N<2 NIGERIAN NAMES
their structure and their meanings
and their meanings
T MY PIP L^ r
DAYSTAR PRESS, P. O. BOX 1261, IBADAN, NIGERIA.
First Published 1972
Modup Oduypye 1972
Printed by Abiodun Printing Works Limited Ibadan 3835/971
A Daystar Series
The series is planned to include studies of the personal names characteristic
of the peoples of Nigeria Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, Efik, Edo, Itshekiri and
This book, the first in the series, gives an idea of what will be achieved
through the series which we hope will be pleasing to all cultured Nigerians
and others interested in Nigerian culture.
This is not a dictionary of Yoruba names. If, therefore, you turn
the pages eagerly to find your own name or the names of your friends
and relations and they are not here, you should not be disappointed:
it is a dictionary of Yoruba names which should list all the items.
The subject of this book is the structure of Yoruba names. The idea
of such a book came into my mind in the course of teaching the Yoruba
language to adult non-native speakers for the Department of Extra-
Mural Studies of the University of Ibadan and the U.S. Peace Corps.
I found a distinct handicap in that the students invariably returned from
the class sessions to live and work in non-Yoruba speaking environments.
They therefore lacked opportunity for practice in real life situations,
*which is the one thing that might have helped them perfect what they
had learnt in class and remember them.
This book, then, is conceived as a language learning aid: whether
you have to speak Yoruba or not, you are likely to know some Yoruba
names and to meet them daily in the newspapers or hear them on the
radio or in the streets. If you know the structure of these names and
remember their meanings, you already have a basis for building the struc-
ture of Yoruba speech. For Yoruba names are structured like Yoruba
phrases and sentences; and they almost invariably have extant meanings.
This, then, is a minimum grammar of the Yoruba language. I
have been interested in the fact that one could write an almost complete
grammar of the Yoruba language using nothing but names for illustra-
tions. For teaching the language to non-native speakers, this has one
advantage: Yoruba names, whether phrases or complete sentences, are
written as single words. The names, therefore, mirror exactly the stream-
of-utterance situations. Instead of Ol r, mil'fekun as the sentence would
be written, the name is written as Ohlirmnilk'n which gives a better
guide for pronunciation and for conversation. For one does not pause
after each word in speech: the sentence consists of five words, but it is
one utterance. In learning to speak a language, one should be learning
utterances, not isolated words. Here is the value of the approach in this
All this apart, the subject of Yoruba names is itself of sufficient
interest to warrant treatment. Evidence of this is provided in the fact
that at least four books on the subject were being prepared for publication
during 1969. Non-Yorubas will find it interesting to read of a culture in
which virtually every name has an extant meaning and to compare the
sentiments contained in the names with similar sentiments in their own
The reader will have noticed that I insert the word "virtually"
whenever I speak of every Yoruba name having a meaning. Actually,
every Yoruba name has a meaning, but the meanings of some of them
are getting lost* just as many of the names are disappearing with changed
social and religious situations, which are the factors that produced the
sentiments which the names were meant to commemorate in the first place.
As often happens when a culture migrates, older Yoruba names
such as Konigbdgbe and Ojtmiri can be found now among the Creoles
in Freetown, Sierra Leone, who have kept up an unbroken tradition of
giving their children appropriate Yoruba names, even though the ability
to choose the names is no longer widespread, but has become the job of
consultants sometimes the older men and women in the community.
There is no doubt that personal and place-names are some of the
oldest elements in the Yoruba language, and a study of them will reveal
much about the past history of the language and the people.
I should like to express my thanks to Miss Kay Williamson of the
Department of Linguistics and Nigerian Languages, University of Ibadan,
who read the manuscript at an early stage and to Dr. A. Awobuluyi of
the same Department who read the final draft. Both Dr. Femi Kujore
of the University of Ibadan and Dr. Alfred Opubor of the University of
Lagos gave valuable editorial advice. The book was put into
final shape during the session 1969-70 which I spent in the Insti-
tute of Education, University of London, on a course in the provision
Most of the dmtotrunwd names, for instance, whose meanings can only be found
through etymological research.
of text books: I record my gratitude to the Christian Literature fund of
the World Council of Churches for the scholarship which made the
study leave possible; and to Mr. A. J. Loveridge of the Department for
Education in Tropical Areas who was tutor for the course.
Ibadan, 1971 Modup9 Oduygye
Preface .. .. .. .. .. 3
PART ONE: STRUCTURAL CLASSIFICATION
I. The Noun Phrase Juxtaposition of Nouns .. .. 11
II. The Simple Sentence: .. .. .. .. .. 13
(a) The Verb TO BE 1', n', ni.
The Verb TO BECOME d', di.
(b) Transitive Verbs
Doubly Transitive Verbs
III. Emphasis .. .. .. .. .. 19
(a) Inversion for Emphasis
(b) The Conditional Clause
IV. Compound Verbs and Splitting Verbs .. .. 22
V. Initial /i-/ dialects and Initial /u-/ dialects .. .. 24
VI. Short Forms Subject and Predicate .. .. .. 26
VII. The High Tone Before the Finite Verb Subject and
Predicate .. .. .. .. 28
VIII. Stative Verbs .. .. ... 32
IX. Titles: "To have" and "To Own" .. .. .. .. 35
X. Verbs of Motion: "Go home"/"Go to the house" .. 37
XI. The Noun Forming Prefixes /a-/ and /a-/ .. .. 39
XII. Grammatical Particles: f', i; t', ti; bd, etc. .. .. 43
XIII. The First Person Singular Pronoun .. .. 46
XIV. Preverbs: tun, jiutm, j9, tzubp, etc. .. .. .. 49
XV. Negative Particles: mdc, k6, ed, ii,.... ti .. .. .. 50
XVI. Diphtongization: ayO>ai; awv>au. .. .. .. 54
XVII. Oriki .. .. .. .. .. .. 57
PART TWO: CULTURAL CLASSIFICATION
What's in a name?.. ... .. .. 61
Muslim and Christian Names among the Yoruba .. .. 65
Ol6, Ol6wa, Qlrun God .. .. .. 68
Ori~i, Ori- Patron saints, special deities; head .. .. .. 69
If Augury .. .
Awo Secret Cult
Odu Oracular Utterance
O06 Seer ...
Ogun God of fire, patron of smiths ...
QdV Hunters .. .
Akin Valiant Warriors
Ogun War .... .. ..
Qna Artistic Genius.. .
Ayan The Sound of Drums..
Qya, O$un, Omi Rivers .. .
Opai, Efun Fertility and Plenty
QmQ Children .. ..
QOj, Eegun The Dead Come back to Life..
XIII. 'Tunde Reincarnation
Abiku Infant Mortality .
Vkuin, Ay' Weeping, Joy
Ade Crown, Royalty ..
Oye Title, Chieftaincy .
Q0in Chief .. ..
Qla High Estate .
Amft runway Names brought from heaven
Exercises .. .. .. .. .. .
S .. 69
.. .. 75
.. .. 79
.. .. 81
THE NOUN PHRASE
The simplest structure in Yoruba names is A B, where A is a noun
and B another noun juxtaposed to it. In this construction, noun B
qualifies noun A:
"Crown of high estate"
"The high estate of God"
"The high estate of the oracle"
"Thanks to God" (Gratitude to God)
"The care of God"
"The love of God"
"The prestige of high status"
"The oracular utterance concerning
"The joy of high status"
"The high estate of a title"
"The crown of a title"
"Spirit of honour"
"The honey (sweetness) of honourable
"The valour of high status"
"Bag of money"
"Crown of salvation"
"The mercy of God"
"A person (about whose birth there is)
- Ikv'ol U
- Ifol ii
- V niit"an
- Ade? un
- Ay ade
This is the simplest grammatical construction in Yoruba speech:
the noun qualifier follows the main noun.
"A year (famed in) story"
"Circle of honour"
"Crown of (family) circle"
"The crown of Opun"
"The glory of plentiful harvest"
"The glorious influence of mothers"
"The highway of honour"
"The joy of a crown"
"An increased allotment of honour"
"Gift of God"
"Gift of God"
"Gold of honour"
"A year of danger"
"The Ogin of royalty"
"The centre of honour"
"Beads of honour" (Cord of honour)
"Beaded cord of a crown"
(The) love (of) God ifgoli
(The) house (of) God I16 QlQrun
(The) mother (of) Q0 iya Q~s
(The) hoe (of) the King QkQ pba
(The) foot (prints) (of) a thief-
(The) brink (of) the river Eti od6
THE SIMPLE SENTENCE (a)
(i) Below is the structure of sentences like A is B:
"Father is (the source of) honour"
"Fame is (sweet as) honey"
"Ifd is (the source of) honour"
"Ifd is (a thing of) prestige"
"Ogin is (our) crown"
"A crown is (the essence) of a title"
"Ifd is (a reason for) thanksgiving"
"Children are (next of) kin"
"Children are (sources of) prestige" -
"Children are the summit of achieve-
"Children are (sources of) prestige"
"Ours is the crown"
"To God belongs the thanks"
"'Endless is (our) honour"
(ii) Below is the structure of sentences like A becomes B:
d' eji Ogundeji "Ogin becomes two"
d' iran Ogiundiran "Ogutn becomes hereditary"
d' iran Adediran "Crowns become hereditary"
d' oyin Adedoyin "The crown becomes honey" (sweet)
d' bkun- Adedbkun "The crown becomes a sea"
d' 9j Adedqja "The crown becomes a market"
d' Qtun Ad ddtun "The crown becomes new"
Qm9 1' ol0
Ti 'wa 1'
T' Oi 1'
* Yoruba verb TO BECOME has the meaning "to become" in the place name Kideti
"Death becomes a problem". It has the meaning "until" in the greetings 0 d' acro
"Until morning", 6 d' dba "Until (my/your) return"; O d' la "Until tomorrow";
0 d' igbd (6 se)" Until a time (when another meeting happens)"; and the lamentation
0 di gbere "Until the grave".
"Honours become eight"
"Crowns become two"
"Honours become two"
"Honours become many"
"Weeping becomes joy"
"Friendship becomes an honour"
"That for which they ridiculed us
has become a thing of honour"
THE SIMPLE SENTENCE (b)
A verb between two nouns A and B produces a simple sentence.
The verb may be the verb TO BE or the verb TO BECOME as in
the preceding sections of this chapter. It may be a transitive verb as
in the examples following -producing sentences of the type: subject,
verb, direct object.
(i) A monosyllabic verb before a vowel-initial noun is often manifested
as a vowelless consonant, because the vowel has been dropped before
another vowel. This type of elision is widespread in Yoruba speech:*
Ad6 ki 91a Adekqli "The crown collects honour"
Ade gb' 914 Ad6gbgla "The crown receives honour"
Ad6 gb' it Adegbit4 "The crown receives a throne"
Ogun gb' uyi Ogingbuyi "Ogun receives respect" prestige
Ogin gb' ade Ogingbad "0g4n receives a crown"
Og6n $' 914 Ogun~gla "Ogzn does an honourable thing"
Ol A eyi Oli06yi "God did this"
Oli 914 OligQlh "God wrought elevation"
Oliu y O16iye "God made an adornment"
Ifai uyi Faiuyi "Ifd did (us) an honour"
Ade6 91l Ad6 9la "The crown makes a fanfare"
cf. Ad6 914 -
Ol aaini Olfiainiu "God wrought mercy"
Ogun 1 i yq Og6nl "Ogfin has dignity"
Ad6 ni iyi Adeniyi "The crown has dignity"
Qdun 1 i Ami Qdfinlimi "Festivals have distinguishing marks"
Oli 1 A i mint Ohihinu "God has mercy"
Qla 1 i y QlalhyV "Status has dignity"
0$6 1 i y $61yl "Seers have dignity"
Obi 1 i 0y Obilye "Parents have dignity and respect"
Ade 1 i my AdeVlyV "The crown has a gracefulness"
Ifa 1 i eti Failti "Ifd has ears" (to hear prayers)
Ade ni iyi Ad6niyi "The crown has dignity"
Ade ni uig Adenfigh "The crown has a royal courtyard"
Ade ni ik Ad6nikV "The crown has (need of) care"
Ad6 ni iji AdIniji "The crown has protection" (to offer)
* Where the elided vowel is a high tone vowel, we have indicated it with the symbol
to show that the high tone is not dropped with the vowel elided, but transferred to
the next vowel. In Yoruba orthography, elided vowels are shown with an apostrophe,
Sno matter what their tone may be.
So far, we have chosen examples where the finite verb is preceded
by nouns which end on a high tone: Ade, Olt, iOgn, etc. When the
noun before a finite verb ends on a mid-tone or a low tone, a high tone
before the finite verb can be distinctly heard:
Awoi l l0 wi
Oye i ni uga
Odu N ni yg
Ay id d' eji
0ke i d' iji
Qte i gb' ye
- Ok diji
"The cult has (power to win) respect"
"Titles (generally) have courtyards" -
"Diviners have dignity"
"Joy becomes two"
"The hill becomes a refuge"
"Civil strife attains dignity"
The high tone before the finite verb is a relic of the 3rd person
singular pronoun 0 which historically occurred between the subject
and the finite verb: Awo: 6 ii iwO,Oye: 6 ni i gd, OdiO : 6 ni ye, etc.
