Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Examples Of Contemporary Nigerian Nicknames

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post provides excerpts from four online articles and two online research studies about contemporary Nigerian nicknames.

The content of this post is presented for linguistic and socio-cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.

After doing some online research about African American nicknames, I started to wonder whether [Black] Africans had similar nicknaming customs. So far, almost all of the information that I've found online about African nicknaming customs refers to Nigeria, West Africa. Hopefully, I'll find more information online about nicknaming customs in Africa, and hopefully I'll receive comments about this subject from pancocojams readers.

Based on my admittedly cursory reading, it appears to me that there are very little if any differences between the types of Nigerian nicknames and the types of Black American nicknames. Furthermore, I'm not sure that Black American nicknaming customs -and sometimes the nicknames themselves -are that different from non Black American nicknames, particularly in the Southern part of the United States. But that's the subject of an upcoming pancocojams post or series which will be able to be accessed by clicking on the "names and nicknames" tag.

Pancocojams readers (like me) who aren't from Nigerian and who have had little contact with Nigerians may not "get" (understand) some of the nickname examples that are included in this post. However, one of the reasons for this blog is to introduce interesting and unfamiliar cultural material. I intend to learn more about this subject, and I hope that others share that intention.

WARNING: Excerpt #2 includes what some people may consider to be a sexual reference.

These excerpts are given in no particular order. I've numbered them for referencing purposes only. Pancocojams readers are encouraged to read these full articles and comments.

Excerpt #1:
From Startseite > Bd. 68, Nr. 6 (2014) > Filani
A Socio-semiotic Study of Nicknaming among Undergraduates in a Nigerian University
Ibukun Filani and Omotosho Moses Melefa (Ibadan/Nsukka, Nigeria)

The concept of name and naming is not just an identity marker; it is an important signification system in African cosmology. Therefore, the processes involved in giving a name to a child and the act of naming in the African society is taken with so much seriousness. This is because, as it is said in a Yoruba proverb, the name of a person tells much about the person. Since name is very important to Nigerians, it is not strange to find people changing their names and adopting new ones as a way of reinventing themselves. The act of changing names is common with converts who adopts new religions. Also, it is possible that a person might suddenly realise that his family name does not depict the faith (s)he is practising; therefore, a need arises for her/him to change the name. Another instance of changing of names among Nigerians is the adoption of what is commonly referred to as nicknames. This study analyses the adoption of nicknames among University of Ibadan undergraduates as a socio-semiotic system of signification for identity reinvention. It was observed that the signification derived from this socio-semiotic practice of nicknaming by the students studied followed defined and well-patterned morphological processes...

From the table above, anglicised nicknames have the highest number, followed by personal features nicknames while other categories are fewer in number. The students' propensity for using anglicised nicknames shows their desire to showcase their sense of modernity. The adoption of anglicised nicknames is deployed by the students as a socio-semiotic tool to subtly reject the identity that is captured in the names given to them by their parents. It presents them with the tool for self-reformation and reinvention.

Contextual Meaning

Indicating a student who plays soccer just as the French footballer- Galla

Dr Dre
The bearer is nicknamed after the hip-hop star Dr Dre

The bearer is nicknamed after the R and B singer Usher

The bearer is nicknamed after Plato, an ancient Greek philosopher to indicate a student who is very eloquent


The bearer adopted the name "Clinton"- the former US president, for the students' union electioneering purposes.

Table 2: Role-modelled Nicknames
Contextual Meaning
From the bearer's first name "Folake": indicates student's perception of modernity

From the bearer's first name "Lakan": indicates student's perception of modernity

From the bearer's first name- "Sunkanmi": indicates student's perception of modernity

From the bearer's first name- "Tayo": indicates student's perception of modernity


Table 3: Anglicised Nicknames
Contextual Meaning

"Barca" is the unofficial name of Barcelona Football club while "Tao" is clipped from the bearer's first name. The compound indicates the bearer's favourite European football club.

Omo jesu
The compound translates to Jesus' child. Here, it indicates that the bearer is a fanatical believer in Jesus.

Afa Sule
"Afa" is the Yoruba word for Islamic scholar while "sule" is the bearer's first name. The nickname indicates the bearer's religious beliefs

The nickname is made up of two words: "alo" clipped from the bearer's first name "alonge" and "vet"- clipped from the bearer's field of study, Veterinary. The nickname not only indicates the bearer, but it also indicates the bearer field of study.

