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What Are African Day Names?

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There is a West African tradition of giving newborn babies a special name that is based on the day they are born. The Akan people of Ghana often name their children based on the day of the week they were born. These are called “day names,” and they hold meanings regarding the soul of the baby and character traits.

This naming tradition is not only shared throughout West Africa, but the African diaspora as well. Many Ghanaians hold at least one day name, even if they already have a Christian or English name. To help better understand this naming system we must know that the Akan people use the Kwa language, which is used as a form of time keeping. The language is based on a 6 day week, with the 7th day included.

The naming system is organized as followed:

  • Sunday-born males and females are named Kwasi or Kwesi and Akosua respectively (meaning ‘associated with the universe’);
  • Monday-born are Kwadwo or Kojo, Adjoa or Adwoa (meaning ‘associated with peace’);
  • Tuesday-born are Kwabena or Kobi, Abena (meaning ‘associated with the ocean’);
  • Wednesday-born Kwaku or Kweku, Akua (meaning ‘associated with spider/Ananse’);
  • Thursday-born Yaw, Yaa (meaning ‘associated with the earth’);
  • Friday-born Kofi, Afia or Afua (meaning ‘associated with fertility’);
  • Saturday-born Kwame, Ama (meaning ‘associated with God’).

If siblings are born on the same day then sequential words are added to the name:

  • Manu (the second, male) / Maanu (the second, female)
  • Mensa (the third, male) / Mansa (the third, female)
  • Annan (the fourth, male) / Anane (the fourth, female).

An example of this would be “Mansa Efua,” which translates to the third female born on a Friday. 

Now that you've discovered your new African Day Name head over to the Soko (market) and pick up an African Day Name bracelet with your new name on it to keep the traditions of West Africa and the African diaspora alive!