(Compare Kin' i de? with Ki 6 ded? "What's the matter?") It is assi-
milated to the final vowel, of the subject, so that Oye: 6... becomes
Oyee -, Baba: 6... becomes Babad -> Baba--(Babaitunde), etc. See
(ii) When the vowel of the verb is not elided but the initial vowel of the
object is elided:
Ad6 la 'bu
Olu w9 '16
Olu kg Aya
Olui $ 'gun
Ade ye 'm9
Ade ye 'fr
QmQ iye '16
Akin iyq '1e
Babai iy jui
Odu iyq 'y'
Odu isan 'w6
Ade san iya
Olu san iya
Oki san i ya
- Ades "ny "
"The crown crosses deep waters"
"The Lord enters the house"
"The Lord champions the cause of the
"The Lord breaks the resistance"
"A crown befits the child"
"The crown befits Ifd"
"Children confer glory on a home"
"A valiant man confers dignity on a house"
"Fathers confer dignity on children's
"Oracular utterance rejoices at a title"
"Oracular utterance pays money"
"The crown compensates for suffering"
"God compensates for suffering"
"The dead avenges punishment"
Ad6 la i ja
Oku la ija
Ade kQ i gbg
Ogun da 'na
Ogin Pi 'na
Oyei Pi 'na
Qnahi i '16
Ade 9 'ye
Odui san iya
Ade la ina
Ifa la ina
Ade Ie ike
Ade pi igbin
Awo i la ilA Awo6l"lI
Olu gun 'na Olugunna
Odui gun iwa Oduguiwa
Ifd gun 'wa 'Faignwa
Qla gun 'ju 'Lagunju
"The crown parts those locked in combat"
"The dead settled the quarrel"
"The crown refuses the bush"
"Ogun blocks the way"
"Oguin opens the way"
"A title opens the way"
"The artist opens a house"
"The crown watches over a title"
"Oracular utterance compensates for suf-
"The crown cuts a path"
"Ifd cuts a path"
"The crown ascended a hill" (The crown
"The crown opens the Igbin drum"
"Divination saves a city"
"God straightens the path"
"Oracular utterance straightens character"
"Ifd straightens character"
"High status sets one's face straight"
(iii) The object may be the 1st person pronoun mi/mi "me":
Oli f? mi Olhifmi "The Lord loves me"
Ade y< 'mi Adeygmi "The crown befits me"
Akin iyq mi Akinygmi "Valour befits me"
Ade kq mi Adekgmi "The crown takes care of me"
Ori yq mi Oriygmi "(My) head saved me"
Ifd ye mi 'FaiyVmi "Divination befits me"
Ift gbe mi 'Fiigbemi "Ifd supported me"
I16 san mi Ilesanmi "Home benefits me"
Or the demonstrative iyi (
Ade bi iyi
Akin i bi iyi
Iku k9 iyi
lgbk k9 iyi
"The crown gave birth to this"
"A valiant man gave birth to this"
"Death refused this one"
"The bush refused this one"
iv) The 1st person pronoun is an indirect object in the following:
Olu bhn mi
Qdq ibun mi
Ifi bin mi
Baba ibun mi
"God gave me"
"The hunter gave me"
"Ifd gave me"
"Father gave me"
(v) There are a few doubly transitive verbs in Yoruba verbs which
take two objects: a direct object and an indirect object. The verb is
immediately followed by the indirect object as above. Next comes the
direct object preceded by the particle li/ni:
"God gave me joy"
"The oracle gave me a crown"
"One who teaches children fop-
Translate into Yoruba:
Father gave me
Mother gave me
Teacher gave us
Please, give us
God, give us
Jowo, fan mi
wa ii ouinjg
ni t' mi o
Olu fan n
A- kO 'mp
The structure of the sentence where the verb TO BE was used to
indicate identity resolves into X 1' Y, where X is a noun and Y is another
noun. The names below show constructions where Y is a clause with a
subject and a finite verb:
S 1' Y
Ow6 1' a bi
Akin 1' a bi
Qj I' a bi
Qt 1' 6 rin
- Owolabi "It is money we gave birth to"
"It is money"
- Akinlabi "It is a brave man we gave birth to"
"He is a brave man"
- OjVlabi "It is an Qjj we gave birth to"
"He is an jW"
- OtQ16rin "It's a different route he walked"
"It's a different one"
The inversion from A bi ow6 to Ow6 1' a bi effects emphasis by
putting the object first: object, copula, subject, finite verb.
Note that when followed by the continuous particle /n/ or the habitual
particle /i/, the mid-tone pronouns become low-tone. The mid-tone
pronouns are Mo"I", O "You", A "We", "You":
0O6 1' an k'*
Ade 1' a wai*
Aye 1' a i gbe
- ~6al ikv
"It is a seer we are taking care of"
"It is a seer"
"It is a crown we are looking for"
"It is'a crown"
"The world is the place where people
"It is the world"
Inversion for Emphasis:
(It is God we are begging)
-- ----- ----. God is (the person whom) we are
Subject to be Clause (It is palm wine I am drinking)
S--- ---Palm wine is (the thing) I am
06 ni a nik drinking
---- -. (It is a fish I am drawing)
'$6 nik Fish is (the object) I am drawing
Ade 1' a iw (It is Lagos I am going) to
.---- --- Lagos is (the place) I am going
(It is iydn we are eating)
lydn is (the food) we are eating
(It is my work I was doing)
My work is (the job) I was doing
(It is money they are looking for)
Money is (what) they are looking
The Continuous Particle: /i/ before the verb*
Qld i re 'wajui
Ad6 i re '16
Qlai d bi wgn ni 'nu
A ii j9 i rin
O~6 1' at n k
Ad6 1' a n wi*
- Adenrel6 '
"Honour is moving forward"
"The crown is going home"
"(Our) fame is causing them
"We usually move around
"It's a seer we are petting"
"It's a crown we are looking
This grammatical particle is usually written as a prefix attached to
the verb: Qlci re 'wdjzi, Aded ire 'ld, Qld rhbi wpn ni 'nui, A 7jp i rin,
Q06 I' a nkO, Add e' a nwd.
Translate into -Yoruba:~
The Conditional Clause
(i) Bi+ ...(b) ...
Bi 6 bai ki
Bi yi 6 kiu
Bi ol6de b kiu
(ii) i ba ...
A* i bi... [a. bai]
M i ba... [m bai]
A i ba yo mi
- Byibk i
M i bi k6 [ri bi kik]
Qdun (ti)ri i ba ki Qduinmhbaikfi
A i ba k[ [a ba k?]
Qmp 1' a i bi ka QmglAbaik
"He did not die"
"If he does not die,...
"If this one does not die,..."
"It the market master does not
"We would have..."
"I would have..."
"People would have ridiculed
"I would have died"
"The year I would have died"
"We would have petted..."
"It's a child we would have
+The Yoruba particle bi "if" never loses its /i/ when followed imine-
diately by the negative particle /6/. This is one of the few ways in which
it contrasts with its homonym bi "as, like" which occurs in the names
Boldtit Bi 91a ti t6 "As big as status is", Adibiifd "Black like Ifd",
Agunbiade "symmetrical as a crown".
*Indefinite plural, used in situations which in English would have
required the use of the passive voice. The passive voice is absent in
COMPOUND VERBS AND SPLITTING VERBS
"to collect" ... "to arrive"
K6 're de
Ki ayo d6
Ki 91l de
Ki 91q wQ '1e
Ki 9hin d6
T~ .. wo
Ti aye wo
Mu ... d
Mi Akin de
Mi nbun de
Mu ... wa
Mi Akin wai
Mu iyi wa
Gbe ... d
Gbi 9la de
Gb ... han
Gbi 91l han
Gbi ... b9
Gbi ade bO
- K91id e"
- K hinder
"Gather good things in"
"Bring joy in"
"Bring honour home"
"Bring honour into the house"
"Bring up the rear"
"to pludk" ... "to look at"
- Taiwo "Taste the world (first)"
"to take" ...
"to carry" ...
- Gb `iid
"to carry" ...
- "to carry" ...
"Bring home the valiant man"
"Bring a gift home"
"Bring the valiant man"
"Brought this one"
"It shows, it is visible"
"Bring back the crown"
- Adeyink i
... "to coil round"
"Honour surrounds me"
"Crowns surround me"
Yi .. ka
Q91 yi n kai
Ade yi n kai
mQ ... ka
IlA m& 0 ki
Each of the compound verbs is a root verb in its own right. They
are used together with the object in between, thus expressing ideas which
are too complex for each of them to express alone.
Some disyllabic root verbs are erroneously thought to be a fusion
of monosyllabic compound verbs. They are, therefore, sometimes
split into two parts, like compound verbs. These verbs have therefore
been called splitting verbs:
pa.. .d < padA1 "to convert" < "to go back"
Ifi p'ohun da 'Fapohunda "Ifd altered its voice"
da...r6 < dir62 "to detain" < "to stay, stop"
Ifl dai iyi r6 'Fdair6
Qdqidai iyi r6 Qd dair6
"Ifd keeps this one waiting"
"This hunter keeps this one back"
dA...p' < dap93 "mixed together"
D' 9la pQ
"Mix high class together" (in an alliance)
"Honours are mixed together"
"Crowns are mixed together"
"Honours cluster together"
bi. ..ni 'nu < binu5 "to annoy" < "to be angry"
Qla mi bi w9n ni 'nu
"Our status is annoying them"
1 cf. Hebrew padah "to ransom", i.e., "to buy back"
2 cf. Hebrew hadal "to desist"
3 cf. Arabic 'idafa "addition"
4 cf. Hebrew 'asaf"to gather"
5 cf. Ancient Egyptian b'n "evil", Coptic bon "anger"
"to know" ... "to coil round"
- il6mqika "The city knows him all round" (The
whole city knows him)
INITIAL /i-/ DIALECTS
INITIAL /u-/ DIALECTS
In Yoruba nouns of the structure VCV, where the initial vowel is
/i-/ in the QyQ/Ibadan dialects, it is /u-/ in the Ondo-Ekiti/Ijjbu dialects.
Initial /i-/ and initial /u-/ in Yoruba are therefore dialectal alternatives.
The /i-/ of the Qyg/Ibadan dialects now prevail in the common
dialect. But Yoruba names offer evidence of the prevalence of the /u-/
Ifa 1' uyi
Ifi $' uyi
Ifi gb' Uhi
Ade 1' igba
Ade 1' uimg
Ade ni h ig
A-bi smi uiga
(Ifa n' iyl)
(Ifi e iyi)
(Ifi gba iilui)
(Ade ni igba)
(Ade ni imQ)
(Ade ni iga)
(A-bi si ig"a)
Ifia:e b'hlu'i j (Ifa 6 ba ilu' jq)
Ad6 bbi si uyi (Ade bu si iyi)
Akin 1' uyi (Akin n' iyi)
QEin i uliu (QEiina il'i)
Ewe t@i uiga (Ewe t6 'ga)
"Ifd is dignity"
"Ifd confess dignity"
"Ifd takes the city"
"The crown is the
"The crown is knowledge"
"The crown has a palace"
"Titles have palaces"
"One born into a palace"
"Ifa does not ruin a city"
"The crown adds todignity"
"Valour is dignity"
"The chief has a city"
"Leaves are as important
as a palace"
Oguituiga < Ogun t ig (Og6un t6 'gh) "Ogfin is as big as a palace"
The syllable [nu] betrays the names in which they occur to be Ijebu
names. All other dialects have n only before /i/, substituting /1/ before
other vowels. In the same way, the syllable [li] betrays the name Awdliyi
as igba: all other dialects have n before /i/.
Can you tell from what parts of Yoruba land the following names
$6naike $6n6iki Okuin
Lipid6 Li~ibi Liitan AdenVkan Lijadfi OdiineyV
(cf. Adel ye, Olily2)
F igb A I
Ade iigb -
The /-/ dialect area l0
The/u-/ dialect area ^
[L-] [s] [s]
l-J [s] Is]
ko % notle
The /i-/ and /u-/ dialect distinction coincides with a shibolleth/
siboleth dialect distinction: wherever the speakers of the /i-/ dialects say
the shibilant sh, the speakers of the /u-/ dialects say the sibilant s, and vice
versa. The common dialect has drawn its features from both groups: it
has the /i-/ and not the /u-/. But it chooses its sibilant and shibilant
according to the practice of the /u-/ dialect group. Examples are:
"yams'' isu usu
"work" is? uq
Yoruba names have short forms. In most cases there are two possi-
bilities for short forms: (i) subject and (ii) predicate.
'Deji Qlideji Qla
'Trb Adetbrb Ad6
'Goke Adegbke Ade
'Laja Ad6liji Ad6
'Lana Adelana Ad6
'Sanya Ol1s~nyi O1u
'k tA OdiiWt'
In trying to shorten Yoruba names, non-native speakers tend to
break the names into meaningless halves, thus revealing that they are
unaware of what constitutes a meaningful unit of speech in Yoruba.
Freetown Creoles tend to do this. I knew a boy who was called Mbdi!
You wouldn't guess that we were namesakes.
The name Modo~pi can only be broken into Mo (subject) and d1ipN
(predicate). As the subject means no more than "I", it is never used as a
short form of the name. Modtpi, then, has only one short form: 'D p
meaning "Give thanks". Mbdi, in contrast, has no meaning.
In 'Mglard, 'Mpl ye, 'Moddel, 'Motdya and so on, the sentence is
left structurally intact. Only the subject Qmp* is shortened: the initial
vowel of the VCV noun is dropped. Indeed, the initial vowels of VCV
nouns in Yoruba are there partly to distinguish the part of speech -
to separate the VCV nouns from the CV verbs of the same consonantal
root. Whenever there is another way of deciding the part of speech, the
initial vowel is not considered indispensable the practice of elision
takes care of it: it is dropped in context.1
Elimination of Initial Vowels in VCV nouns
If0i O06 Ade lye
'Fa... '6... 'De... 'Ye...
'Filgli '$6lafik' 'D6degk 'Ye6tnd6
'Fawgql6 '$6w1pl 'Delana 'Ye6wnde
'FS9agli '$6nubi 'De6sil 'Y6jid6
Qlai Ikui Qm9 Oni
'La... 'Ku... 'MO... Li...
'Lidiipg 'Kukgyi M9d616e Lipd6e
'Laiitin 'Kum61ou Mtaiyo Liitain
'Labisi 'Kfuor6 M(wunmi2 Lishbi
'Laisinde 'KuijQ'r Lijhad
* When the final mid-tone vowel becomes high tone in a name, it signals the fact
that the following verb is a finite verb. Otherwise, it is the verb TO BE.
1 The Fon of Dahomey regularly drop the initial vowels: for Ifd, they have Fd; for
Ogitn, they have Grn; for Orisd (Ol/sa), they have Lisa.
2 Molard has middle tone on the first syllable. Why ?
THE HIGH TONE BEFORE THE FINITE VERB
In affirmative sentences in Yoruba, there is a high tone before the
finite verb.* It results in the following changes of tone in the subject:
* U ...
* The verb TO BE is a copula, a link between two nouns. It is not a finite verb.
