Names are very important in the life of humans – even animals and plants are not left out in the naming process. Names are useful in the identification process. It’s a major component of our identity, that’s why we reply to the question ‘Who are you?’ with a name and not our physical or educational description. Names at times is an artifact of our parents’ lives, culture, personal histories and their dreams for their child.

In African societies, there are various ways by which names are been given to a child. Traditional African names have a wealth of information about the bearer. Here are some ways by which African parents name their children:

Events surrounding births

In many African cultures, names are influenced by positive or negative circumstances the family finds themselves when the child is born. They look at their purse, their emotions during this time, the event at this period (war, famine, etc) and so on to name their child. Abisogun is a Yoruba name given to a baby born during a war. Ajuji meaning ‘born on a rubbish heap’ is a Hausa name given to a child whose parents has lost many children after birth.

Emotional warnings

In some African society like Zimbabwe, some reflect the mood or circumstance of the family at the time of birth. Some names serve as warnings or rebukes e.g Nhamo means “misfortune”, Manyara means “you’ve been humbled”.

Some indigenous Nigerian names
Type of Family

Names are being given in African culture such as the Yoruba ethnic group of Nigeria where the type of family is been considered in the child naming. A royal family has ‘Ade’ which means ‘crown’ as a prefix or suffix e.g Adekunle, Bisade. Ayan is the family name of the drummers. Names such as Ayangalu shows the information about the bearer.

Order of birth

This is very common in African societies. Names are been given by the order at which they are been born. Twins, for example, have names that reveal their information e.g Taiye and Kehinde in Yoruba land. There is also a destiny tagged ‘Oruko amutorunwa’, this also shows the order of birth. A child born with locked hair is called Dada, and so on.

Faith-based names

Many African parents express their religious beliefs through names to show the sovereignty of God. Some names in the Igbo and other ethnic groups have the names of God in their language as prefix e.g Chukwuebuka (Chukwu meaning God in Igbo) Oghenekaro ( Oghene meaning God in Urhobo) and so on.

Ancestral names

Names are also given when a respected elder of the family is dead. Parents names babies after senior members of the clan whether dead or alive. Babatunde is a Yoruba name meaning ‘the father has returned’. In southern Africa, babies are named ‘Ouma’ (grandma) or ‘Oupa’ (grandpa) so as not to disrespect the elderly ones by calling their names.

Celebrity culture

Parents also adopt the names of their celebrity or role models for their children. Famous people who have achieved remarkable success in their career/field have their names given to babies in order to replicate their success. People like Obama, Ojukwu, Mandela, and so on have their names given to babies.

More Nigerian names

Day-born names

The days of the week at which a baby is born is also used to give a name to a child. Among some Ghanaian ethnic groups like the Akan, Ga, Ewe, and Nzema, a name is automatically given based on the day the child is born. In Nigeria too, babies are named days of the week such as Sunday, Monday, and Friday. Bose is a Yoruba name meaning ‘born on Sunday’.

In Western culture, there are names such as Stone, Rice, Wood, Drinkwater, Fish and so on. This brings thoughts on if names really have a significance and meaning in the lives of the bearers. Will a bearer of ‘Wood’ have the qualities of a wood? There’s a certain biblical Jabez whose name means ‘sorrow’. He battled with sorrow until he changed the name.

I thereby made a research to know if people’s name really has significance and meaning in their lives. The interviewees’ traditional names were also given with their meaning.

Names surely have significance. It makes us identifiable, it let others know our tribe, language, and religion. It can also represent a brand. I’m ‘Oluwaseun’ meaning ‘Thank you, God’.

Sammy.

I don’t believe that names have significance in someone’s life. My native name is ‘Ene’ meaning ‘mother’.

Grace.

Yes, I believe in the significance of names. My traditional name is ‘Omotayo’ which means ‘a child is a source of joy’ i.e. I am the source of joy to my parents, it gladdens them to know they have me.

Marvelous.

Yes, names have a great significance in an individual’s life. I know someone whose name was ‘Ndarake’ meaning, ‘I’m not rejoicing’. She had so many complications in her life, from one sorrowful moment to another. Then she realized it and asked that she shouldn’t be called that again. My native name is ‘Kufre Abasi’ meaning ‘Do not forget God’. It has been glorious, I can’t think of anything in my life if God is not in its first hand.

Peace.

Yes, names do have and play a huge significance in the lives of their bearers. My native name is ‘Chigozirim’ meaning ‘ I’m blessed’.

Success.

Yes, I believe. In fact, the ancient people check a child’s destiny before naming the child (Yoruba people call it ‘akosejaye’). I’m ‘Ayodele’ and it means ‘joy has come to my house‘. It’s no wonder I’m a joyous and happy person.

Spencer.

Name is just a means of identification, it has nothing to do with whether you will be successful, great, wise or stupid in life. My name is ‘Ayodele’ meaning ‘joy has come to my home’.

Ay.

Yes, I believe. My native name is ‘Anike’ meaning ‘a cherished child’.

Hammed.

My conclusion from the responses above is that, if you’re naming your child, make sure it’s a positive one no matter the times (good or bad) you are passing through when the baby is born. Truly, if you name your child after the greatest man that ever lived, that doesn’t guarantee success. Actions really need to be taken to be successful. A good name is better than silver or gold, we have to keep that in mind. As a man thinks so he is, the action put to it will determine the outcome of his name.

Well, if you care to know, I’m Tolulope meaning ‘to God is thanksgiving’. Let’s have your view on this topic in the comment section, dear readers.

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