The Names Of Black Panther And Wakanda: Their Meaning And Significance

black panther movie still

Comic book creators and filmmakers pick some superhero names just because they sound cool. Other names, though, are chosen for their deep connection with a character or setting. Many of the names from Wakanda, the home of Black Panther, are especially rich in symbolism and significance.

Join us as we answer these questions and more:

  • Is there a real Wakanda that inspired the name of the technologically advanced supercountry?
  • What is Black Panther’s real name?
  • What does Namor’s name mean?

Warning: May contain spoilers. If you haven’t seen the movies, go watch them!

Is Wakanda a real place?

In the Marvel Universe, Wakanda is a fictional East African nation whose people have used its rich reserves of the rare (also fictional) substance vibranium to make it one of the most advanced nations in the world. Its name is not based on or connected to any real place in Africa. Instead, the name Wakanda is believed to have been based on a name used—in various forms—by Native American Peoples of North America, including the Omah, Ponka, Osage, and Kaw tribes. Though the name can vary in pronunciation and spelling from community to community, it is often used to refer to a supreme deity. When Black Panther debuted, members of the Osage Peoples noted that the name Wakanda in the movie is pronounced the same as their word for “Creator” or “God.”

Among some of these Peoples, the name Wakanda has also been used to refer to a legendary place of goodness that all aspire to journey to, sometimes also called “the country of life.”

Curious about the idea of infinite worlds, dimensions, and even universes? Read this list of terms related to the concept of the multiverse.

Why is the superhero named Black Panther?

Black Panther (the first Black Marvel superhero) and his people worship Bast, a panther god, and took their name from this deity. In the real world, the name Black Panther predates the superhero.

The name is particularly associated with the Black Panther Party, an African American organization most prominent during the 1960s and ’70s that was established to work for the advancement of the rights of Black people, often by radical means.

Organizers of the Black Panther party have said that the name was inspired by the animal itself (and its instincts of self-defense) as well as by the name of an earlier group: the Lowndes County Freedom Organization, which worked for voter registration and rights in the 1960s and used a panther as its symbol.

But that’s not the first use of the name. During World War II, a segregated unit in the US military was known as the Black Panther Tank Battalion.

What is Black Panther’s real name?

In the comics and the Marvel film series, the name of the original Black Panther character is T’challa. T’challa takes on the title of Black Panther upon becoming the ruler of Wakanda after his father’s death.

What does T’Challa mean?

In 2018, Marvel Comics clarified that, in the fictional language of Wakanda, the name T’challa means “he who put the knife where it belonged.” Perhaps a source of inspiration, Tchalla (without the apostrophe) is a common last name among people of the West African nation of Togo.

What does Namor mean?

In Marvel Comics, Namor is a half-human, half-Atlantean from the undersea world of Atlantis. His name is said to mean “Avenging Son” in the fictional language of Atlantean. The movie Black Panther: Wakanda Forever deviates from Namor’s comics origin story and also gives him a new name: K’uk’ulkan (meaning “Plumed Serpent God”), which is apparently based on the Mayan language Yucateco. In Wakanda Forever, as his people (called the Talokanils) defend themselves against Spanish colonizers, the young K’uk’ulkan is described by a priest as a niño sin amor (meaning “child without love” in Spanish).

Honor the indigenous origins of many English words by learning about their roots in the language of Nahuatl.

Other notable names from the world of Wakanda

It’s not always known why a name was chosen for a certain character or place, but in the world of superheroes, many seem to contain clues about a character’s traits. Here are some interesting linguistic connections to the names of Wakanda’s characters.


The name of T’Challa’s love interest Nakia fittingly means “pure and faithful” in Egyptian and “unconquered” in Greek.


Shuri is a princess of Wakanda and the sister of T’Challa. Shuri is a popular name in Japan, meaning “village” in Japanese.


Ramonda is Queen of Wakanda and the mother of T’Challa and Shuri. The name Ramonda is considered a variant of Ramona, which means “protecting hands.”


Okoye is a general of the forces that protect T’Challa. In real life, Okoye is used as a last name in Nigeria and can be translated as “someone born on oye/orie market day.”

Erik Killmonger

Black Panther antagonist Erik Killmonger is also known as Erik Stevens and N’Jadaka. His not-so-subtle nickname Killmonger makes use of the term monger, which can be used to refer to “a person who is involved with something in a contemptible way” or more literally to mean “a dealer in or trader of a commodity” (in this case, a dealer of death).

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