The Lord enters the house
The crown fits me
Honour appeals to me
(I like honour)
Honour returns from overseas
A seer enters the house
A seer appeals to me
(I like a visioner)
Divination befits me
A child is enough for joy
A child comes again
A child appeals to me
(I like children)
The cult has respect
The cult avenges wrong
The man of secret arts draws a line
The valiant man
The valiant man repays an injury
Valour appeals to me
(I like bravery)
Father comes again
Father saw me and ran away
Mother comes again
Mother has come to look for me
Joy comes again
Joy arrives in the house
A title opens the way
Oracular utterance rejoices at a title
Art fits God
___1_ 7 __ _
The patron of iron workers
(The worship of) Oguin befits me
Birth confers dignity on me
Children fill the house
The family pets (it) together
tki did a thing of honour
The dead settle a quarrel
Plentiful supply fills the house
The sea becomes a lagoon
The dead come back to life
Oj arrives home
Civil strife repays a wrong
(The divinity of) the hill opens the
OQun The Lord
The pun River is (as big) as the sea The Lord is good has done
well with me.
Stative verbs describe the state of a thing', not an action, not "what
a noun or pronoun does". Yoruba, like the Semitic languages, uses
stative verbs immediately after the subject where English would use
adjectives after the verb TO BE :2
Ade pj jiu
6 din jui
6 ju oye
6 din j' oye
Qla dun j' oye
Epo i yuin
6 tuti -
It is plenty ( 6 plenty)
It is larger, bigger, older
It is too much
-Adeptjui Crowns are too many (in our family!)
It is sweet (6 sweet)
- Ibidin Childbirth is sweet
It is too sweet
It is greater than titles
It is sweeter than titles
- Qlaidnjoye An honourable state is sweeter than
It is sweet (IjQbu)
- Ep6yun Oil is sweet
It is far (6 far)
- Onajin (The) way is far
It is cold/wet/soothing
-Adftuti The crown is comfortable
It is clear (6 clear) like water when
the sediments have settled
Adetbro The crown is well ordered and at peace
1 Hence they are called "descriptive verbs" in E.C. Rowlands, Teach Yourself YO-
RUBA (English Universities Press, 1969) Note how the verb jui is used to express
the ideas of"... than" and of the superlative degree.
2 Hence they are also called predicativee adjectives."
6 16 Qkan
Qli 16 kan
Qm9 i wpn
It rises up
It rises up (in number) by one
- Qlilekan Status goes up by one rung
It is expensive
- Qmiwin Children are dear (not easy to come
6 t6 It is enough, sufficient
6 t6 okun It is as (big) as the sea'
Q)un i t6 ikun Q06nt6kun (The) Q)un (River) is as big as the sea!
OdAi t6 91a Odiitlai Oracular utterance (divination) is
sufficient to confer status
Akin i t6 91i Akint4li Valour is enough for honour
Baba i t6 Q91 Babaitlai Fathers are enough to boast about
Ogun t6 byinb6 Ogint6yinb6 Ogin is enough to match the
(strength of) white men!
Ade t6 ola Ade6tQii A crown is enough to boast about
T' emiit6 ay9 Temitaiy9 Mine (my affairs) is sufficient (cause)
T' emiit6 9p9 Temitbp Mine (my affairs) is sufficient (cause)
Sometimes an active verb is used after a stative verb. In this structure,
a particle high tone i occurs between the stative and the active verb:
Ade t6 i wun Adet6wiin "The crown is enough to elate one"?
Ol0 t6 i yin Olit6yin "God is enough to praise"
Olu t6 i sin Olit6sin "God is enough to worship"
Ifa t6 i ki Fait6ki "Ifd is enough to salute"
QOun it6 i ki Ofint6ki "OQun River is enough to salute"
Ifai e i sin Faiesin "Ifd is possible to worship"
Qlai e i ni Qa1ieni "Fame and honour can be possessed"
Ow6 we i ni2 Ow6 eni "Money is possible to own"
Qli dun i ni Qlaidinni "High status is sweet to have"
Qmgidin i bi Qmdiunbi "Children are sweet to have"
Ow6 dun i ni Ow6dinni "Money is sweet to have"
1 Contrast O1u t6 'ye "God is as valuable as a title"
Ol t6 i sin"God is enough to worship"
2 "It is impossible" It cannot be done is Kb se i se (kb sed se).
K6 t6 i yq Kbt6ym "It is not enough to sneer about(?)
In speech, the particle i is assimilated to the preceding vowel:
'Td6yin, 'T66sin, t66ki, Fedsin, 'sedn4, dinznni, diunmnbi.
TITLES: "MASTER OF.../LORD OF..."
- Lord of Owu
- Lord of Ake
- Lord of the palace (at yyd)"
- Lord of Ek6
- Lord of QwP
- Lord of Ikijd
- Harbour master
- Lord of heaven: God
Ol6diumare Lord of splendour, full of glory: God
The one whose glory spans the skies like a rainbow
Alide the crowned one.
To form a noun meaning "the owner of...", use as a prefix to the
noun the initial vowel of the noun plus /1/, the initial vowel of the noun
being raised to a high tone. When the initial vowel of the noun
is fi-/, the consonant /1/ is realized as n. In this case, the prefix vowel is
/o/. For nouns which begin with a consonant, use as prefix oni-.
lcf. Qldfin < ofin, with the same meaning as Alddfin < ddfin
The following names are composed of a subject which is a noun of
ownership, e.g. onipe, and a predicate, e.g. the verbs de "to arrive", yp
ali* "white" (white cloth as emblem of Qbdtdld)
alaila "the one in white"
AlRlAd6 "Here comes the one in white"
oro "the bull roarer"
ol6r6 "the terrible one"
O16r6de "Here comes the terrible one"
Ayan "The sound of drums" the patron saint of drummers
Alayande "Here comes the master drummer"
qna "artistic genius"
Qlna "the artist"
Qlnade "Here comes the master artist"
Ifi "The Yorubai divination system"
Onifii "The diviner"
Onifide "Here comes the diviner"
onipq "the consoler"
Onip de "Here comes the consoler"
onibi "one who has given birth"
Onibiy9 "One who has given birth rejoices"
(91 "elevated state"
91Qla "a man of high estate"
QI`ided "Here comes the honourable one"
oniyl "the man of dignity"
Oniyid6 "Here comes the dignified one"
*cf. funfun laid "pure white".
VERBS OF MOTION:
"Go home" / "Go to the house"
yin "go" (ljbqi & Ekiti)
bO "come, return"
d6 "arrive, return, reach"
t, "go after"
- Ade6 i re '16
- Akinire '16
- Odu-ee yiun 'gb6
- 6 yuin 'gb
- Ma 19 mQ
- Eni 19 1' 6 bQ
- Qlai re 'waijui
- AkinilQ tin
- Ad6 wa '16
- Q91 de6'16
- Qla wai '16
- QmQ:6 de '16
- Ayo:6 de '16
- Ad6 b?
- Ad6 bw wai '16
- Ade b' ajo
- Ade b9 ogun
Ma'i kind e-
lya :6 bg
Baba:6 tin de
Iye:6 tin d6
Ql0 tun de
Qla yi de
Qla be d6
Qla bg si 'po
QmQid hin bQ
Qla dqhin de
Qla s hin de
K hin de
M' buin de
M' akin de
M' akin wdi
K6 're de
K' 9la w9 '16
Akin:6 to mi d6
Note the non-obligatory role of the preposition /si/ "towards".
idiomatic to omit it after wd "come", bo "return", re "go", etc.
It is like English Go home (in contrast to Go to the house) and Come
home (in contrast to Come to the house). Latin had domum, an accusative
without a preposition, after verbs of going to mean homewardss". In
"He came here"
"He got home"
"He got here"
6 de si
Mia b m f
"He lodged here"
"Come here" (an instruction)
"Come on here" (an invitation)
A- bi si ogun Abis6gun "One born in a situation of war"
A- bi si iAga Bisugh "One born into a palace"
A- bi qduin
A- bi i osq
A- b i l9i
A- bi i oye
A- bi i gna
"One born during a festival"
"One born on the Sabbath"
"One born into fame"
"One born into a chieftaincy title"
"One born on the road"
When the preposition s/.is omitted, the high tone is retained--
transferred to the following syllable: Mb n 19 i 'ld "I am going home"
Mb n lp i ko6 "I am going to Lagos".
THE NOUN FORMING PREFIXES: /A-/ and /A-/
(i) The low-tone prefix /A-/ forms abstract nouns from verbs or
verb phrases. In the names below, it means "A thing which....",
"A person whom...".
A J9 k
A b% k"
A ri k
A bi k
A ji kg'
A dik k'
A pd bi
A 'ai k
A yo kd
A gbe kq
A ri y
A dun ni
A kan ni
A kan bi
A ja ni
A ja ka aye
Someone whom we are all to pet* together
Someone who has to be begged so that we
may pet him
Someone who only needs to be seen to be
Someone born to be petted
Someone whom one pets daily on waking up
Someone whom people scramble to pet
Someone chosen to be born
Someone chosen for petting
Someone surrounded with joy
Someone to be carried and petted
Someone whom men rejoice to see
Something sweet to have
A child conceived with a touch(?)
A child born with a touch(?)
Someone possessed through struggle
(A war) fought all round the world
S(ii) The mid-tone prefix /a/ means "the person who...". The full
form is fni ti 6.
1Ini ti 6 bi Qdun rin AbQdiinrin One who walks in with a
A bi qdq rin
- Ab drrin One who walks with a
* "to pet", i.e., to spoil (of a child) with affection.
A bi 6rig8 d6
A bi gya de
A bi Qsq d6
A bi ee6gn d6
A bi Ifi rin
] ni ti 6 dira mg 91a
A dara maija
A ri ibi sa lIt
A k 9Qmp 1' af
Aji e af
1ni ti a bi si 'nu Qdun
A bi si 'nui oy '
A bi si nia
,ni ti 6 di bi Ifid
A g6n bi ad6
A ke6r d' Oli
A k6r6 le
A ri ogun de ade
- Ab6rigade One who arrives with the
- Ab6yade One who arrives with the
Oya River (Niger)
- Ab sVd6 One who arrives on the day
of rest (Sabbath)
- Abeginde One who arrives with the
- Abifairin One who walks with Ifa
- Adaram9li One who is good whose
goodness goes together with
- Adaramija One who is so good that he
does not quarrel
- Aribisail One who finds a place to
run to for safety
- Akimghlif One who teaches young
men neatness and dandy
- Ajisaff One who wakes up and
begins to fop around
- Abi diun One who is born into the
midst of a festival
Abi6ye One who is born into a
- Abigna One who is born on the
- Adubiifi One who is black like Ifa
- Aguinbiade One who is erect like a
- Akeredolh One who in spite of being
small becomes master
Aker6le One who in spite of being
small is strong and tough
Ar6gundide One who on seeing a battle
puts on the crown
1 See also Abis6yd
A gb6 aj6 gun ori it Agbaije
A ni Ifi ni aje
A ji bi ikg
Aji bi owui
Aji d' agba
A ji s' af.
- Anifi lij6
- One who carries prosperity
on to the throne
- One who has Ifa and has
- One who wakes up to find
- One who wakes up to.meet
- One who becomes an elder
right from youth
- One who wakes up and
proceeds to set the pace
Elimination of the Mid-tone Prefix /A-/
- - -
Give the Yoruba names for the
A child who walked in with the
A child who arrived with the
A child who came with the Sabbath
One who walks with the hunter
One who walks with the oracle
One who arrived with the goddess
of the River Niger.
Sub- Translate into Yoruba.
ject b~ i ni il6 I met honour in the house
.- -- I met father at home
Ad6 We met teacher in school
Qmp > Qmo bA 9ia na 'e1 We met him on the way
Akin > Akin I met Jide in (this place)
(i) The Instrumental Particlefi /f' "with"
f' Ql4 bi
f' 91a kq
f' Olu k
f' gla mi
f' ade k
f' 91a gb' ade
f' 9la rin
f' Olu ,?
f' 9la yan
f' ija bi
f' ol9 hain
f' ara sin
f' ow6 ra
f' ade re 'ra
f' 9la ?' ade
fi mi han
"(A child) born with high status"
"The crown pets (him) with honour"
"The crown cared for this child with
the help of God"
"Breathe with honour"
"God used a crown to pet this child"
"Receive a crown with glory"
"The crown walked with honour"
"Watch over the child with the help of
"One who struts around with fame"
"Born with strife"
"The seer exhibits fame"
"The crown is hidden away"
"OQi bought with money"
"Ifd bought with money"
"She did not purchase distinction with
"I put under the protection of God"
"adorn the body with a crown"
"Make a crown out of honour"
"Fame pointed me out"
See the following:
f' iw a ay6 Fiwa'aye
f' 0j'ay6 -
f' Fr 1' agba --
f' ej sisn -
f' iyajq -
Instru- noun verb
mental or and
particle pronoun noun
(ii) The Preposition tilt' "from..."
t' ... verb
t' 6kun b Adetbkunb "
t' ugb6 bb Tugb6b "
t' ile wa Motilewi.
t' inui k Atiniik
"Conduct life with good character"
"Enjoy life without haste"
"consult elders about a problem"
"make a report"
F' iku 'ere "Play with death"
F' iw a 'aiye "Go through life with
Fi pen kQ'we "Write with a pen"
Fi fork jun "Eat with a fork"
Ta l'of' QWQ kdn mi? "Who tou-
Qnafgwkain (Qnaif'qwQ kan) "The
F'qhin ti 6giri "Lean on a wall"
The crown returns from overseas"
Returned from the bush"
I came from a home"
A child petted from the womb"
Ni 'gba ti mo t' Ek6 de
Amut runwd (A mu t'grun wa)
A t'Orun b9 wd j'aiye
M6 f t' 6de b9
M6 fi t' 9ja b
When I arrived from Lagos
That which is brought from heaven
Coming from heaven to enjoy life
I am coming from an outing
I am coming from the market
(iii) Association: the particle bd...
bi n ji Qlabainji
bai n k Adebank
bi 9la ji MoblaIji
bi oye j9 Ad6b6yejq
b~i n d6 '16 Bdndel6
bai n t 'fTi Bantafi
ba n kg '16 Bank916e
ba m gbi o 6 Bamgb6e '
'Fame woke up with me"
'The crown helped me to pet"
'I woke up with honour"
"A crown fitly associates with a title"
"Get home with me"
"Help me to set down the Ifi board"
"Help me to build a house"
"Help me fetch the double-axe"
Get home with us "Ba wd de '16"
Sit with them "Ba wVn j6'k6"
Wa bd wa jeun, Oluwa "Come eat
with us, Lord"
Ba mi j6ko "Sit with me"
Ba mi d6 '16 "Get home with me"
Ma j6ko 1' asan "Don't sit idle"
THE FIRST PERSON SINGULAR PRONOUN
(i) Subject Mo:
Moduip Mo duip~
Mojishla Mo ji si 91a
Monilli Mo ni ii 9ia
MosiinmQla Mo sun m glai
Morakiny Mo ri akin yo
Morvnikv Mo ri eni k9
Moraiden Mo ri ade h6n2
Mor6hunfgla Mo ri ohun ffn 9lla
Mor6hundiya Mo ri ohun di iya
Mor6hunmuib Mo ri ohun mu b
TmgQri Mo t 9qmp ri
Moeebilaitin Mo ebi 9Ql tain
- Mo t' ile wa
- Mo ba qlaiji
- Mo f' QlPrun so
- I give thanks
- I woke up into high state
- I have a part in honour
- .1 move near high achievement
- I saw a valiant man and
- I (have) found a person to pet
- I found a crown to boast
- I found something to give to
- I found something to com-
pensate for suffering
- I found something to bring
- I nursed a child once
- I thought attainments had
- I came from (a) home
- I woke up with high status
- I guard (and protect this child)
with (the help of) God
(ii) Predicative mi (after mid tone and low tone words)
mi (after high tone words)3
Fasanmi Ifi san mi Divination has done me good
1 Thank you, in Yoruba, is A ddpe "We give thanks"
2 hun/wun: h followed by -- u > wu.
