THE BOOK OF ROYAL NAMES: A guide to naming your child right.

Naming a baby is an act of poetry, for many people the only creative moment of their lives. — Richard Eyre.

Photo by Isaac Quesada from

It started as a joke. My friend, Cynthia, posted a meme and captioned it, “Maaalliiiikkkkkkkk”. It made me laugh because it reminded me of the night she called me more than three times, almost consecutively, and then apologized each time saying she meant to dial Malik, not Malika. It was past midnight by the way, and I told her to save me by a nickname. The second part of her response to my reaction to her post was (because her first was, “😂😂😂I swear😂🤦🏿‍♀️🤦🏿‍♀️” ) “Where do yall get all this names thou” to which I replied, “From the book of Royal names. A guide to naming your child right.” It’s only after I tapped send that it began to sink.

My mother must have really thought about what she’d name her twin daughters. It’s either that, or she got the first one from a beautifully painted portrait of an old Pokomo lady on one of the walls in our family home and wanted a name that rhymed with it for the second girl. The lady’s name was ‘Malika Ali’, which, if you haven’t picked up by now, is my first name. HMMM, I wonder what rhymes with Malika? Malisa? Maleeka? Melinda? Malia? Melisa? Malinda? (hope y’all are taking notes cause these are ideas!). Malaika. She named her Malaika. Together, we were Malika and Malaika. We were Queen and Angel.

Malika Ali.

I think that my mother and I had a lot more in common than I allowed myself to see. She was a writer, I’m a writer. She loved art, I love art. She loved a good mystery, a game or a show that would cause some level of mind fuckery (pardon my French). She liked fictitious books, psychological thrillers that would mess with your entire existence, leave you wondering HOW? WHY? WHAT? HOW?! She was the type of person to have meaning behind the words, like poetry. So, if we are alike, that means she thought it through and most probably thoroughly.

I’ve always believed that names carry a weight that needs to be given suitably. To name is to identify, and to maybe even give character to a child. It is for this reason I want my children to have names with positive affirmations, speaking life and blessing into their lives, but also, reminding them the reason why. Names can give purpose, they might even be the purpose. Oh! Not forgetting that I’d like the names to be unique and have a story behind them that my kids can proudly tell and tell.

Once upon a time, in many African cultures I am sure, children were named in accordance to the time they were born. Naming systems varied from place to place but what I am sure of is that names were not just thrown about anyhow. A name identified and gave character. I also believe that it is the first step in showing care/concern for the child. Something so little yet it’s so BIG. But ay, that’s my opinion.

In the Meru community (a Bantu tribe from Kenya), children are named after their grandparents. This gets more interesting because the grandchild isn’t given the exact same name as the grandparent, but rather, a trait of the grandparent that is seen fit to be given to the child is used. This happens after much consultation with and approval from who I would call the Elders.

In the Bible, something similar happens. The naming of children was taken seriously. It was almost sacred. Every name had to have a known and agreed upon meaning: “Yeshua" (the Hebrew name from which Jesus is derived from) meaning 'To deliver' or ‘to rescue’, because he was born to save mankind from eternal death by delivering us from sin, Esau meaning hairy because he was born hairy and Samuel meaning “God has heard” or “name of God”. If you know the story of his mother, Hannah, then you would understand why she named him so and how he lived up to his name. The most intriguing of naming stories for me would have to be the story of John The Baptist, who could have been named after his father, Zachariah, as per their tradition. He was named John, which means “God is gracious”. Nobody in their family line had ever wielded that name which was a concern to say the least. It is after Zachariah accepted the name that his wife Elizabeth wanted and most probably felt was right for the baby, that he wrote it down on stone tablet for all to see, and his mouth was opened and he could speak again! So yes, there must be power in the name given to a child. Great power.

There is so much I would like to find and share in line with naming systems all across the world, starting with my dear Kenya. This will take time and proper research though. I need to get my facts right!



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