"Orisa" is the Yoruba word for gods. Here, it is used to refer to a student who has a twin. It indicates the Yoruba belief that twins have specific gods.

Table 4: Association Nicknames
Contextual Meaning

Mount zion
An allusion to biblical mount zion, where it is said there will be holiness and deliverance. However, here, the idea of a mountain as a large amount of something is used in deriving this nickname. Here it describes a lady with big buttocks.

Sisí kamo
"Sisí" is the Yoruba word for young lady but it is used here to describe a male student who behaves like a lady.

A tall tree. Here it is used to describe a student who is very short.

Table 5: Ironic Nicknames
Contextual Meaning


It describes a lady with big buttocks

It describes a female who acts provocatively

Table 6: Sexist Nicknames
Contextual Meaning

For a student with a small physique

Tall man
For a student with great height

White angel
The name indicates the bearer's gentle and peaceful manner of dealing with her peers.

Kekere is an adjective in Yoruba which translates to small. It is used here to indicate the bearer's smallish physique

Epo dòdò
"Epo" is the Yoruba word for oil while " dòdò" is the Yoruba word for plantain. The compound here refers to palm oil, and in the context of use, it denotes that the bearer is very light in complexion. The nickname "dòdò" must have been adopted because "epo" here refers to palm oil, which colour is red.

Ak short
AK is an acronym from ‘Akin' the bearer's first name while short here is used to connote the bearer's height.

Methuselah is the oldest man in the bible. He died at the age of 969 years old. Here, it is used as a nickname for a student who seems too old for his class.


5.2 Structural analysis
In what follows, each nickname is taken as a word, that is, a linguistic sign that is created through a morphological process. Thus, the processes followed for the production of the nicknames collected for this study are explained:

a) Coinage: This is a process whereby a language user deliberately creates a new word or inadvertently uses a word in a particular context for effective communication. In the situation studied, there were instances where the students deliberately created names that were previously not existing and purposively attached meaning to them. In several instances, the meaning is got by ostensive definitions. There were also instances where already existing lexical items acquire new meanings, that is, they were not names of persons but were used as nicknames for the bearers. Examples are:

Locosuma (which is coined for the bearer who, as a female student, wears too much make up that make her look unattractive; its creation is probably inspired by the students' knowledge of Japanese sumo wrestlers, Yokozuma), Occulemotor (the bearer who is a female student is said to have big buttocks; morphologically, the word is made up of occule+motor, the first morpheme is got from a popular Nigerian exclamatory form, o cool, which is used in the south-western part of the country to show attraction, although this was recreated by the students contextually, while the second is an English word used by the students to express the idea that the big buttocks is an engine), Sisí kamo (sisi is the Yoruba word for young lady while kamo is a deliberate coinage. The bearer who is a male student is said to behave like a lady), Header (for a student who is believed to be too old for his class), Ironman (the bearer is said to be very hard working), Easybones (the bearer is said to be trouble-free and easy going), Ìrókò (Ironic name for a short person. Ìrókò is the Yoruba name for tall a species of hard word found in the rainforests of western Nigeria).

b) Compounding: This is a process where by two words that have independent existences are combined to form a single word (Katamba, 1993 and Malmkjear, 1995). Instances of compounding in our corpus include:

Lakeside (lake+side, from Láken which is the bearer's real name), Slim shaddy (from the bearer's physical features. The bearer is dark in complexion and slim). It connects, intertextually, to Eminem's The Real Slim Shady, though with a different contextual function, Lolly pop (from the bearer's first name which is Lolá), Cool sholly (from the bearer's first name- sholá; also the bearer is perceived to be usually relaxed), Kinky queen (anglicised version of the bearer's first name, Kíkélomo; used for a female who dresses or acts in sexually provocative ways), Demo pumping (demo is from the bearer's first name, Démólá used to show that the bearer is a ‘happening' person or always everywhere), Jayman (jay+man, the Jay is from the bearer's first name, Jámíù).