3 Often the direct object. See page
- Oliwa i san mi
- e16 san mi
- Olu f< mi
- Ade y mi
- Ifi gbb mi
Predicative mi/mi as Indirect Object
Olfif6nmilay9 Olui fuin mi li ay
Olubunmi Olui bun mi1
FAbinmi Ifi bun mi
Bababunmi Baba i biun mi
QdbtUnmi Qd1 i bin mi
l06rmilkiun Olu rm mi li ekfun
(iii) Possessive mi (
Olimid6 Olu imi i d6
Arimide Arai mi i de
Ojumiri Oju imi i ri
- God gave me joy
- God gave me
- Ifd gave me
- Father gave me
- The hunter gave me
- God consoles me in my
- My Lord arrives
- Here comes my kith and kin
- My eyes saw (trouble)
(iv) In non utterance-final positions, the first person pronoun tends
to be articulated as a mere syllabic nasal; [m] when followed by a
bilabial consonant (b,p,m,kp,gb),  when followed by a velar
consonant (k,g,w), and [n] when followed by any of the other con-
Abimb hi A bi m bi Qla I was born with high state2
$6wainde OS6 wa n d6 The seer came here to look
Yewaind lye i wai n de
$ing6winwai $ing6 wi n wai
$6bainde O6 bi n de
- Mother came here to look for
- Sdng6 came here to look for
- The seer arrived with me
1 The verb bun "give" takes mid tone mi after it, although it is a low tone word. This
is an exception, a result perhaps of the fact that bun is an alternative reflex of fin,
which has a high tone.
2 Yoruba has no passive voice. Where English and other languages which have a
passive voice use the passive construction with the agent unstated, Yoruba makes
an active voice statement using as an hypothetical agent the plural pronouns A
"We" and W6n "They" as indefinite pronouns.
- God is good to (/for) me
- Home is all right for me
- God loves me
- The crown fits me
- Divination rallied round to
AdebainkV Ade ba n k
Qlabainji Qla ba n ji .
OlUfinmilayq Olu fin n ii ay9
Adebimpe Ade bi m pe
Qlibimtan Qli bi m tain
Fabanw6 Ifi ba n wo 6
Bandele Ba n de '16
Oliffinkv Olu fin n $Q
OluiffinQ Olu fun n k
Oluifntg Olui fun n to
AdebanjQ Ade bai n jq
Qdunmbaikui Qdun rh ba ku
Babarinsa Baba N ri n sai
Adegbenr6 Ade gbe n r6
Fagbenl6 If- i gbe n 16
Adkianmbi Ade kin ml bi ?
- The crown helped me to pet
- High status woke up with me
(in the morning of my life)
- God gave me joy
- The crown gave me my birth,
and did a finished job of it.
- Honourable people gave me
my birth, and they did a
- Ifd helped me to look after it
- Get home with me
- God gave me to guard
- God gave me to pet
- God gave me to guide (bring
- The crown fits me (matches
- The year I would have died
- Father saw me and ran away
(died at my birth)
- The crown lifted me upright
- Ifd lifted me aloft
- Does the crown come to my
A preverb is a particle which normally occurs immediately before a verb.
All the particles cited below are adverbs: they say something about
the manner of the action of the verb.
tun d61 Qlat6nde
tin ji QIatunji
juim bi Ade6j6mbi
jium kk Ade6j6m k
j9 kl IbijQk
j9 bi Og6nj9bi
tuib suin Qlaitib suin
"Honour comes again"
"The child comes again"
"Mother comes again"
"Father comes again"
"Honour is revived"
"The crown has got up again"
"Crowns assembled to give birth to this child"
"Crowns assembled to give birth to this child"
"Fame gathered to pet this child"
"The family pets together"
"Ogun gave birth to us jointly"
"Hunters gave birth to us all"
"Honour advances further"
1 See, however, Aje tun 'mQ bi Aje6tnmobi,
A tin 'wt se Atunwase
(i) Kb / 6 in indicative sentences:
K6 si q9k
K6 ki mQ
K6 f' ow6 r' Q91a
K6 t6 i yf
Ade 6 ti
Qla 6 0e 'bi kan
Bi 6 b ki
"There is no hoe"
"He no longer dies"
"She did not buy high estate with
"It is not enough to...."
"The crown does not fade"
"Honour does not dwell (ex-
clusively) in one place"
"If he does not die,..."
(ii) Ki i/i i- negative particle ki/i plus habitual particle i:
Qlai i tan Qlaiitiin "Achievements of h
(iii) Mdd before high tone words
Mai before other words in I
Mdi 19 m9 MAilQmQ
Mai sQ mi ni Maisgminu
Mdi b' oobgn jq Miboginj
Mai da 'ri kan Midarikin
Mi jq ki 6 dun mi MaijVk6dhnmi
Maa f" MaifV
Mai ti ilui kuir6 Maitilufk
The subjunctive particle ki after j9
"Prosperity never perish"
"Don't go (away) any more"
"Don't throw me away"
"Don't ruin a medicine"
"Don't turn round to meet (me)"
"Don't let it pain me"
"Don't marry him/her"
"Don't leave the town"
Mai jq k'6 dun wd Don't let it
Mai jk k'6 din w n Don't let it
Aje6 i igb6
(iv) The Negative: ...ti. (See 0 ti "No")
O k a'
0 ka a ti
6 $' rain
O6 arhn ti
Eeo Oran ti
Ifi: ee $' pran ti
0 ku ti
(v) The Ohd6/Ijqbui Negative Particle (also Ekiti and Ijai)
ee before high tone
ei before mid and low tones
Akin 6 ki gbe
Akin 6 kui gbe [Akinikigb6] Akinkiigbe
Akin 6 bg 'hun
Akin 6 bp hhn [Akinibphiun] Akinbhhiin
Akin 6 t. mi
Akin ee tq mi [Akinittmi]
Awo 6 o' ikt
"Brave men don't die in
"Brave men don't lose
Akintimi "The brave man does not
let me down"
"He read it"
"He tried in vain to read it"
"He tackled a matter"
"He tried to solve a problem, but failed"
"He never failed in an attempt to solve a problem"
"Ifd doesn't try to solve a problem without succeed-
"He couldn't die" < Kiti
Awo 6ei ika [Aw6i$ikh] Aw6oikh*
Ifi 6 o' iran ti
Ifi 6ei ran ti [Faiipranti]
Ifd 6 b' iu'lu jq
Ifi e6 b' iiWu jq [Faibiiuij?]
Ow6 6 ti Q9m9
Ow6 6e ti q9m [Ow6itQmg]
Qmp 6 li aye16
Qmg 6e li ity16 [QmAliyl16]e
Ifi 6 ji uyi tin
Ifi 6e ji uyi tin [Fd~ijyitan]
Qa 6 ni ip kun
Qli 6e ni ipqkun
Akin 6 ni igbagbe
Akin 6e ni igbigbe -
Ogun 6 yin akin nui
Ogun 6e y'akin nui
Urun 6 eee iw6*
"The cult does not do any
Fa`irinti* "Ifd never attempts a pro-
blem and fail"
Fabiulhij* "Ifd does not ruin the city"
Ow6t m9 "Money is not as valuable
QmOly?16e "There is no cause for joy
in children" (except with
those who receive burial
from their children)
Faijiiyitin "Ifd does not let (our)
Qlanipqkun "Elevation has no limit"
"Brave men are exempt
from the possibility of
- Ogiinyankin "Ogin does not leave a
brave man in the lurch"
- Riinewe "Something did not hap-
pen to this one (Nothing
happened to this one)
* Iwe is Ijebu dialect for "this one"
Urun is Ijebu dialect for "thing"
All these names illustrate the importance of the assimilated low tone
(marked i). As it is never indicated in the orthography, the names
marked* have suffered mispronunciation by speakers whose dialects
have, instead of the Oind6/ljbii negative particle e/ei, the Qy4/Ibadan
negative particle kb/o (which now prevails in the common dialect).
Because the Ohd6/Ijqbui e/ei has an effect similar to that of the
high tone before the finite verb, many people have missed the negative
in these names. They have misconstrued Aw6imika as Aw6$ika "Awo
did a wicked thing" and they pronounce Fdiiordnti as Fd;prdnti "Ifd
attempts a project and fails". In both cases, the results are the
opposite of the meaning intended.1
The same tendency has been extended even to the Qyd/Ibadan
Qla ko6 e 'bi ikan
Ql 6 o e 'bi ikan Qlhiaebikan "Honour doesn't dwell (exclusively) in
any one place"
This is the name of the author of Learning Yorubd (O.U.P.) It appears
as Layebikan. The negative particle is lost, and the way is open for con-
struing the name as "Honour dwells (exclusively) in one place."
1 This perhaps fortifies Ayq Bamgbose's suggestion that the assimilated low tone be
marked in Yorubb orthography. He suggests a dot on the line: Aw6.sikh. See his
DIPHTHONGIZATION: ay(V)>ai; aw(V)> au
There may be disagreement on the question whether there are diph-
thongs in Yoruba. The point does not seem to me worth arguing about,
for it is a matter of terminology. Readers who do not like the term
"diphthongization" are free to give a different name to the phenomena
which we study below:
1. T Q ay w6
Ti aye wo
2. Qli yi wq 'la
3. Qli yi d6
4' D e yi ni
Dai iyi ni
5. Da byi r6
Dai iyi r6
6. Dai yi si
Dai yi si
- [ta-y6-wb] (3 syllables; /y/ a consonant)
- [ti y -wo] (2 syllables; /y/ a semi-vowel;
- [9-li-yi-wg-la] (5 syllables; /y/ a consonant)
- [9-la y -wg-la] (4 syllables; /y/ a semi-vowel;
- [q-li-yi-d6] (4 syllables; /y/ a consonant)
- [9-1d y -de] (3 syllables; /y/ a semi-vowel;
- [da-yl-ni] (3 syllables; /y/ a consonant)
- [da yi-ni] (2 syllables?; /y/ a semi-consonant;
- [da-yi-r6] (3 syllables; /y/ a consonant)
- [da yi-r6] (2 syllables?; /y/ a semi-consonant;
- [da-yf-si] (3 syllables; /y/ a consonant)
- [di yi-si] (2 syllables; /y/ a semi-consonant;
1 Shortened to Tai in the first name of Tai Solarin.
2 Shortened to Lai in the name of Lai Tailoring Service.
7. Ajayi [a-ja-yi] (3 syllables; /y/ a consonant)
[a-ja y]' (2 syllables; /y/ a semi-vowel;
8. Daw6du [da-w6-du] (3 syllables; /w/ a consonant)
[di w-du]2 (2 syllables; /w/ a semi-vowel;
Diphthongization is accompanied by the loss of a syllable--a
result of the ambivalent interpretation of the glides /y/ and /w/ when they
occur between vowels. They can be taken as semi-consonants, in which
case they form a syllable with the following vowel. They can be taken
alternatively as semi-vowels, in which case they form a diphthong with
the proceeding vowel.3
/h/ behaves in the same way:4
K6 ohin d6
Kmi hin de [kq-hin-de] (3 syllables; /h/ a consonant)
K hinder [kqh-in-de] (3 syllables; /h/ has lost whatever con-
sonantal value it had)
[kq-in-de] (/h/ lost)
The same process is followed by the following:
Qla s' hhin de Qlas index
Oku s' qhin de Okuisinde
Qla d' qhin de Qladinde
06 d' qhin de $6d ind6
F' ?hin t' 9 l Fihint9lh (3 syllables)
Akin i gb' hin Akingbiin (3 syllables)
Da 'hun si i5 DAhinsi
Mo ri ohun6 ffin 9la
Mo ri ohun fi 9la Mor6unfIlai (4 syllables)
1 Hence the nineteenth century spelling of the name of Bishop Adjai Crowther.
2 The same name as came to Yoruba land later through Islam as Dauda, through
the Bible as David.
3 The diphthong is often initiated by a high tone.
4 Ahin = eyin in the speech of some people.
5 The 3rd person pronoun object after high tone monosyllabic verbs show this change
in the common dialect: g6 e ( > ge) "cut it"; mfi u ( > mu) "take it"; j6 o ( >jo)
"burn it". Two syllables (high, mid) become one (mid tone).
6 See onje ounje < ohun jije "food < edible thing"
Mo ri ohun mui bp
Mo ri ohun mui b?
Ade ri ohun k"
Ade ri ohun mu
Olu ri ohun bi
Ki a ri ohun wi
Each of the following names has three syllables: Alh6, Akin6,
Adi6, Ajo6, Amp6, Abo6. I cannot give any meanings for them. They
originate in little oriki, and names of endearing. See next chapter.
