Do you know what your name means and where it comes from? Are you and should you be interested? We often take our names as just mere nouns that people call us but have we ever wondered about the inspiration behind our names and what value they might bring into our lives? Do we make these considerations when we name our children?


In African glory days, children were often named by a village or family elder. There was a sense of mystique and enchantment when this ritual would take place, often followed by a ceremony. It is believed that a name can have a profound impact on a child’s life and that of his/her family, often shaping their journey and purpose. When we name our children, are we aware that we are essentially giving them their calling? One of the primary ways in which we are identified is through our names. We are called and therefore answer to the call (or calling). Do we realise how important this is?


When I was younger, I knew a Tsietsi, whose meaning is ‘trouble’. Needless to say, Tsietsi was a very troubled boy, often in and out of juvenile centres and even prisons. Is it possible that he embodied his name and that it impacted the trajectory of his life? I also know a young, well spoken man who was captain of his school’s debating team. After introducing him to the topic of identity and the importance of a name, he went searching for the meaning of his and was pleasantly surprised to see that his name, Maredi, meant ‘an orator’.

One cannot deny the importance of understanding that our names give us purpose and often tell us our positions within our families. As for our surnames, they provide our backstory. Our surnames are like the roots that keep us anchored, that contain the spirit and the meaning of who we are and where we come from.


Rich in ancestry, our surnames are like the shoulders of giants that we stand on as we sketch our own paths through life. I have met plenty of Africans who have no idea what their surnames mean and where they come from.


This negligence and lack of interest means there’s a key piece of the puzzle that’s missing in our lives. We need to find out who we are and where we are from. We need to understand that our names are powerful and should always remember that when we are given the responsibility to name our children. Identity is the first point of call in understanding one’s position and power in life. Let us not be complacent with our lives and that of our children. So what’s in a name? Our purpose, our understanding. Our power, our wisdom and our destiny.

“As you do for your ancestors, your children will do for you.” African Proverb



“So what's in a name?”

       -  by Bianca Williams, Creator of Khanya



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