c) Neologism: This is a process that involves semantic shift. It involves giving words new meanings or changing the meaning of words. Also, it involves instances where new words are created and are given meanings. The examples under coinages also fall under neologism. Other instances of neologism in the corpus include:

i. Instances where names of renowned person is given to a student because the student has similar traits with the original bearer of the name. When this is done, the meaning of such name, if we go by referential theory of meaning, changes. Examples found include: Plato (the philosopher), Anelka (a footballer), Obama (U.S. president), Gallas (a footballer), Okurame (here the student is nicknamed after a lecturer, whom the student mimics) etc."


f) Personal feature nicknames: These are nicknames that are used to signal either a physical or behavioural characteristic in the bearer. Examples are: Ebony (for someone dark in complexion); Bororo (name of the cattle rearing tribe in Nigeria who are known for their light complexion, for someone that is light in complexion); T-black (a compound from Túndé and black, for someone who is dark in complexion); Kékeré (Yoruba word for small, for someone who is quite short); Atom (the smallest indivisible part of an element for someone who is the smallest in his class); Conscious (for someone who is always very careful in his dealings); and Bluekid (for someone who is said to always wear blue contact lens). The students leveraged heavily on their socio-cultural experiences to articulate their reconstructed identities in the nicknames. So, meanings cannot be adduced to the nicknames without contextual considerations."


6 Findings and Conclusion
The use of irony in nicknames is observed as a common tool for reinventing the identity/personality of others, especially with those instances where the nicknames are given as a derogatory label to rebrand a personality. Ironical statements are commonly seen as utterances used to express the opposite of their literal meaning. In this study, it was observed that the students, in a bid to avoid vulgar words and keep within the limit of politeness, use names that have positive denotations while they mean the opposite. What they connotatively mean with such names are the negative connotations that could be drawn from such names. Examples of such names are iroko and sisí kamo.

Ìrókò is the Yoruba word for a tree that grows very tall and is used for timber. The tree is pervasive in the rain forest region of Nigeria. Ìrókò as a nickname, as was found in this study, is used for a very short person. Likewise, sisí kamo is used to refer to male student who behaves like a female. Sexually provocative nicknames are also used by the students as tools to reinvent the identity/personalities of others. A few nicknames were found that are aligned to sex. Examples are: Sirdick (for a male student who is said to have a big penis) dick is a slang expression for penis, bottom power and mount Zion (for female students who are said to have big buttocks). Mount Zion as used by the students is an allusion to the biblical Mount Zion. It is said that there shall be holiness on mount Zion and the people of Israel shall possess their possession on the mountain. In the student's vocabulary, Mount Zion is a popular place where Christian students meet to pray and have fellowship. However, from this study, it was discovered that it was used as nickname for a female student who is said to have big buttocks or hips.

The impact of the English language on the nation's culture and indigenous languages is foregrounded in anglicised nicknames. The impact of the English language on Nigerian languages, cultures and traditions cannot be denied since English as well as their culture is reflected in the anglicised nicknames. The practice of anglicising names also challenges and changes Nigerian social norms as can be seen in the nicknames. Anglicism is also a reflection of what the students take as modernity. The anglicised nicknames are reflections of creativity in the students which enables them to keep touch with their first cultures which are embodied in Nigerian languages and at the same time a new one which is represented by English. They show through the nicknames that nobody is completely mono-culturally oriented, especially within the Nigerian context. In sum, they reflect what Du Bois calls ‘double consciousness'. But, unlike Du Bois' notion of two thoughts, warring ideals and reconciled striving, these nicknames show that different ideals that are represented in them are well reconciled as can be seen especially in the form of the nicknames. In conclusion, we opine that the creative venture of the students as seen in the patterned creation of nicknames are utilised as a tool for reinventing their identities in a bid to engender a trendy and youth-friendly cultural paradigm."

Excerpt #2
TheOiz, June 13, 2013
"Today’s post is going to be about Nigerian nicknames! I’d say nicknames in general, but see, with my shallow knowledge of other cultures and how they operate.

Growing up in Nigeria, getting a nickname is as inevitable as being born or dying. It’s just another part of life. The worst part about it is that most of the times, the nicknames don’t even make sense. The odds of getting a GOOD nickname are far lower than the odds of getting a Bad/Weird nickname just because it’s how Nigerians are. They’d put two of the most random things together and make the most random joke out of it. For example, when I was in high school, a guy and a girl were arguing when, outta nowhere, this guy tells this girl she looks like a camel toe. Yes, he called her a camel toe. That ended the argument as everyone kept laughing at her and her nickname became Camel Toe.