It will be seen that Aldo, Akdn6 [dkSd], Adid, etc all have the tone
pattern M U i the same tone pattern as most of the names in the two
tables on page 39; Ab bi, Abqkq, etc. All these are oriki "pet names"
as Samuel Johnson calls them on page 85 of The History of the Yorubas:
This is an attributive name, expressing what the child is, or what he
or she is hoped to become. If a male, it is always expressive of some-
thing heroic, brave, or strong; if a female, it is a term of endearment
or of praise. In either case it is intended to have a stimulating effect
on the individual...
The use of the attributive name is so common that many children
are better known by it than by their real names. Some do not even
know their own real names when the attributive is popular. But
there is a method in the use of it; as a rule, only children are addressed
by their oriki by their elders, especially when they wish to express a
feeling of endearment for the child. It is considered impertinent
for a younger person to call an elder by his Oriki or pet name.
*It is not easy to find a name for this in English because the usage does not exist
among the English people. "Oriki...is a little more than the "cognomen" among
the ancient Romans. The nearest I have found to it are the invocative recitals of
Virgil in his Aineids. In these books Virgil describes his heroes and his principal
actors and actresses by giving their genealogy trees and re-counting the heroic
deeds of their deified ancestors.
In Yorubaland two categories of oriki are easily distinguishable. There is a per-
sonal oriki and the family or ancestral oriki." Ogunleye Agunbiade-Bamishe,
Know The Yorubas (Ibadan, 1968) pp. 32-33.
These one-word oriki must be distinguished from the longer literary
genre of the same name: to the little oriki may be applied the term "praise
name", to the longer oriki should be applied the term "praise poem".
This latter will not concern us in this study; it is a literary-historical
genre in itself: every great man, every family, every town has its oriki;
every animal worth celebrating in verse has its own: so does every divinity.
They are treated at length in books such as Oruk9 Yoruba by C. L.
Adeoye (1969) Awgn Oriki OrilO by Adeboye Babalola (Collins, 1967).
The first chapter of Rogelio A. Martinez Fure's Spanish anthology,
Poesia Yoruba is on Oriki "la poesia de los dioses y los hombres". See
also Oriki by Bakare Gbadampsi.
A Yoruba person's full name (before the post 1840 "Christian
names" and "surname" innovation) had three elements:1
Oruikg Oriki Orilq
(name) (pet name) (totem)
AbiPdun Ala6 Erin
Ajibik Abqnni Qkin
Adejfim9 Ajiamui Ogin
Fagbemi Ak 'n6 Qgq
The items in the third column are known as Orilo:
"The term Oril4 denotes foundation or origin, and is of an immense
importance in the tracing of a pedigree. Each one denotes a parent
stock. The OrilH is not a name, it denotes the family origin or Totem.
The real meaning of this is lost in obscurity. Some say they were
descended from the object named, which must be a myth; others
that the object was the ancient god of the family.
The Totem represents every conceivable object e.g. Erin (the elephant),
Ogun (the god of war), Op6 (post), Agbb (a ram), etc. The number
of totems of course is large, representing as each does a distinct
1 It must be observed that this system was most at home among the Northern Yoruba-
the i-dialect group. In fact, the -o oriki are rare among Southern groups like the
2 Samuel Johnson, The History of the Yorubas, pp. 85-86. For a list of the orile and
the families they signify, see p. 86. Also page 195 of J. O. Lucas, The Religion of
the Yorubas and pp. 6-12 of C. L. Adeoye, Oruko Yoruba.
Ile a i wo, k' a to sp 'mp l' orukp
WHAT'S IN A NAME ?
A lot. The Hebrew for "name" is shem, the Arabic is 'ism. Both
are cognate with Arabic wasama "to brand, to mark". A name, then, is
a mark, a wasm, "a mark, a brand". To be nameless is to be without
identity. A name identifies the person.
Yoruba has the root wsm/'sm: we say sdmi "to put a mark on...".
You can trust Yoruba to break that CVCV verb into a "verb-nominal
collocation": from sdmi we have back-formed the VCV noun dmi "a
mark, a sign". Only s- is left; we do not know what to do with it alone.1
Sdmi has now been restricted to the branding of non-human beings:
we mark things and brand cows, but we name people. Our word for a
name is orikq. What is its origin?
Let us begin with the Yoruba for "to mention":
Yoruba ddrukg "to mention" (d-r-k-)
Arabic dakara "to mention" (d-k-r-)
Assyrian zikaru "to mention, to name" (z-k-r-)
So, here we have an Afro-Asiatic triconsonantal verbal root d-r-k-/d-k-r-:2
Semitic keeps that intact; but Yoruba "analyses" it looses it up into a
"verb-nominal collocation": ddrtkp "to mention" (>dd 'rtkQ "to mention
the name of..."). -rukg "name" was then restructured and given legitimate
lexical status as a VCVCV noun by the usual noun-forming process of
vowel prefixing: -rukQ>orukg. Here is an illustration of the statement of
Ferdinand de Saussure that "the vast majority of words are, in one way
1 For if sdmi is a verb plus noun, and dmi is the noun, what is the verb? This is not
a case of ellision from sa dmi. The Hausa reflex of the root is sdna "name".
2 Metathesis often takes place where /r/ is one of the consonants. See Yoruba erupe,
Hebrew 'apar "dust". Robert Lord says on page 92 of Teach Yourself Comparative
Linguistics that "consonants (1) and (r) are the most frequently metathesised conso-
or another, new combinations of phonetic elements torn from older
Yoruba orukQ "name" was back-formed from ddrukg "to mention,
to mention the name".2 They go back to the root d-r-k-/d-k-r- whose
basic meaning is found in Hebrew zakar "remember". OrtkQ "name"
is something to remember a man by not a mark, not a branding, but
a linguistic symbol, a name. "The modern notion of 'remembering,
psychologically viewed as the act of an individual mind, is quite alien
to the Hebrew conception, which is in the first place communal, and
closely related to the idea of the name."3
This relationship between the concept of a name and the idea of
remembering can be illustrated from another branch of the Hamito -
Semitic family: Middle Egyptian rn (Coptic ran) is glossed as "name".
There is no such root in Yoruba with the meaning "name". But it occurs
with the meaning "to remember":
rdn mi li eti4 "remind me"
rdn 't[ "remember"
ni mi ni 'ran "remind me" (Ijjbu dialect)
ni 'ran5 "remember" (Ijjbu dialect)
1 Course in General Linguistics (New York, Philosophical Library, 1959) p. 169.
2 It is unfortunate that E. C. Rowlands mentions ddruk9 when speaking of "a number
of 'verbs' of two or more syllables which are actually compounds of a verb plus
a noun." (See page 136 of his Teach Yourself Yoruba). dd- in ddruko which he
assumes to be the verb he glosses as "make". Would ddruko then mean "to make a
name"? The truth is that no meaning can be assigned to dd- in ddrliko by itself,
not even on the principle enunciated on page 132 of E. C. Rowland's book that
"the meanings of monosyllabic verbs are dependent on that of accompanying
words". Whenever one is tempted to apply such a principle, one should suspect
that one is dealing with homophonouss verb roots" (See Kay Williamson on page
88 of IBADAN, No. 26.) Each of them has a different etymology.
3 A. G. Herbert, "Memory, Memorial, Remember, Remembrance" in Alan Richard-
son, ed., A Theological Word Book of the Bible (S.C.M. Press, 1950) p. 142.
4 As with most of such causative constructions in Yoruba, the significant word -
often an archaic word whose ability to stand by itself is no longer appreciated -
is amplified with words specifying the part of the body which comes into the action.
ran mil'owo "lend me a hand" (help me)
ran mi l'erk "help me with the load"
ran is cognate with Arabic rahma" mercy", Hebrew ralhamim "assistance, help".
ow. is cognate with Middle Egyptian 'wy "hands"; erli is cognate with Middle Egy-
ptian hry "under, carrying".
5 Hence "a generation" is iran, which illustrates lexically the connection between
memory and history, between the recall of king lists (genealogy) and folk history.
We can pursue the root further. When in Genesis 2, it is said:
"Male and female created he them", the Hebrew word translated as
"male" is zakar. Now, what has zakar "male" to do with zakar "to re-
member"? Brown, Driver and Briggs say on page 271 of A Hebrew
and English Lexicon of the Old Testament that the relation of zakar
"male" to the z-k-r- "remember" root is obscure. Yoruba would seem
to share this obscurity: the Yoruba for "man" (male) is pkunrin [okuiri],
the same consonantal root as orfiko with metathesis.1
Yoruba ddrukp is cognate with Arabic dakara; Yoruba orzkp was
back-formed from Yoruba ddrik9; Yoruba 9kunrin [okuiri] is related
to Hebrew zikkaron "a souvenir". They all go back to the idea of re-
membering. A name is what we remember a person by: a male child is
that one that keeps the name of the father from lapsing into oblivion.
This is the relation between z-k-r- "to remember" and z-k-r- "male".
The Afro-Asiatic society was a society that valued a male child speci-
fically because he stayed on in the family and was not given away in
marriage. He perpetuated the memory of the ancestor. He was a zeker
"a memorial" kuinrin "male", zikkaron.2
Let us start by warning the reader not to play the folk etymological
game by back-forming ori "head" from the word oriki. Not so soon after
we have just been talking about oruko. Orako and oriki have the same
consonantal root: -r-k-. Orutkg is the linguistic symbol by which you
remember an individual ; oriki is the literary form by which you remem-
ber him within the history of his family, clan and tribe. Hence the genea-
logical content of oriki.3
1 The nasalization in okinrin began from the final consonant, like the /n/ in Hebrew
zikkaron, and spread through assimilation: [okurin] > [okinrin] The
process is still going on in obirin "woman" (cf. Arabic' imra' "woman" Agni
Ivory Coast bla "woman", Beri obla "woman") more frequently spelt
obinrin. I differ from Archdeacon J. O. Lucas, Religion of the Yorubas, pages 92-3.
What Archdeacon Lucas calls "nasal n" in the footnote is the orthographic device
in Yoruba for showing that the preceding vowel is nasalized.
2 zikkaron has the word-formative suffix /-an/, found in Lebanon (
3 See S. A. Babalola, The Content and Form of Yoruba Ijala (O.U.P. 1966) pp. 23-4
and Awon Oriki Orile (Collins, 1967) p. 11. See also E. Bolaji Idowu, Olodumare,
God in Yoruba Belief pp. 9-10 and Ogunleye Agunbiade-Bamishe, Know the Yorubas
(Sketch Publishing Co., Ibadan, 1968) pp. 32-4.
"It is thought that the recital of the oriki arouses in the child a
strong feeling of solidarity with its blood relations...'1 For the oriki
finds a secure place for the restless child in the midst of a host of ancestors.
The oriki invokes a host of ancestry, and the child is made to experience
"the communion of saints". "There are widely publicised stories of
many a mentally ill person who has been cured through the repeated
performance, in his hearing, of the oriki of his lineage."2 It is a way of
tracing a man to his roots, to his genesis a way of integrating him into
a closely-knit web of family relationships and thus rescuing him from
The Jews had a liturgical or sacrificial memorial, the zikkaron
or azkarah, "translated in the Septuagint by the word mnemosunon,
synonym of anamnesis, the word used at the Last Supper."3 Thus
at the service of Holy Eucharist Christians recite the oriki of
God: "Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Maker of all
things, Judge of all men." We praise him, we bless him, we worship
him, we glorify him.... We chant the oriki of Jesus: "the only begotten
Son, Jesus Christ, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, that takest away
the sins of the world,.... that sittest at the right hand of God the Father."
We say a creed different from the Apostle's Creed, because the Eucharist
is a service of Memorial and we want to be able to recite the oriki of Jesus:
"the only begotten Son of God. Begotten of his Father before all worlds,
God of God, light of light, Very God of very God, Begotten, not made,
Being of one substance with the Father. By whom all things were made..."
This is not ranting but praise: it is oriki. "And God remembers"4.
Just as among the Yoruibds, "it is traditionally believed that the correct
performance of oriki in honour of a progenitor gladdens that progenitor
in the world of the spirits and induces him to shower blessings on his
offspring on earth."5
1 S. A. Babalola, The Content and Form, p. 25.
3 Max Thurian, The Eucharistic Memorial (John Knox Press, Richmond Virginia,
1960) pp. 23-25ff. "The term zeker, .has, unlike zikkaron and azkarah, no primary
liturgical importance; it signifies the memory of a reality in thought or word and
hence often the name of a person".
4 ibid p.24.
5 S. A. Babalola, The Content and Form, p. 24.
MUSLIM AND CHRISTIAN NAMES AMONG THE YORUBA
Christianity came into Yorubaland in 1842, Islam a century or two
earlier. With these two religions came the adoption of Semitic names by
Yoruba converts, converts to Christianity taking Biblical (Hebrew and
Greek) names-like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Theophilus, Stephen-
converts to Islam taking the Arabic forms of the names: Ibrahim, Isiaka,
Yakubu, Yusuf. These names are not Yoruba names, and Yoruba persons
who have such names usually have indigenous Yoruba names in addition.
They are likely to be called by the Yoruba names at home.
It is not easy for the Christian called Abraham to see that he has the
same name as the Muslim called Burdaim ; few people know that Isaac
[Aisiiki = Isidkd, that Jacob [Je6k94bi] =-Y Yakbiu, Joseph [Jo6s&fii]
- Yszfifi, David [D6ffiidi] = Ddzidd, Moses [Mo6siisi] = M4sd,
Gabriel [Ge6buri li] = Jibrild, etc.' Even less easy is it for most people
to realise that many of the Hebrew and Arabic words in these Semitic
names have indigenous cognates in the Yoruba language antedating the
coming of Islam to Yorubaland or the planting of Christianity in Yoruba-
Thus Old "God" had been in Yoruba land before Arabic 'al-lah
"the (one and only) God", or the Hebrew 'El "God" (in Gabri-el, Dani-el,
Micha-el, Beth-el) was known to the Yoruba. And ddnti "mercy" had
been a Yoruba word before Hebrew hanun "merciful" came with the
Biblical name Yohanin (John) "Yo (Yahweh= Jehovah) is merciful".
