‘keep them guessing’

  • Aza – a short, sweet, and beautiful name, yet it translates to ‘strong and powerful’

  • Baayo – You could want to show love to a dog that has lost a/both parents with this name; it translates to mean ‘orphan’

  • Chebe – Your dog can be more than just your best friend or your face-licking buddy. They could also be your own ‘Good luck’ charm

  • Domme – This name is best suited for when you know you’ve got the perfect thing ever in your dog. Before we get carried away, the name means ‘I’ve been blessed’

  • Faa – What dog is useless? None, right? So why not name your dog ‘useful?’

  • Kuume – It is general knowledge that dogs are man’s best Kuume. Sorry, we meant ‘Friend.’ The thing is, whichever of these words you use, you would still be saying the same thing

  • Ode – If you are adopting a stray dog, Ode—which translates to ‘born by the road’—will be a good fit

  • Safari – Odds are, this is one name you will find easy to pronounce. You are in luck because the name is not only of African origin but also beautiful for your dog. Did we mention that it translates to ‘Journey?’ Like the one you are about to embark on with the new dog in your life?

  • Uje – A dog is supposed to bring ‘happiness’ into your life, and that about sums up why this name makes the list

African Dog Names Based on the Conditions of Their Birth

Many African names are based on the conditions of the child’s birth. The people believe that a person’s day of birth and whether they are the oldest or the youngest child have a role in determining the path they are going to take in life.

African Dog Names by Birth #1: The Day

If you picked your dog up from a breeder who has records of when the dog was born, you could make the dog’s name special by choosing one after the day he was born.

image of a golden retriever puppy in the grass

In various African languages, there are provisions for these kinds of names. Some of them are as listed below:

  • Aba – Born on a Thursday

  • Abeeku – Born on a Wednesday

  • Abena – Born on a Tuesday

  • Adowa – Born on a Tuesday

  • Adwoa – Born on a Monday

  • Afia – Born on a Friday

  • Ami – Born on a Saturday

  • Atu – Born on a Saturday

  • Sonto – Born on a Sunday

African Dog Names by Birth #2: Their Position in the Family

These names will be more suitable for when you are getting your dog from a breeder, and not just any breeder, but one that has an accurate record of how the dog was born, and what position he occupies in the family (litter) that he came from.

  • Amira – Talk about welcoming a blue blood into your home. This name means ‘prince.’ Since the first-born son in a royal bloodline is always the one entitled to the throne, you could name the firstborn male dog in a litter this. Likewise, any male dog from a royal dog breed litter can take the name
  • Ata – If the mother gave birth to only two pups, the first one can be called Ata, translating to ‘the first-born twin’
  • Atsu – Having a Ghanaian origin, this unisex naming option denotes the ‘second born twin’
  • Audi – This is not because we want you to name the dog after the car brand. It is because you found out that your dog is the ‘last daughter’ in the litter
  • Essien – A Ghanaian name which translates to ‘sixth-born son.’ You will especially love this name if you are a fan of either the Chelsea FC football club or one of their ex-players who went by the same name
  • Iggi – The ‘only son’ in the litter will be a worthy bearer of this name
  • Kande – This list wouldn’t be complete without account for ‘the first-born daughter’
  • Kenyi – This is one of those names you will find very rare and unique, because, unlike you, not everyone will trace the litter meticulously to see if their dog is the ‘male born after the third girl’
  • Pita – Another female name, you will be able to use this if your dog is the ‘fourth daughter’ in the litter
  • Poni – The name rhymes with what you would call the horse, and it means the ‘second daughter’ in the dog family

Zulu African Dog Names

The Zulu is one of the official languages in South Africa. Spoken by more than 10 million people, it has come to stay and register itself as the fastest-growing and most spoken language in the country. Due to its popularity and significance, it is befitting that you name your precious dog after some of their most revered names.

Note that some Zulu names, although very beautiful and delightful to the ear, are long. It is not good practice to choose exceptionally long names for your dogs because it might be difficult for them to get used to their name just as it might be difficult for you to pronounce.

Zulu African Dog Names #1: Males

We have chosen the shortest and the most masculine-sounding names for your male pup.

A white and brown medium dog in desert of Africa

Should you still find the one that you love rather long, you are welcome to make a nickname out of it. That way, you make it even more unique.

