Khalifa was born on September 8, 1987 to a mother and a father serving in the military. His parents divorced when Khalifa was about three years old. His parents' military service caused him to move regularly: Khalifa lived in Germany, the United Kingdom, and Japan before settling in Pittsburgh.
His stage name is derived from khalifa, an Arabic word meaning "successor", and wisdom, which was shortened to Wiz when Khalifa was a young boy . Khalifa stated to spinner.com that the name also came from being called "young Wiz 'cause I was good at everything I did, and my granddad is Muslim, so he gave me that name; he felt like that's what I was doing with my music." He got his stage name tattooed on his 17th birthday. He includes Jimi Hendrix, Camp Lo, The Notorious B.I.G. and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony among his influences.