Moses (Muis), the name of the greatest of the prophets of Israel, was
given to him in Egypt where he was born. It is the ancient Egyptian
word msi "to give birth", msw "to be born" which is found in the ancient
Egyptian names Tuthmoses "begotten of Thoth", Rameses "begotten of
Ra". Moses, Tuthmoses and Rameses have been popularised in their
Greek form with the Greek -es/-s noun ending.
Egyptian msi occurs indigenously in Yoruba misi found in Qyd misi,
the title of the kingmakers at QyQ, kingmakers by virtue of their being
"begotten at Qyg", being descended from sons of the soil. It occurs in
1 The Isaaki, Jakobu, Josefu, Dafidi, Mose in the Yoruba Bible do not reflect the actual
phonetic modification of the Biblical names in the speech of Yorubas. The names
themselves have travelled to Yorubaland by a round-about route, via the Septuagint
and the Greek New Testament, the Latin Vulgate, and the English Bible from
where they were transliterated into the Yoruba Bible, where the Epistle of James is
called the Epistle of Jakobu even though the Yoruba Christian with the name
James is called Jdemiisi. The Jakobu for the James of the English Bible is a carry-
over from the usage of the Greek New Testament.
Yoruba mesi found in Mesi Qg', the nick-name of the people of Ibadan,
"begotten of the hill", a reference to the devotion of the Ibadan people
to Oke 'badan "the Ibadan hill" which, according to legend, offered
refuge to Ldgel, the founder of the city.1
The first generation converts tended to throw away everything in
the indigenous culture as pagan; only subsequently did it begin to dawn
on people that God in sundry times and places has revealed himself in
diverse forms. Bishop James Johnson, it is said, refused to christen babies
with Bible names which their parents desired in preference to the "pagan"
Yoruba names which were available to express the same sentiments ex-
pressed in the Bible names. It was the semantic parallels which impressed
the bishop; he could hardly have known that the Yoruba language itself
was related to Hebrew or to Arabic.2
Christianity and Islam have had at least one effect on Yoruba names:
by persuading the Yoruba converts to reduce the number of divinities
they worshipped to only one, they have had the effect of reducing the
number of theophoric prefixes in the Yoruba names chosen for children
from Christian and Muslim homes-no more Ogtn-bhnmi, Fd-bfnmi,
Qpd-yemi, Jffin-kOyd or Oricd-fank',; only Olf-binmi, Olii-fafin, Ol-k yd,,
Ola-ffnkg. The ancient variety of Yoruba names and Yoruba worship is
preserved now in the names which have become fixed as "surnames" -
family names. Thus the Qsdnyin in the surname of the late Bishop
Qsdnyin indicates nothing of the religion of the bishop himself; it merely
shows the ancestral belief of his forefathers.
In ancient times every male Aldydnde would know how to play the
drums, every male Qndb6lu would be skilled in some art, every male
Oj labi would be initiated into the cult of ancestral masks: religions and
professions ran in families. This made the babaldwo's question "What
is your name?"- meaningful. "What is your name? What is the name of
your father? What is the name of your mother ?" And a lot of background
information would have fallen into his hands. It was as it used to be in
1 Ldgelt itself, like other mythological names, is symbolically given: it breaks into
Ld-gelu. The first is the particle of ownership of a thing or a quality. The second
part is cognate with Hebrew gal "mound, hill" in Gal Ed. Ldgeli means something
like "mountain nymph" the one on the hill.
2 See Modupe Oduyoye, "Yoruba and Semitic Languages: Linguistic Relationship"
in the Nigeria Magazine, No. 99, Dec. 1968.
England: every Smith was close to the smithy; every Mason came from
a family of builders; every Carpenter was connected with that trade.
Today, a Mr. Mason may be a fisherman or a lawyer, a Mr. Fisher may
be a smith, and a Mr. Fowler may not have hunted for game in his life.1
The Yoruba believe that a person's name affects his behaviour:
they say, OrukQ ri rb 6, his name is having a psychological effect on his
behaviour. Whether one understands how this happens or not, the
responsibility for choosing a meaningful name for one's child or grand-
child should still be a solemn undertaking. For the name one gives to
one's child is the name the world will call him throughout life.
1 Williams, Moore, Syngle, Lucas, Fisher, Smith, Fowler are only a few of the English
surnames which can be found as surnames among the Yoruba. The explanation is to
be found in the history of the Yoruba contact with British missionaries first in
Freetown, Sierra Leone, and subsequently in Abeokuta. The incidence of such
names is therefore highest in these two places. Similarly, Portuguese surnames like
Branco, Perreira, Jacintho, da Rocha were actually brought back from Brazil -
reminders of the trans-Atlantic slave trade to South America and the return of the
exiles after the abolition of slavery. Most such names can be traced back to the
"Brazilian quarters" in Lagos. There is nothing funny about these "foreign" names;
they are a true reflection of significant events in the history of the bearers. Nor is
there anything funny about Mr Wood or Mr Stone: the reader may consult J. W.
Freeman's book, Discovering Surnames, or such manuals for their explanation.
Oli "God" (Lord, Master)
Olif mi Olu f< mi
Oluisnya Olu san iya
Olujinmi Olu jin mi
Olukmi Old kq mi
Olfty9mi Olu y? mi
Olufymisi Olu yq mi si
Oluifinmik' Olu ffn mi k'
Olir"mil'kun Olu rq mi li 9kln
Olfkayd6 Olu ki ayd de
Oluigun Olui ogun
OlffinnQ Olu fiin mi ~
Olligyq UOli e qyq
Oluflanu Olf 1i6 Iini
Olufbuisla Olu biu si 9ia
Olfbuikunglai Olf bu kin 91i
OluikQya Olu k iya
Oludare Olu dai are
Olfw mimO Olu wM mi mQ
Olut6ye Olu t6 oye
Olu06yi Oluf e eyi
Olfmidd Olu imi i de
Oludfmbg Olum b
Olubahj Olufb' atj6
Olupitan Olu p' itan
Olugai Oluf g9i
"God loves me"
"God avenges punishment"
"God gave me"
"God pets me"
"God rescues me"
"God honours me'"
"God gave me to pet"
"God consoles me in my weeping"
"God brought joy"
"God won a victory"
"God gave me to watch"
"God wrought a thing of dignity"
"God has mercy"
"God replenishes status"
"God fills honour to the brim"
"God rebuffs insults"
"God washes me clean"
"God is as valuable as a title"
"God did this"
"My Lord comes"
"God returns (from) a journey"
"God tells a tale"
"God makes masters"
Oluwa "Lord, Master" (God)
Oluwasanmi Oluwa i san mi
Oluwat6sin Oluwa 6 t6 i sin
"The Lord is beneficial to me"
"The Lord is (big) enough to
Qlorun "Owner of heaven, God"
- Qlrun ni i rf bb
- Ql1run i f mi
- Mo f' Q1lrun uQ
"It is God who lives (for ever?)"
"God loves me"
"I watch with the help of God"
Oriph "Patron saints, divinities"
- Ori g i gbe mi
"Oriac supported me"
Orimol6ye Ori mq ol6ye
Orimalaid Ori mq alaid
OriyQmi Ori yQ mi
u ti bib e'yi
Ep n i gba e~yi'
"The Ori has foreknowledge of
the person destined to be chief"
"Ori knows who is destined to be
"Ori delivered me"
"E~ gave birth to this one"
"Eiu saved this one"
Ifa "Augury, divination"
Ifi 1' gli
If~i 1' Qp
Ifi 1' uyi
Ifi 1' 9m9
Ifi ee 9lai
Ifai e ade
Ifdi e uyi
Ifdi e 9gr
Ifdi $e adnui
Ifi gba iUlui
Ifd i ~ni n
"Ifd is elevating"
"Ifd is a cause of gratitude"
"lfd is a cause of our dignity"
"Ifd is the word of authority"
"Ifd is equivalent to children"
"Ifd works elevation"
"Ifd makes a crown"
"Ifd produces dignity"
"Ifd makes wealth"
"Ifd acts mercifully"
"Ifd has ears" (to hear)
"Ifd saves a city"
"Ifd opens the way"
* Or is "head". The Yoruba do not worship their own head. Circumstances of
linguistic symbolism, however, brought it about that the gods (and God) being
high and lofty, are called by words related to words for" head": Obrisa/rosh; oluwa/orfuwo;
hence Ohilori. The most easily visible and palpable of these concepts is the human
0 ri igbemi
F ia in "
F iy mi
- Ifi di ipq "Ifd substitutes a ransom"
- Ifi gbe mi "Ifd supported,my cause"
- Ifi la 'na "Ifd cut a path"
- Ifi y? mi "(The worship of) Ifd suits me"
- Ifi gin iwa "Ifd straightens character"
- Ifi yi igh "Ifd marks out a royal courtyard"
- Ifd t6 obgiun "Ifd is sufficient for a medicine"
- Ifd jai Qna "Ifd crosses the path"
- Ifi bun mi "Ifd gave me"
- Ifi ffn mi wai "Ifd gave me"
- Ifi gbe mi e6 "Ifd carried me aloft"
- Ifai k6 ire de "Ifd brings in good things"
- Ifd gba mi 1a "Ifd saved me"
- Ifi dai yi r6 "Ifd kept this one waiting"
- Ifi j? (ki) n bi 91a "Ifd made it possible for me to
Ifai e i sin "Ifd is auspicious to worship"
Ifi jq mi i sin "Ifd is propitious for me to wor-
- Ifd gun ade "Ifd got on a crown"
- Ifi t6 i ki "Ifd is enough to salute"
- Ifi san mi "Ifd is good to me"
- Ifi fi i (ffn) ade "Ifd gave him to the crown"
- Ifi t6 ir6-ti "Ifd is reliable enough to stand
- Ifi ddihin si i "Ifd gave a response to it"
- Ifi k6 ay` d6 "Ifd brought in joy"
- Ifi (ni) mo ri y9 "It's Ifd I saw that I rejoice"
- Ifi rin ma ad6 "Ifd walks with the crown"
- Ade y? Ifi "A crown befits Ifd"
- A- duidu bi Ifai "One who is black as Ifd"
- A- bai Ifd rin "One who walks with Ifd"
- Qla Ifd "Thanks to Ifd"
- Ifdi:6e e Orn ti "Ifd does not fail to solve a
- Ifi :6e ba iUlu j? "Ifd does not ruin a city"
- Ifi :e6 se ohiun "Ifd does not refuse an utterance"
- Ifi:e6b j (ki) uyi gbe "Ifd does not let glory die"
Ifd names are commonest among the Ijga. Next come the Ondo.
Where these have Ifd names, the Ijjbu tend to have Odit and Awo, the
1gba O6d. Osainyin is from Ekiti.
Awo "Secret cult"
-Awo i de ile
- Awo i yin Ifi
- Awo i fa ila
- Awo i j9 bi
- Awo i ni QW9
- Awo i k9 iya
- Awo i la iji
- Awo i di 9la
- Awo i san mi
Aw6yfii Awo i yq Ifd
Aw6$ikh Awo :ee e ikh
"The master of the cult arrives
"The diviner praises Ifd"
"The diviner draws lines"
"We are all children of the cult"
"The cult deserves respect"
"The cult rebuffs an insult"
"Divination settles a quarrel"
"Divination becomes a thing of
"Membership of the cult has
"A cult is suitable for Ifd"
"The cult did not do any wicked
Odu "Oracular utterance"
- Odi i san iya
- Odui i san ow6
- Odu i yQ oye
- Odui t6 9pl
- Odu i w9 ile
- Odiu i $e t'
- Odi i jin rin 'niu
- Odi i di emir n
Odiinaiyd Odi n i ni hy'
Oduibqla Odui i b? la
Aw6b6diu Awo i b"i odiu
$6fodfi O06 fQ odui
"The oracle avenges an injury"
"The oracle pays money"
"The oracle rejoices at a title"
"The oracle is enough for honour"
"The oracle enters the house"
"The diviner is engaged in a plot"
"God is long-suffering"
"The oracular utterance becomes
"The oracle is bold"
"The oracle pleads with the Lord
"The diviner and the oracle fit"
"The seer announces the word of
Odu names are almost all from qljbA province.
O$6 "Seer, wizard"
$61anik 06 ni ii kq
$6kgya 06 kg iya
$6wqle 06 w9 ile
$6yinka 06 yi mi kai
$6bande 06 bai mi d6
$6wande 06 wi mi de
$6winmi 0$6 win mi
$6mQ(rin 06 m Q rin
$6tind6 Od06 tun de
$6sanya 0'6 san iyit
$61irin O06 la aarin
$61aja 06 la ija
$6yhniiw6 066 yhn mi wo
$6riyan 0$6 ri yan
$6diimi 06 di i mu
$6dipo 06 di ipq
$orqm kun 06 rq mi (1 ) k6n
J91lio6 J 91da o06
K916o66 K ile o06
$6tikair Os6 t' iki re
"It is the seer we are petting"
"The seer champions the cause of
"The seer enters the house"
"Seers surround me"
"A seer came with me"
"A seer came to look for me"
"I like visioners"
"The seer knows how to pick his
"The seer comes again"
"The seer repays an injury"
"The seer passes through the
"Here comes my seer"
"The seer stopped the fighting"
"The seer chose me on trial"
"The seer found something to
"The seer held him"
"The seer substitutes with a plea"
"The seer consoles me in my
"Benefit from the status of the
"Build the house of a seer"
"The seer himself"
Most O06 names are lgba. They are also found in Ijbui Rm9q area.
- Ogun 1' si
- Ogun n' y
"Og6n is our defence"
"Ogun wrought glory"
* Ogun is the god of iron, the patron of all who work with iron e.g. smiths the
god of war and the patron of hunters.
