Yoruba Names & Their Meanings

Every first week in March (1st- 7th) is Celebrate Your Name Week and in the light of that, I got people to write about names and their meaning from some of the major tribes in Nigeria. Here is a compilation of some Yoruba names, their meanings and the circumstances surrounding why those names were given.

Among the Yorubas, naming is a spiritual cultural aspect of the people. In the Yoruba culture, children are named after the circumstances surrounding their birth. This is the reason why Yoruba names are sentential. A name could be as long as consisting of 10 words, less or even more, although they can be clipped to their short variants for easy and quick pronunciation.

A name as long as “Aderogbayimika” which means, “The crown surrounds me” might be difficult for people to pronounce in full, always. Such a name could then be clipped to “Aderogba” or its root word “Rogba”

There are certain repetitive circumstances that have made some names fixed. Children born around these circumstances are automatically given these fixed names.

Ere ibeji - Yoruba Twins
Ere Ibeji from Bruce Frank

Twins, for example, are automatically named Taiwo and Kehinde, although some twins are given other names. Taiwo is a short form for “Omo to aye wo” which means, “The child that tasted the world.” Kehinde on the other hand is a short form for “Omokehin de” which means, “The child that comes last.” Also, a male child born with the umbilical cord round his neck is named, “Ojo.”

Like virtually every group of people, the Yoruba have a system of belief, too. If a child is born almost immediately after the death of a parent, grandparent or relative, such a child is believed to be a reincarnate of the dead. For those who hold such belief, names given to the child reflect it. “Babatunde” (father has returned) is an example of a name given to a male child who is believed to be a reincarnate of a dead father while “Yetunde” (mother has returned) is a female form.

Yoruba Arts & Culture
Source: nowayo bloggers

In precolonial Yoruba societies, children were named to reflect lineage or the trade, gods, religions and traditions practised in every family. In most cases, the names of these gods or family trade form the prefix of the names given to a child born into such families. A child born into a family that worships “Ogun” is named after the god. A child born into a royal family bears a name that begins with “Ade”.

These names were unadulterated and even any clipping done to them did not take away their roots.

Oba - Yoruba King
Well, the image source is obvious

Some of these names include:

Adebanke – The crown pampers this one for me
Adefolayan – The crown walks with in pride with wealth
Adenike – The crown needs to be taken care of
Adepeju – The crown is full of honour
Aderibigbe – The crown finds a place to live
Ayanleke – The drummer triumphs
Egunjobi – Masquerades jointly gave birth to this
Ifabiyi – Ifa birthed this child
Ifabunmi – Ifa gifted me
Makinde – He brought valour
Odukoya – Odu (Ifa) rejected suffering
Ogunbanjo – Ogun is in agreement with me
Ogunde – Ogun walks in
Onadele – The art has returned home
Orisabunmi – The god has blessed me
Oyaleke – Oya triumphs
Sangodare – Sango pardoned/justified me
Sangowande – Sango sought and found me
Sodipe – The sorcerer has granted my request
Soyinka – The sorcerer surrounds me

Naming in Yoruba has been influenced greatly by the colonial experience. A lot of transformations in naming and the names have taken place, not in the circumstances surrounding birth, but in the beliefs that formed the foundation of naming in Yoruba culture. Due to the colonial experience, Christianity and Islam have greatly influenced naming in Yoruba. Children are now named English, Hebrew, Arabic and Jewish names.

Naming in Yoruba Culture
source: Naija Gist

It is even a common tradition among some Yoruba parents, especially young parents in this present age, to name their children before birth. Most of these names might not have any relevance to the circumstances surrounding the child’s birth.

