November 30th, 2007
Posted By:
Categories: About Ethiopia

One of the things parents are often curious about is the meaning of their Ethiopian children’s names. Most Ethiopian names have beautiful meanings. Here are a few basic rules of Ethiopian names. There are no inherited surnames. People take their father’s first name as a second name. Women keep their maiden name on marriage. Names ending in ‘-u’ are often male as this is the masculine form of ‘you’. Women’s names often end with ‘-esh’, the feminine form of ‘you are’.

Children will often answer to two different names, however. One name will be given at birth and be used at home, and a totally different name will often be given to the child at an older age and be used at school.


Children are often given names that have Christian meanings. Some common Christian elements of Ethiopan names include:
Gebre – ‘servant of’
Haile – ‘power of’
Selassie – trinity’
Giorgis– named after St George
Mariam–named for the Virgin Mary.

A list of names can be found at includes meanings of the names. A more extensive list of names can be found at Dictionary Of Names. Though it includes many names, it is not complete, nor does it include meanings of names.

One of the most helpful Ethiopian name websites on the internet is My Ethiopian Name. This site was put together by an Ethiopian gal named Rebecca who now lives in the US.

On her website she explains a little more about names. Men are called Ato (Firstname), with Ato meaning Mr. Mrs. is Woizero (Wzo.), and Miss is Woizerit (Wzt.) Therefore, a man called Yared Bekele would be referred to and introduced as Ato Yared. Women do not change their names when they get married, but simply take the title Woizero. So if Ato Yared marries Belaynesh Abebe, the new wife will be called Woizero Belaynesh, not Woizero Yared.

More about names

Naming your child Part One | Part Two

The Angelina Effect

Naming you older child

4 Responses to “Ethiopian names”

  1. Lisa W says:

    Just Curious…
    Has anybody experienced people they’ve sent their blog to thinking blogs are too personal to post? I’m already sensitive about what I write, but I have had someone mention something to me. Now it’s hard not to be paranoid. And I am not too least not for me.

    Blogs are written for many different reasons…and I think they are all great reasons.

    Lisa ;)

  2. channel5 says:

    This article is good, but one should be misled by the Fact that it is not about “Ethiopian names”. It is only Ethnic Amhara(which make up about only 28% of Ethiopian population) names of Ethiopia. There are other Ethnic and religious names. Including Oromo, Tigre, Afar, Somali , Southerners, gambella etc. There are also Islamic names.

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