One of the most incredible elements of The Lion King is its breathtaking scenes in the heart of Africa. What’s more, all The Lion King characters have names with African roots.
Disney characters usually boast names that relate to their nature and purpose, and Mufasa’s lineage is no exception.
You may be surprised to know that the cast of The Lion King, with its loose connections to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, have (mostly) Swahili names that explain their significance to the overall mythos.
Even though there have been some criticisms of The Lion King, the popularity of the original film has led to several spinoffs in the form of movies, TV series, original books, video games, and a musical stage adaptation.
Many fans have fallen in love with the coming-of-age journey of Simba. Delve deeper into The Lion King world by checking out the list below to discover the meanings behind the characters’ names and the connections to their roles and personalities.
Simba meaning ‘Lion’
Simba is a fictional character who appears in The Lion King franchise. Introduced in Disney Animation’s 32nd animated feature film The Lion King, the character subsequently appears in its sequels The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride and The Lion King 1.
Simba was created by screenwriters Irene Mecchi, Jonathan Roberts and Linda Woolverton. While Mark Henn served as Simba’s supervising animator as a cub, Ruben A. Aquino animated the character as he appears as an adult. wikipedia
Nala meaning ‘Gift’
As Simba’s childhood friend and eventual wife, her Swahili name is very fitting. Along with Rafiki, she helped Simba find the courage to return to his home and reclaim the throne. She gave him both the gift of friendship and love in the film.
Nala is the deuteragonist of the Lion King franchise. She is Simba’s wife, Kopa and Kiara’s mother, Sarafina’s daughter, and the Queen of Pride Rock. She is voiced by Moira Kelly
Mufasa Meaning “King”
At the start of The Lion King, Mufasa (whose name is of Manazoto origin) is indeed the current king of the Pride Land. Also, since he was the first born son, it makes sense that he would be immediately bestowed with such a royal name.
Mufasa was one of the secondary protagonists in the Lion King franchise. He was Simba’s father, Sarabi’s husband, Scar’s older brother, Nala’s father-in-law, Kiara and Kopa’s grandfather, Ahadi’s oldest son, and the former King of Pride Rock.
In The Lion King, Mufasa and his mate Sarabi give birth to baby Simba, who grows up to be a spunky cub who can’t wait to be king of Pride Rock. So Mufasa teaches his son about being king and shows him the whole kingdom.
Eventually, Mufasa saves Simba and Nala from Shenzi, Banzai and Ed after being alerted by Zazu. Mufasa scolds Simba for almost getting him and Nala killed, but Simba said he was only trying to be brave like him; but Mufasa reveals
Zazu Meaning “Movement”
Interestingly, the name Zazu is a traditional Hebrew girl’s name and is commonly used in Hebrew-speaking countries.
This name was likely a literal connection to being a bird capable of flight, surrounded by grounded lions.
Sarabi Meaning “Mirage”
Sarabi’s Swahili name means “mirage,” which could serve to explain how Scar viewed the Queen of the Pride Land as the ticket to becoming king, but ultimately led to his downfall.
She was Simba’s mother, Mufasa’s wife, Nala’s mother-in-law, and the former Queen of Pride Rock. She was voiced by Madge Sinclair. After her death, Sarabi was written out of The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride.
Shenzi Meaning “Savage”
The sassy Shenzi certainly lives up to her Swahili name meaning, “savage,” as seen when the hyenas are harassing Simba and Nala.
The de facto leader of the three hyenas actually has a much longer full name.
In The Lion King 1 1/2, Timon reveals that her real name is Shenzi Marie Predatora Veldetta Jacquelina Hyena.
Kiara Meaning “Small, Dark Thing”.
As the protagonist in The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride, Kiara is a far cry from her Swahili name. Her desire for adventure was often blocked by her father, Simba, being overprotective.
In the end, however, she becomes the guiding light to help the Pridelanders and the Outlanders unite.