Name Types

Name Type is an analytic category not derived from the archival material. Each name has been assigned to one of the following eight types: place, aristocratic title, hypocoristic, Akan-derived day-name, other African, classical/classicizing, biblical,undefined.

Most of these types have been recognized in the scholarly literature (see SOURCES), but without universally-agreed criteria. The main new departure in this database is the separation of Akan-derived day-names from other African names.

Classifying names is not a precise science. The main types identified here include all those commonly recognized, but they do not exhaust all possibilities. Other types that have been identified include names that indicate the time of someone’s birth, such as the month or season, or birth order within a family.

Some names fit more than one category. For example the hypocoristic name Sam could also be regarded as a shortened version of the Biblical names Sampson or Samuel, while Mimmy may be a hypocoristic version of the Akan-derived day-name Mimba. Another example of a name that is difficult to classify is the apparently classical female name Phoebe, which appears to have merged with the Akan-derived day-name Phibbah (‘born on Friday’). The result, with its many variant spellings, cannot be assigned just to one type or the other.

Crossover names like these have not been exhaustively noted, and it would be impossible to do so with complete precision. All recorded names were subject to creolization: that is, their meanings, and sometimes their forms, evolved as they were used in new contexts. But even rough categorizations make it possible to track the variations in naming patterns from one place and time to another.

Corrections to the classifications offered here will be gratefully received.


Place names

Male slaves were often named after places, usually in Britain.

Hypocoristic names

are diminutive or pet versions of British names in common use: Bess for Elizabeth, Will for William, Johnny for John, etc.

Akan-derived day-names

These well-known and widely-used names, derived from the West African Akan-Twi language group, indicate birth on a particular day. Ordered by day of the week, they are: Cudjoe, Cubbenah, Quaco, Quao, Cuffee, Quamin and Quashee for men, and Juba, Beneba, Cuba, Abba, Phibba, Mimba, Quasheba for women (with many variants). They have been identified here separately from other African names.

The link between names and days is not always consistent; names have been standardized here to the listing found in Long’s History of Jamaica (1774).

Other African names

Included here are all names thought to be of African origin other than Akan-derived day names. African names in particular are likely to have been misrecognized or radically altered in transmission, because of the inventory-takers’ difficulty in distinguishing and recording sounds from unfamiliar languages. The allocation of names to this category is subject to revision in the light of important ongoing research in the area: see the Online listings under SOURCES.


This category includes both names used in Greco-Roman literature and names deriving from antiquity but widely used in the classicizing literary culture of eighteenth century England.


Names included here are mostly taken from the Old Testament. New Testament and other scriptural names are more likely to have been anglicized and to have lost their distinctively biblical associations.


Names listed as ‘undefined’ may belong to no identifiable sub-group; they may belong to one not defined here; or they may be members of one of the types listed here without having been recognized as such.