Zambian Names


This little girl is called Miracle. What a wonderful name, but perhaps it wouldn’t go down very well in a school playground in UK.

Last weekend, I met a domestic worker in Lion Camp whose name was Five Kwacha (50 pence). He was too old for this to be a Zambian take on “Fiddy Cen”. I had to ask why and he told me that during pregnancy, his mother bet his father that the baby would be a boy. She won. I suppose you could say she got ten kwacha in total.

Some years ago, there was a complete solar eclipse here in Zambia. There was a spate of children called “Damaged Retina”.

Today in clinic, I saw a lady whose name in Kunda translated as “Going to die soon”. She was the only survivor of 13 children born to her mother, all the others had died after birth or in early childhood. To make up for it, she has seven children of her own. And malaria today, unfortunately.

I haven’t met a child called Superman yet.

Most Zambians have old fashioned names. The clinic nurses are called Regina, Grace, Marvis (Mavis spelled the Zambian way) and Daillies (Dilys). The Old Testament of the Bible is another inspiration for names. One of the Park guards is called Samson (I honestly thought was called “Samsung” for the first week). Shadrach is a very popular name, but I haven’t met a Misach nor an Abednigo yet. One of the best guides is called Josephat.

I have to write the patient’s name on their school exercise book and one man’s Kunda name was very difficult to turn into English letters. L and R are often interchangeable and most words spoken in English have an “o” or an “i” added to the end. I asked him what was the meaning of his name and he told me it was “water monitor lizard”. With typical cultural sensitivity, I said that he must have been a really ugly baby for his mother to name him that. He just laughed and said it was better than being called Baboon.


By Dr Alfred Prunesquallor

Maverick doctor with 40 years experience, I reduced my NHS commitment in 2013. I am now enjoying being free lance, working where I am needed overseas. Now I am working in the UK helping with the current coronavirus pandemic.

1 comment

  1. Love the idea of you calling Samson Samsung. Perhaps in the not to distant future Nokia, Microsoft and Google will be popular. I would like to be called mouse mat of the tribe of Toshiba. You should watch your back for beats by Dr Dre. Mat (not mouse).

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