From my knowledge of how nicknames originate, I’m going to categorize them into four categories, and hopefully, you find the category that answers why you have been blessed with the nickname you own today.

1. Bodily Features: We all know that no one is perfect. We always have one small body imperfection or another. It’s either you have a big head, or a big nose, or something else. Back in my early years of high school, a tooth of mine grew out of place (hence me still using retainers till date) and it kinda made it look like I had three canines. My seniors quickly took advantage of the situation and called me a Vampire (or Vamps for short). I didn’t really think much of it, and I thought it was a pretty cool nickname (even though I knew they were dissing my teeth) until I went home and told my mum about my nickname at school. She slapped me so hard, I could have sworn that tooth that grew out of place flew out of my mouth. She then told me to NEVER let anyone call me a vampire again. After such a slap, it’d have been suicide to do otherwise. She even went as far as telling the principal and hostel master to ensure that no one calls me Vamps and if I answer to it, I should be flogged. That’s how the nickname died down until it eventually faded. Looking back at it now, I’m happy it did. However, other people in my class weren’t so lucky. We had this one guy in my class who had orange hair (I’m dead serious. And he didn’t dye it. He was born that way). Anyways, he was blessed with the name Lucozade Boost.


2. Characteristics/Personal Traits: Another way to get christened with a nickname is through your idiosyncrasies. Hayyy I just pulled out a big word. Pardon my grammar. I meant to say a person’s characteristics/mannerisms. Anyways, how you act can give you a nickname which, depending on how you behave, might be a good or bad one.


3. Your Name: Your name goes a long way in helping you get a nickname. Since it’s how you’re going to be identified, some people just love to reword the name to their liking. I’ll use myself as an example here. Y’all might know me as Oise, but the full name’s Ovbioise pronounced “Oh V Oh E Se (like set without T)” meaning the B in my name is silent. Now, some of my high school seniors decided to remix my name and made the V instead of the B to be silent which meant that my name was now pronounced as “Oh Bow (like bow and arrow) E Se”. For those of you who don’t know Yoruba, Obo (pronounced as Oh Bow) means Vagina/Pussy. So, as time progressed, Ovbioise turned into Oboise, which finally turned into Obo. And the name really stuck. I didn’t tell my mum though, but for some reason, I wasn’t too disturbed by it. Everybody, both juniors, seniors and teachers alike, called me Obo with the exception of my principal and CRS teacher. I almost won the most popular nickname in high school but I lost to the orange haired kid.


4. Randomness of Nigerians: Like I said earlier on, Nigerians always have a way of putting the weirdest of things together just for humorous purposes. A guy in my school was nicknamed “Blood” and there was really no reason why. The nickname just stuck like that and there was no reason why it did”...
Here are a few selected comments from this article:
1. victoria, JUNE 23, 2013
"My nickname was MALBUSH, cuz my hair is full and long"

2. Adeola, JULY 28, 2013
"Nice one bro, can categorically say u got it spot on!
I have had names like;
: YamseyNoah cuz I was quite muscular in high school
: Menop (Men Oh Pee) cuz I got below 70 in a math quiz n my head teacher in summer school asked if my brain was goin thru menopause"...
I wonder if "YamseyNoah" refers to either former tennis player Yannick Noah
or to professional basketball player Joakim Simon Noah

UPDATE: September 17, 2018
Thanks to Anonymous September 17, 2018 for sharing the information that YamseyNoah probably refers to Nigerian Nollywood Actor Ramsey Noah. Read that complete comment below.

3. DJ DON PIE, AUGUST 23, 2013
"nice one Obo, really true tis post brings memories of Ominiku(dnt even knw hw to spell it). And other pals Specie,vain,tagtag,pz. Keep up 2 good work fam."

Soma, JUNE 13, 2013
..."I’ve been called Teddy, smallie and Fanta…lol I don’t regret the last one for special reasons."
I believe that "Fanta" is a Malian form of the Arabic name "Fatima".

