The African Meaning behind ‘The Lion King’ Character’s Names

Besides offering breathtaking views of African landscapes, Disney’s The Lion King also used names for the characters, which most have a Swahili meaning, a language of eastern and southeastern Africa. The opening of the song is sung in Zulu, which is a language of South Africa. Some of the story’s elements also pull from Masai tradition, which has its own language.

Read further below to find out what some of the character’s names mean and then let our Africa Specialists help you craft the most spectacular safari to expand your horizons and experience the magnificent wildlife in person!

Simba- “Lion, Courageous warrior”

Mufasa- “King”

Sarabi- “Mirage”

Nala- “Gift”

Rafiki- “Friend”

Zazu- “Movement”

Timon- “He who respects” “Honor”

Pumba- “Dim-witted”, “Dumb”, “Silly”

Shenzi- “Savage”

Banzai- “Sulk”

Ed- Just means, Ed! LOL


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