Some examples of these names are

Anuoluwabamise – The mercy of the Lord has done it for me
Anuoluwapo – God mercies are abundant
Araoluwa – The wonder of God
Ebunoluwa – The Lord’s gift
Eriifeoluwa – Evidence of God’s love
Erimipe – My testimony is complete
Ewaoluwa – The beauty of God
Fisayo – God has added to my joy
Fiyinfoluwa – Praise the Lord
Ibukunoluwa – The blessings of God
Ifedolaoluwa – The Lord has blessed our love
Ilerioluwa – The promise of God
Iretioluwa – God’s hope
Itunuoluwa – Comfort of God
Oluwabusayo – God adds to my wealth
Oluwafunbi – God has given this child to me
Oluwafunmilayo – God has given me joy
Oluwajomiloju – The Lord has surprised me
Oluwamakinwa – The Lord’s goodness
Toluwalase – God’s will be done

Regardless of the changes that have happened to the naming culture of the Yoruba, some names do not bear reference to any gods, lineage, family trade or religion; they are just names related to the circumstances surrounding the birth of the child. The circumstances, in most cases, are the experiences of the parents during or immediately after the birth of the child, but definitely before the naming.

Yoruba Women Pounding
source: steemit

Some of these names include:

Abidemi – Born before my return
Abioye – A child born into royalty
Adebimpe – The crown birthed me as a complete child
Atinuke – A child who has been cared for since conception
Ayomide – My joy has come
Ayoola – The joy of wealth
Ayotola – Joy is enough wealth
Ayotunde – My joy has returned
Bolaji – wake with wealth** (peep my name, guys)
Bolanle – A child who finds/meets wealth at home
Eniola – A child of wealth
Enitan – A child with a history
Eniyii – A person of integrity
Ereadura – Reward of prayer
Ewatomi – Beauty is enough for me
Eyitope – Worthy of praise
Fadekemi – Take care of me with royalty/crown
Fehintola – Resting on wealth
Feyisayo – Used this as joy
Folake – A child taken care of with wealth
Fowoke – A child taken care of with money
Gbemisola – Carry me into wealth
Gbohunmi – Hear my voice
Ibidun – Birth is sweet
Ibilola – Birth is wealth
Ibukun – Blessing
Ifedayo – Love has become joy
Ifelayo – Love is peace
Ifesowapo – Love has connected us
Jaiyeola – One who is enjoying wealth
Jibola – Woke up to see wealth
Kikelomo – A child who is pampered
Monife – I have love
Olamide – My wealth has arrived
Ololade – The one with wealth has come 
Omolade – Child is crown
Omorinsola – The child who walks into riches
Oyinlola – Wealth is sweet
Tejumola – A child who looks forward to better days
Titilayo – Happiness is forever
Yoruba Culture & Arts
Facebook @Culture Yoruba

There is an essential aspect of naming that is said to determine the mortal existence of every child among the Yoruba. That is, the Yoruba believed strongly (a long time ago though) that when a child is named accordingly, it helps the child achieve its destiny. This is why in precolonial Yoruba societies, divinations are made before naming to know the fate and destiny of a child. Regardless of these cultural shifts and transformations, one thing remains constant – Yoruba names are sentential and above all, they are meaningful.

Thanks for reading. I hope you found a familiar name on the list. If not, feel free to drop any other Yoruba names you know and their meanings in the comment section.

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The author of this post, Noah Oladele lives and writes from Lagos, Nigeria. You can follow him on twitter @noah_oladele

Check out the meanings of names in other Nigerian tribes (Efik-Ibibio, Hausa, Igbo, Tiv)

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Bolaji Gelax

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4 thoughts on “Yoruba Names & Their Meanings

  1. Interesting!!! I want a Yoruba version of Onyekachi (Who is greater than God?) I think my name is a rhetorical question 🤔 Is dat applicable in Yoruba linguistics? Just a curious reader. 😁😁

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    1. I think I can help. Who is greater than God translates to, ” Tani t’O luwa” or “Tani ju Oluwa lo” so your Yoruba name could either be “Tanitoluwa or Tanijoluwalo”

      Toluwa/Tolu or Joluwa/Jolu for short.

      Yes, it is a rhetorical question even in Yoruba.

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