- Ogin $' 9la
- Ogin t6 ade
- Ogun J9 bi
- Ogun k6 oyM
- Ogun 1' ad6
- Ogun. m 9gla
- Ogiin di ip,
- Ogin t6 6yinb6
- Ogun- i na
- Ogun ti mi (li) hin
- Ogun ni uga
- Ogun gbe mi
- Ogun rin de
-Oguin bi eyi
- Ogun ba
- Ogun mui de d6
"Oguin brought elevation"
"Oguin is as valuable as a crown"
"Ogun gave birth to all of us"
"Oguin brought dignity"
"Ogin is crown"
"Ogun with honour"
"Ogun substitutes for a ransom"
"Oguin is as strong as the white
"Og6n lifted (opened) the gate"
"Oguin backed me up"
"Ogin has a palace"
"Ogin is propitious to me"
"Ogun walked here"
"Oguin gave birth to this one"
"Ogun makes the hunter arrive
- Qde i bi yi
- Qde i rin de
- Qde i kiu
- Qde 6 ya ile
- Qde i t6 91l
- Qde i bun mi
- Qde i di na
- Qde i gbQ hrby6
- A- bai de rin
"A hunter gave birth to this one"
"The hunter walked to this place"
"There are hunters left"
"The hunter called in the house"
"Hunting is enough for status"
"The hunter gave me"
"The hunter blocked the way"
"The hunter listened to com-
"Someone who walks with hun-
Akin "Valiant warrior"
Akinygel Akin i ye ile
- Akin i gba ade
- Akin i wiun mi
- Akin i tan de
"A valiant man lends glory to a
"The valiant man takes the crown"
"I like valiant men"
"The valiant man comes again"
- Akin i rin (i) 91a
- Akin i t6 9ia
- Akin i san iya
- Akin i 1a de
- Akin i ni iyi
- Akin 1 9i y
- Akin iji de
- Akin i yq mi
- Akin i t6 ay`
- Akin m t6 oye
- Akin 1' uyi
- Akinib9 (liti) ogun
Akinplu6 Akin i p~1l
- Akin m to mi de
- Akin i san mi
- Akin i re '1l rq
AkinmuisiuuirU Akin i mu siuiriu
Akinkunmi Akin i kun mi
Akindel6 Akin i de ile
Akingt Akin i 0e te
Akinb1li Akin i ba 91a
Akingla Akin Qgl
Akinkuigbe Akin:e6 ki gbe
Akinbhuin Akin :e b6 ohuin
Akint mi Akin:6e tq mi
Akinnigbigb6 Akin :6 ni igbagbe
Og6nmikiride Ogun mu akin de
Ogunmakinwa- Ogun mu akin wa
"The valiant man walks in honour"
"Valour is enough for honour"
"Valiant men avenge insults"
"The valiant man arrives safe"
"Valour has dignity"
"Valour has glory"
"The valiant man has come early"
"Valour befits me"
"Valour is enough matter for joy"
"Valour is enough for a title"
"Valour is dignity"
"The valiant man is back from
"The valiant man was one of
"The valiant man came after me"
"Valour is good for me"
"The valiant man went to his
"The bold one exercises patience"
"The valiant man
"The valiant man got home"
"The valiant man did
"Valour goes very well with
"Valour of honour"
"Valiant men do not die in vain"
"A valiant man does not give up"
"Valour never let me down"
"Valiant deeds have no oblivion"
"Ogun brought the warrior back"
"Ogfn brought the warrior here"
Most Akin names are Ondo and Ijja. No girl is given an Akin name.
- Ade b (hiti) ogun
- Olu ogun
- A- bi si ogun
"The crown returns from war"
"God is victorious"
"Born in war"
IkUm6gunniyi Iku mi ogun ni iyi "Death gives importance to war-
- Iba ni ogun
"Leader in war"
Qna "Artistic Genius"
- Qnai f'QwQ kin
- Qna i bi Oli
- Qna i f kO
- Qna i y9 mi
- Qnt i la ijai
- Qna i bi mi r6
- Qna pi ile6
- Qna i bQ (liti) aj6
- Qn i di ip1
- Qna i ba mi k'
- Qna i gun ori iuwa
"The artist creates with the hand"
"Art befits lords"
"Art needs learning"
"The profession of artist suits me"
"Art settles the quarrel"
"Art stays with me"
"The artist opens a house"
"The artist returns from a journey"
"Art puts in a plea with a ransom"
"Art helps me to pet (this child)"
"Art is the cream of existence"
Ayan "The sound of drums"
- Ayan i de i16
- Ayan i t6 91t a
- Ayan i t6 iug
- Ayan ibmi ad6 jg
Alayande AkIya'n de
"The drummer reaches home"
"Drumming is enough for honour"
"Drumming is as good as a
"Drumming goes very well with
"Here comes the master of drums"
Qya' "Mother Niger"
Qyiw9ye Qya w9 oye
Abpyade A- ba Qya de
"The Niger assumes a title"
"One who arrives with the Niger"
1 The River Niger being to the north of Yoribai land, Qya names are found among
the Northern Yorfuba, in Qfa for instance.
- Qna ik mi (li) aya "Art emboldens me"
- Ade bai nt j9 "A crown goes very well with art"
Q0un1 "The (Qun River"
- QSun i kun ile
- Qgun i t6 i ki
- Q0un i t6 okun
- Qun i ni iyi
- Quun i k9 iya
- QOun i bun mi
"0Qun fills the house"
"The QOun is enough to salute"
"The OQun River is as big as the
"The Qpun has dignity"
"The O un champions the cause
of the suffering"
"The OQun gave me"
Omikinle Omi i kun ile
OmitQla Omi i t6 91l
Omigade Omi i me ade
Omigoore Omi i me oore
"Water fills the house"
"Water is enough for a thing of
"Water made a crown"
"Water did a kind deed"
Oke* "The hill"
6Okeini bke i i inQa
0kediji 0ke d d' iji
Adegbke Ade gun oke
Qligobk Qli gun 6kb
"The hill opens a way"
"The hill becomes a place of
"The crown ascends a hill"
- Qpi kin ile
- Qp~ai ye
- OPi y mi
"Plentifulness fills the house"
"Plentiful harvest confers dignity"
"Worship of plenty suits me"
1 Osun Division, of course, is the centre around which Osun names occur most fre-
quently. But the names follow the course of the Osun River through Osogbo,
Ede, Ibadin districts and the Eastern parts of Ijebtl land.
* Oke names are found in the hilly areas whose beginnings are connected with the
flight of refugees to safety on mountain tops or in mountain caves: tkiti, Ibatdn,
- Qp~ d' "tun
- Qla Opi
Qlpade QOlpa de
Vfun Guardian of the fields
- fnfun i yy mi
ffink ya ],fun i k9 iy a
$6kqfun 06 ki efiin
Ogunm fun Oguin mO m ffin
"Worship of the god of the farms
"The god of the farms rebuffs
"The seer greets the god of the
".Ogin with the god of the fields"
Qm(whnmi Qm9 i wiun mi
Qmit.6 QmQ i t6 Q
Qm(taiy Qmq i t6 ay9
Qmglara Qm9 1' arai
Qmgniyi Qmp n' iyi
Qmgdele QmQ de ile
QmQl ye Qm9 1' #y
QmQlolu QmQ 1' Olu
"Children appeal to me" (I like...)
"Children are sufficient for an
"Children are sufficient cause for
"Children are one's kith and kin"
"Children are the glory (of their
"The child arrives home"
"Children are the real status
"Children are the copestone of
one's aspirations" (?)
* In the days before the contact with Britain, the Yoruba had no surnames, as we
now know them. The method of connecting a person with his family was to call him
A. the child of B omo Ldgbdjd, omo T.mndiu a system best preserved in the
Semitic system extant in Hebrew (ben Gurion "the son of Gurion") and in Arabic
('ibn Musa "the son of Musa").
The surnames of Yoruba today were the personal names of the parents of the
children whose names were registered soon after the contact with Britain in the
nineteenth century: the names of their fathers were interpreted as "surnames".
Hence Mr. Id6wfi; even Mr. Bal6gun.
"Plentiful harvest becomes new"
"The elevated status concomitant
with plentiful harvest"
"Here comes the devotee of the
god of plenty"
QmQparilki QmQ i pari 91i "Children complete one's high
Kik9lgm9 Kik 1' qmp "Children are for petting"
Qj "The living one"
- Ojd i de ile
- )jq i d' iran
- )j i d' 6kun
"OQj arrives home"
"Qj becomes hereditary"
"Qjj becomes the sea"
eguin "Ritual masks, ancestral masks"
- Eegun j bi
- A- bai ee6gn de
- Ee6gn yq mi
"Edgun gave birth to all of us"
"One who comes with the eedgn"
"Egzfn fits me"
- Baba i tun de
- lye i tun de
- yai bq
- Baba i tun ji
- Baba i ji de
-Qm9p dhhin (
-Qmp i dqhin I
- ]ni (ti) 6 19
"Father comes a second time"
"Mother comes a second time"
"Father wakes up again"
"Father is awake and is here"
"The child comes back"
"The child comes back"
"It's the person who went away
who has come back"
Orl6k Abiku Infant mortality
- Ma 19 mM
- K6 ki m'
- K6 si QkQ
- R6 ti mi
- Dur6 sin mi
Dur6jaye Dur6 j' aye
Kalqjaye Kale j'ay6
"Don't go any more"
"He does not die any more"
"There is no hoe" (to dig a grave)
"Stand by me"
"Stay to bury me" (don't die pre-
"Stay and enjoy life"
"Sit down and enjoy life"
Bi mi j6ko
- B mi k(? i16
- Qm9 ni a i bi kq
- Iku jQwo r
- Iku yir in niu
- Iku $e aanu
- Iku $e or6
- Iku run mi
- Iki foriji
- Ikui k9 byi
- Iku i i mg
- Ikui ye bi
- Si 'wo ikiU
- Ayg i d6 i16
- Ay i d' eji
- Ay6 i rin de
- Qm i t6 ay
-Ti mi i t6 ayo
- Titi 1' ay
- kuin d' ay
- Ay9 ad6
- AyQ 9li
"Joy reaches (our) home"
"Joy becomes two"
"Joy walks in"
"Children are enough cause for
"Mine is enough cause for joy"
"Endless is (my) joy"
"Weeping becomes joy"
"The joy of a crown"
"Joy of elevation"
"A year of joy"
] kuindayo 1kuin d' ay9 "Weeping becomes joy"
1kfundare kFin dai re "Weeping vindicates"
OlirPmilkfin Oli r' mi ni kin "God consoles me in my weeping"
$6rm kfin 06 rk mi (' ) "kfn "The seer consoles me in my
"Sit down with me"
"Help me build the house"
"It's a child we would have petted"
"Death spared him"
"Death left him alone"
"Death was merciful"
"Death wrought a painful thing"
"Death ruined me"
"Death refused this one"
"Death could not recognize him"
"Death removed the guilt"
"Take (your) hands off dying"
Ade6tunji Ade tun ji
Ad6daip Ad6 dapQ
Ade6bay Ade bai ay
Ade6wal Ade wi ile
Ade6knl6 Ade kun il6
Ad6go6k Ade gun 6ke
Adegor6ye Ade gun orioye
Ad6sqji Ade sq ji
Ade6rmi Ade r ( mi (1 ekikn)
Ade6fmi Ade f? mi
Ad6ina Ade6 i na~
Ade6daimol Ade da m( Qla
Ade6mla Ade mo 9li
Ade6bnkk Ade bai mi k9
AdebiukOnli Ade bui kun pla
Ad6bisi Ad6 bi si
Adebimpe Ade bi mi pe
Ade6p6j Ade p6 ojA
Ade6jkq Ade jq kq
Adedoyin Ade di oyin
Ade6tbr Ade toro
Ade69l Ade p91i
Ade6ymi Ad6 ye mi
Adeyinkai Ade yi mi kai
Adepjiu Ade p~ jiu
Ad6m6ilAgrn Ade mu il9 gi6n
Ade6knmbi Ade kan mi bi ?
Adegbit Ade gba itg
Ade6kya Ade k9 iya
Adeday' Ade di ay%
Ademuwahgun Ade mui iwa gun
Adygemp Ade ye qmp
Adeoye Ad6 oye
Adeniran Ade ni Iran
"The crown is resuscitated"
"The crown comes home"
"Crowns fill the house"
"Crowns ascend a hill"
"The crown ascends to a title"
"The crown is revived"
"The crown consoles me"
"The crown loves me"
"The crown lifts the barrier on
"The crown is mixed with status"
"A crown and honourable estate"
"The crown helps me to pet"
"The crown completes status"
"The crown gives birth to more"
"The crown begat me whole"
"The crown is full value"
"Crowns join in petting"
"Crowns become honey (sweet)"
"The crown is peaceful"
"The crown of honour"
"The crown befits me"
"Crowns surround me"
"There are too many crowns"
"The Crown makes the land
"Is it my turn to the crown?"(?)
"The crown takes a throne"
"The crown rebuffs insults"
"The crown becomes joy"
"The crown makes character
"A crown befits a child"
"A crown of title" (titular)
"Crowns have pedigree"
- Ade ni iyi
- Ade ni iji
Adelab Ade la ibi
Adeba"j Ado bA (1ati) iaj
- Ade iy
-Ad ii re '16
- Ad6 di ji
-Ade bu si oye
- Ade gba Qli
- Ade ri ibi gbe
- Ade gb6 oye ga
Adboyebj9 Ade ba oye jQ
Adeb9naj9 -- Ade bai QnL jQ
Fglaiade F' 9la. e ade
Iga/igha "courtyard, palace"
- Ad6 ni uigh
SOye ni iug
- A- bi si igah
Ql- d6 igha
-Ifi yi iga
"A crown has a palace"
"A title has a palace"
"Born in a palace"
"Status reaches a palace"
"Ifd builds a (round) courtyard"
- Qba i f< mi
"The king loves me"
Oye "titled posts"
- Oye i kin mi
-Oye i tun de
- Oye i bi mi ji
"It is my turn to the title"
"A title has come again"
"The title has been with me since
my waking up"
"A crown has dignity"
"A crown has refuge" (for the
"The crown crossed deep waters"
"The crown returns from a jour-
"A crown of salvation"
"The crown is going home"
"The crowns become two"
"A crown adds to a title"
"The crown takes status"
"The crown finds a place to live"
"A crown raises a chieftaincy
"A crown well complements a
"A'crown fits in well with art"
"Make a crown out of honour"
Oyelhwg Oye i li OwQ
Qladuinjoye Ql dun ju oye
- Ogin t6 oye
- Olu t6 oye
- Ade 1' oye
- Ade gbe oye ga
- Ade oye
- Qli oye
- A- bi (si) oye
Oye i kuin ile
Oye i yi pm
Oye i i Qn
Oye i ni igha
Oye i li se
Oye i ni iran
Oye i ni iyi
Oye i di iran
Oye i mm ade
Oye i ni am1
Oye i b9 de
Oye i ye mi
Oye i san iya
Oye i gun 6ke
Oye i bai 91 (jq)
Oye i bai Olu (jq)
- Q1i i f' ow6 ra
- Qgi de ile
- Q1i i yq mi
- Qpi i k9 iya
- Qsi i san iya
"The chief bought with money"
"The chief kept the house"
"Chieftaincy suits me"
"The chief avenges punishment"
"The chief repays punishment"
1 Ijqbu dialect for ami "sign".
"Titles fill the house"
"Titles roll together"
"A title opens the way"
"Titles have palaces"
"Titles have rank and hierarchy"
"Titles have pedigree"
"Titles have dignity"
"The titles becomes hereditary"
"The title conjoins with a crown"
"Titles have symbols"
"The title has come round again"
"The title fits me"
"The title avenges suffering"
"The title ascends a hill"
"A title agrees well with status"?
