The Etymology of Barack Obama: Is He a Blessing or Bent?

What does "Barack Obama" really stand for? It could be a blessing or something else.


After a half-brother of Barack Obama was found living in a shack in Kenya last month, it seems the Democratic presidential nominee has millions more Africans claiming kinship. Ethnologists now trace his tribal ancestry to Sudan.

Hawaiian, American, Kenyan, Sudanese—it's often remarked that politicians like to be everything to all people. But this passage, on the roots of his name, takes the cake: "Linguistically, 'Barack' is derived from 'Baraka' meaning 'blessing' in Arabic and Swahili, which is widely spoken in Eastern and Central Africa. Luo elders say 'Obama' does not have a solid translation in their Dholuo language but is similar to the word 'Obam' meaning 'crooked' or 'bending.'"

Given elected officials' penchant for overfamiliarity, voters now may correctly call the Democratic presidential candidate either a Blessing or Bent.