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Historicity of personal names in Tanzania: the case of the names in the Rombo-Chagga community in Kilimanjaro

Amani Lusekelo
Victor Mtenga


The history of African societies, which are mostly oral, could be deciphered through onomastics. This is possible because naming practices, which are elaborate, and personal names, which are meaningful, are cherished in African communities. In most cases, the circumstances at birth, which split into several strands, dictate the choice of the name by the name-givers. Naming practice is an elaborate phenomenon amongst the Rombo-Chagga people of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania on two grounds. On the one hand, clan names are associated with Chagga calendar and socio-economic activities, e.g. Mkenda „born during unlucky days‟. On the other hand, home-names reveal circumstances at birth and historical events within the family and beyond, e.g. Ndekir‟yo„I am cured‟. In addition, amongst the Bantu speaking communities in Sub-Saharan Africa, naming practices have been influenced by Christianization, Islamicization and colonization. The personal names of the Rombo-Chagga people reveal the strands of religious (formal) names and foreign (English or Kiswahili) names, e.g. Barakaeli „God-bless‟.

Keywords: Ethnohistory, Personal names, Language-in-contact, Rombo-Chagga, Tanzania