  • Bheka – Although it is not advisable to make your dog your only security measure, he’s always a ‘Watchful’ guard to keep around

  • Fanyana – Your pup won’t remain little for long, but you will always remember that ‘little boy’ you got at the breeder

  • Khata – They say ‘Home’ is where the heart is. A dog will show you so much love, your heart will long to see his face when you’re finally done with work

  • Mapoza – Translated to mean ‘Chaser,’ a very active dog will wield this name with pride

  • Mhambi – Dog parents that move/travel a lot will have to take their dog with them. Naming the dog ‘traveler’ is just prepping him for the fun to come

  • Sipho – Someone got you a dog as a present? Call him something that translates to ‘Gift’ then

  • Thabo – Translates to mean ‘Happiness’

  • Thando – For all the ‘Love’ your dog will bring to your life

  • Themba – Show us a dog that betrays his owner’s ‘Trust,’ and we will show you a mango tree spawning yam tubers

  • Xolani – No matter what you do to your dog, he will always be willing to mend the relationship. This name means ‘Forgiveness’ in Zulu, and it can also be taken to mean ‘Peace’

Zulu African Dog Names #2: Females

The Zulu culture would be incomplete if it only had male names.

side view of a Basenji female

Fortunately for the lucky dogs that would get these names, the language does have some beautiful female names we can choose from.

  • Gugu – Means ‘Precious’

  • Jabulie – The name translates to ‘Happy’

  • Khethiwe – Remember how you walked the length and breadth of the pet store or shelter before you finally settled for this female pup? That is more reason why she should be named ‘Chosen’

  • Mbali – The name means ‘Flower’

  • Nandi – This name translates to ‘sweet’ in Zulu, and that is exactly what every dog is: sweet!

  • Ntombi – If your dog is from a royal breed, you should consider bringing her up as a ‘Lady,’ and naming her something that says that too

  • Simangele – Got your female pup as a present from someone? You sure wouldn’t have expected that, so express your ‘Surprise’ in the name too. If it’s a mouthful for you, you could simply shorten it to ‘Sima’ instead

  • Sindiswa – Rescued dogs make great pets too. To remember what their backstory was, a name that says ‘Saved’ is apt

  • Tandie – Simply means ‘fire’

  • Zola – A beautiful name for a ‘tranquil’ dog

Celestial African Dog Names

Maybe you are one of those who consider their dogs to be out of this world. If that is the case, only a name that is out of this world, or related to the celestial bodies, will be best suited for such a dog.

miniature-schnauzer- dog in the forest

Across the various tribes in Africa countries, here we have gathered select celestial names your dog can make popular. Since there are no male or female bodies in space, it is safe to say that you can take these names as unisex options too.

  • Dunia – Swahili, meaning ‘earth’

  • Duniya – Close in pronunciation to the Swahili name above, this Hausa name also means ‘Earth’

  • Jata – From the Kikuyu tribe, this name means a ‘Celestial star’

  • Kiania – The introduction of a dog into your home is the start of a new ‘Dawn.’ We believe that, and so does the Kikuyu tribe

  • Marinda – While everyone else is rushing to name their dogs after the morning star, yours will stand out by being ‘the evening star’

  • Nyota – Means ‘star’ in Swahili

  • Osumare – A dog with multiple colors on their coat can be referred to as Osumare, which translates to ‘Rainbow’ in Yoruba

  • Sama – Of Hausa origin, the name means ‘Sky’

  • Shanira – Meaning ‘warmed by the sun,’ we find this name befitting for dogs that have a golden coat

  • Zuvan – Coming from the Shona tribe, this is a beautiful name that translates to ‘the sun’

Wrap Up

African languages, aside from being some of the most historical and rhythmic, have a nice ring to them. There is no telling how much attention you and your dog will be getting thanks to his unique name. Just think about how many people will want to become your friend just to learn what your dog’s name means.

Aside from that, your dog will not have to worry about sharing his name with other dogs in the area. In the end, this could just be another way to have something to hold over your friends.

Close-up image of a german boxer dog

Of course, we know that we have not covered the entirety of African dog names out there. To be fair, one list is not enough to capture them all, but we have done our very best to bring some of the most significant and appropriate ones for your dog here.

Should you have any other African dog name that you think we should know of, please let us know in the comment section. Planning to go get a dog soon? What name on this list appeals to you the most?

About the author
David Jones