"A title fits God"
"Titles have respect"
"Status is sweeter than chieftaincy
"Ogun is enough for a title"
"God is sufficient for titles"
"A crown is the mark of chief-
"The crown raises the status of a
"The crown of chieftaincy"
"The high status of chieftaincy"
"Born into a title" -
Q0i aj a
- Qi i bai odu
- Qi i ya ile
- QOi bg wai '16
- Qii i k mi (li)
- Qgi i btrui
- Qgi kan Olui
- Qii la ij&
- Qgi i f' Qdun rir
"The chief settles the quarrel"
"The chief selected the time of
the festival to take a trip"
Qsin names are almost all Ijebu. In that dialect, an attenuation of
nasalization is incipient: hence QSi.1
Qli "Elevated status, fame, honourable estate"
- Qla e i ni
- Ql din i ni
- Qli di m6ji
- Qla di p$ip'
- Qli i re 'waij
- Qla bO (si) ipo
- Qla da p'
- Qli gun 6ke
- Qla de ile
- Qla yi w9 91l
- Qla wiun mi
- Qla i i tan
- Qli yi mi ka
- Qla ni iygnu
"Fame is not unachievable"
"High status is sweet to have"
"Fame becomes two"
"Fame becomes many"
"Status is progressing forward"
"Status returns to its pristine
"Fame is league together"
"Status goes up"
"Fame reaches home"
"Fame is intertwined with fame"
"I like high status"
"Honour never gets used up"
"Honour surrounds me"
"Fame has its troubles"
- Qla 91 bi w9n ni ini' "(Our) success is annoying them"
- Qli 6 e ibi kan "Honour does not dwell exclu-
sively in one place"
1 One hears in Ijebu ogu for ogun "war", efu for ffin, a circumstance which now makes
it difficult to know whether the first element of the names Okusanya, Okulaji,
Okubad6jo, etc, is okun "thread" or bk" the dead". The context helps one to choose
in okubdddjo "threaded beads match a crown".
"Chieftaincy fits the oracle"
"The chief called in the house"
"The chief returned home"
tya "The chief enboldened me"
"The chief fears"
"Chieftaincy appertains to div
Qlabintain Qla bi mi tain
-Titi l' 91a
- Qrd d' Q91
- Si ojAi wo 91a
- Qla 16 kan
- Qla ni iyan
- Qla gun oju
- Qla Olu
- Ql tuin d6
- A- bi (si) 91i
- Gb6 mi si Qil
- F' 9Qa e ad6
- A- dira m9 9la
- Qla din ju oye
- Qm9ibi 9la ni i16
- A- ji ba 9gl
- Mo bai li ji
- Ql9 bi si
- K6 f'ow6 ra Q91i
- A- f' Q91 bi
- Olu bu kun 1Qa
- Olu bu si sla
- Ad6 bib kuin lhi
- Qla:6e ni ipob kun
"Fame goes up by one"
"Status has its boasts"
"Fame sets the face straight"
"The grace of God"
"Fame comes again"
"Born into fame"
"Put me into honour"
"Make honour a crown"
"One who is good with high state"
"High status is more delightful
than a chieftaincy title"
"The child met fame in the family"
"One who wakes up to find
"I woke up with honour"
"He did not buy status with
"Born with fame"
"God fills up high status"
"God amplifies status"
"The crown fills up high status"
"Elevation does not have a ceiling"
"Famous men gave birth to me
"On and on is (our) elevation"
"Friendship becomes fame"
"Lift up (your) eyes to look on
1. Tahlbi is one of the amutprunwd names in Yoriubi; that is, it is
determined by the circumstances of the birth of the child. Any (female)
child who is "born with the head and body covered with the caul, or
ruptured membranes" is automatically called Tdldbi, whatever other
Abisp names it may acquire at its naming ceremony on the eight day.
Like most of the other amut runwd names, we do not try to translate
them as we instinctively do with the Abisp names. We still know the
correct usage of the amuitriunwd names, but their etymologies are in
most part now obscure. I have not arrived at the etymology of Saldk,1'
Ajdyi, Ige etc.
But Talabi has the consonantal root t-l-b. This, I suggest, is the
same consonantal root as we find in Tbmbblb.2 The connection between
Taldbi and Tbmbblo is this:
Tbmbblb: a man clothed like an eedgngfin masquerade, pretending to
the role of egegngfn but really acquiring no more than the
abuse of bush edgzngin, edgun ard oko...
Taldbi: "a child born with the head and body covered with caul"
draped like a masquerade !
The two Yoruba words are related to Arabic labisa, Hebrew (mit)
labish "dressed, clothed" (l-b-sh):
t 1- b Talabi
t b 1 TOnbol6
1 b s "clothed, dressed"
It is this idea that is expressed in the Hausa name Mairiga for a
child born with its placenta intact: Hausa riga is "clothes".
2. Any baby whose incessant crying at birth seems to suggest that it
is in some distress or the other is Oni. The name has nothing to do with
its homophone, bni "today". It is cognate with Arabic 'and "distress",
Hebrew 'anah "to be afflicted", as in the Biblical name Ben Oni, "the
son of my affliction". Hebrew 'awn "affliction, iniquity".
3. Any baby who comes from the womb feet first is Ige.
4. Any baby born face to the ground is Ajayi.
5. Oj6 and Aini are the names for children born with their umbilical
1 Saldk. is given to boys born in the same circumstances as Tdldbi- which is properly
2 The-m- in tombolo is a syllabic nasal; syllabic nasals do not count as radicals in the
roots underlying Yoruba words.
cord twined around their neck. Of the two names, the Ijqbu use only A nd;
for it is proverbial that Ij&bW ki ijO 6j6, "Ijqbus never bear the name Ojd."
6. Children whose hair are knotted together around the crown of the
head are called Dada. The hair must be left like that until ceremonially
7. Ilpri is the name of children conceived soon after a previous birth,
before resumption of menstruation.
8. Ok which means "sack" is the name of a child born wrapped
up in a thin membrane the amniofil sac.
9. The following names mentioned before are determined by the
circumstances of the birth of the child : Abipdfin, Abpdtnrin, Abipnd,
Abids Ab s dd.
10. The first of twins to "taste of the world" is Tiiwb; the one who
"comes last" is K hind&.
11. The third of triplets is Sta Okb, but the child is not generally called
by this "title". &ta is "three"; for bkb, see Hausa 6iki "three".
12. Counting Tdiwb as one, Kohindi as two, the child born after a set
of twins is idbwi if a boy, Idbgb6 if a girl. For reasons of sound symbc-
lism, idbgbe is so unpopular that I have not known a girl called by this
name: Idbwu, therefore, serves for boys and girls born after a set of twins.
13. The child born after Idbwui counts as the fourth: He (or she) is
XlIbi, a cognate of Hebrew rabica, Arabic 'arbaca "four".
14. If, as it happens once in a blue moon, a child is born with an extra
digit showing the beginnings of a sixth finger, he is Olgb6di but, of
course, this name is not advertised.
15. A child born with the umbilical cord wound round his wrist is
Almost every one of these rdmitorunwd names are connected with
unusual circumstances of birth, often difficult circumstances which
make it necessary to prescribe special taboos for the care of the baby.
They indicate something of the midwifery lore of the Yoruba. These
names can be named as soon as the baby is born by anybody who can
match names with circumstances. For the dbisp names, in contrast, one has
to wait until the naming ceremony to hear what name the father has been
keeping in his inside, depending upon the ruminations and reflections he
has been making about life in general and the life of his own family
and of himself in particular.
The Noun Phrase (to follow Chapter 1)
The qualifier may be (i) another noun, (ii) a possessive pronoun,
(iii) a verbal noun, or (iv) an adjective:1
ild + wa3
i~ + yin
aSp wpn omi gbagbdnd
"their clothes" "hot water"
kpb l m ta
1 Real. adjectives are rare in Yoruba: the gap is filled by the use of verbal nouns formed
from stative verbs gun: gigun "It (is) long/long"; 0 dim: didfit "It is sweet/
sweet". The number names with m-prefix count as adjectives. There are also adjectival
ideophones formed by infixing a syllabic nasal within a root, e.g. Hausa baba "big",
Compare ganga and ogongo "ostritch" with ga "to be high" and the triplicated
2 The following place-names are in this group: Ijebt Ode, Ijebu Igbo, Ijebu +
Re mo, Ijebi Ijesd, Ipetu Ijsd, ld-Ift, Imesi lil, Add Oyd, Ad6 Ekiti, Esa Oke, Igbdrd
Okd, Odo Ogbold, Oke Add, Isal. Ekd, Abe Okuta, Ehin Igb'ti, Ebdtd Erb, etc.
3 The symbol /+/ is not used in normal writing. It indicates the presence of a mid
tone juncture when noun B begins with a consonant: ild + wa is to be pronounced
The Simple Sentence (to follow chapter II)
The verb TO BE is the copula
ni before consonants and before a pause
n' before vowel i
P before other vowels
---- ---- Atwolog6n At'w? I'ogin
Copula Comple- "(The) palm of the hands are
Sub- verb ment one's true inheritance"
ject "to be" of Atgww I'ard "(The)
ni verb palm of'the hands are one's true
-- -- relations"
n' iyi Aye 1' 9ja "(The) world is the
-- market place"
ad6 Qrun ni ile "Heaven is home"
9pp Iw 1' wai "(Good) character is
QmQ = QmQ iyi (true) beauty"
uyi Ow6 l'obw "Money is (the essence)
Ifa = 'Fa 1' ar of commerce"
esi. Ek6 n' ile "Lagos is home"
Ogin= Ogun A4e Aair 1' Qja "Morning is market
Akin = Akin i 9y (time)"
-.-----_--- N.B. There is no high tone before
the "VERB TO BE".
Sub- Verb ment 'DQtim 0- di tuntun "It became
ject "beco- of new"
mes" verb Salt became water "IyQ 4 d' omi"
Afternoon turned into night "Qsin
Ad Ad eji d' 6ru"
/ di (piA)p9 White became black "Funfun di
Qla = Qlai tun dudu"
Oye > Oy d' meji It is eggs which become cocks
jq9 "Tyin ni i d' akitkg""
1kin = 1kuin ayO You will become old (live long)
igba "Wa a d' agb%"
Ogun = IOgun oyin He became rich (a rich person)
iran "O d' o16w6"
STill morning "6 d' Br"" (greetings)
Till (I) return "0 d'ab9" (greetings)
ject verb object
---- --- ----aanu
Ifi se Iaanu '$ey
'Fa )' aani Olu0alin God does mercy
Olui y Ol'iwa, 'aaini fiin wa God, have
giAn Qli mercy upon us.
Translate into Yoruba:
I climbed a hill.
I can climb up.
Mg gun ori igi mango mg,
Apari, g'obk wd.
[n] when followed by the vowel /i-/
 when followed by the other
I have money "Mo li ow6"
We have a house "A ni '16"
Have you any eyes ? "$6 o 1i ojui ?"
He has two wives. "O ni iyaw6
A dove which has no wings "Adaba'
ti 6 Ii apa"
A maiden who has no clothes
"Qm9ge ti 6 16 a9q"
Olubadan 6 li ade "(The) Oli-
badan has no crown"
Ad [__ ___
A policeman entered. "Qlh'pa wq
Come in, gentleman! "WQ '16,
A thief came in. "Ole kan w9
A hen has entered (
Adi9 kan ti wQ'1l
God is victorious. Oli4gun
Who won the battle? '.Ta l'6
He won the battle. "O gun"
Oruik naa yf 9m9 nai. (< Oruk9
naa-6 ye f)
Aye a yq e.
Translate into Yoruba:
This cap fits me.
That cap doesn't fit you.
It doesn't fit you.
Mo fo Qmp.
Translate into Yoruba:
Sade loves me
Kuinle married 'Bisi.
Odu > OdUi
onilahj peace maker
awgn onilajia peace makers
Compound Verbs and Splitting Verbs
(to follow Chapter IV)
Qd9 > Qd'
Dd glejo r6 (di'lej6 r6) "Keep the
Ma dd mi dfro "Don't keep me
WQn ti dd Oluifmi dfro ni ibi 'W
"Olufemi has been dismissed
Awqn 91opa dd wa dfro l'1Ona
"The police stopped us on the
Translate into Yoruba:
The house is full of clothes
The house is full of people
The house is full of food
The house is full of rats
The house is full of smoke
da (6y)i si
Good Lord, spare us "Oluwa rere,
da wa si"
Death spared him "Iku da a si"
Translate into Yoruba:
Ade gave me to eat.
Ade, give me to eat.
Fin mi jq.
ay d de
W~n ti k6 / atwQn iwe+wa / d6.
W'n ti k6 l9tah de.
Translate into Yoruba:
The washerman came.
The washerman has come.
The washerman has come with the
I have come with the paper.
OlI > Olui
Wpn gbe e ga ni'bi i
Translate into Yoruba:
My boss elevated me.
I was promoted (They...)
I have been promoted (They...)
Exalt the Lord.
God supported me kept me
Enemies surrounded me.
God elevated us "Olu gbe wa ga"
Awa igbe 9 ga, Qlrun "We mag-
nify thee, O God"