The first scientific description of the African elephant was written in 1797 by Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, who proposed the scientific name Elephas africanus. Loxodonte was proposed as a generic name for the African elephant by Frédéric Cuvier in 1825. This name refers to the lozenge-shaped enamel of the molar teeth, which differs significantly from the rounded shape of the Asian elephant's molar enamel.
An anonymous author used the Latinized spelling Loxodonta in 1827. Anonymous was recognized as authority by the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature in 1999.