Excerpt #3
From "Funny Nigerians Nicknames And There Meaning"
1. Nobody:, Feb 04, 2015
"China-- He never reach Airport before talkless of goin to China

Obama-- He can't even identify the real Obama but he knw say nah American they bear that name"

2. Tobilastik(m), Feb 04, 2015

"Oyibo: once you are fair every one wil decide to call you that name"
I believe that "oyibo" is a form of the word "oyinbo" meaning "White people".
Click for the article "Is "Oyinbo" A Derogatory Word?"

3. Optional2(f):,Feb 04, 2015
"Short T"

Excerpt #4
From Funny Nigerians Nicknames And There Meaning
1) IKPA :
loose translation Skin I think, in a context that depicts toughness.. I no sabi sha but e sweet 4 mouth
My calabar/Uyo guys in the building can relate to this.
"OP"- original poster [The first person who started this discussion thread/]

"Calabar/Uyo"= Nigerian ethnic groups

2. Darey00(m): Feb 04, 2015
"BABA LONDON: Most likely a Yoruba man who had spent some parts of his life in the UK (might even be
outside London or the US) but people just call him Baba London anyhow. All that matters is that he has been abroad for a time too long for the neighbours liking. This man is now settled in Lagos and he owns a two-storey building near Lawanson area. He is the landlord and caretaker at the same time. He does not tolerate indebtedness otherwise he is quick to tell you about his exploits in the oyinbo's man civil service. His children are definitely back in the UK considering the un-conducive living
conditions in Nigeria. He and his wife live in his second house near Adekunle Bus-stop where they also have some tenants downstairs.

3.DONOCHAS(m): Feb 04, 2015
"Edeede/Edet-one who does nt write in class.
Hipi- a person who is sent 2 skul bt goes else where like 2 play ball or go 2 play station centre."

Excerpt #5
From Funny Nigerians Nicknames And There Meaning
1. doubleking(m), Feb 05, 2015
"Ijebu very stinge person
CNN news teller
Abacha very wicked person"

Excerpt #6
From 12 of the Most Popular Nicknames of Nigerian Football Stars (And the Facts Behind them)

2. “Papilo” Nwankwo Kanu is a Nigerian ex-international, often referred to as the most decorated Nigerian footballer in history.
Kanu’s nickname Papilo is still very popular around the football circle, but it didn’t in any way usurp his real name – Kanu.

“Papilo crop up while Kanu was young, but his looks were like that of an old man, even though he was about 14years old or so. Coupled with the fact that he has such a mature ball intelligence and wisdom in dealing with people in and off the field... so his friends nicknamed him “Papilo.” "

8. “Mathematical” Segun Odegbami is perhaps the most popular attacking right winger from Nigeria. He played for the national team Green Eagles and IICC Shooting stars of Ibadan.

He’s one of the few Nigerian players that went to University – a graduate of Mechanical Engineer. I guess this also contributed to his nickname. But it was more of his speed and fast calculated runs and dribbles from the right flank that gave him the nickname –“Mathematical.”

Till date, Odegbami still adopts the name in his Column on Newspapers and other Journals.

10. “Mountain of Gibaratta” Emmanuel Okala is one of the most popular goalkeepers in Nigeria football history. He was the Green Eagles first choice goalkeeper in a period when Nigeria had such great goalkeepers like Best Ogedegbe and Peter Fragene

Okala’s nickname “Mountain of Gibaratta” crop up due to his size and height 6.9 inches tall… and he stood frightful to any approaching striker. When Okala stood in between the goal post, it was almost impossible to score a goal.

11. “Thunder” Teslim Balogun is the most popular footballer in Nigerian history. Thunder Balogun’s story span over seven decades and still handed down through the country’s folklore to the generation next.

It was said that Balogun’s shot was like the strike of Thunder. And the story that his shot burst through a player’s belly and tore the goal net… was only a way to describe how powerful those ball shot were.

Thunder Balogun was so popular that most Nigeria didn’t even knew his first name as Teslim."

12. “The Flying Cat” Anua Lawal Rigogo was Nigeria’s best and incredible goalkeeper of the 50s.’
It was said that there was no man born of a woman that can score Rigogo. It was actually the Ghanaian President Kwame Nkuruma that nicknamed him “The Flying Cat” because of his post-to- post dives and acrobatic displays. Till date, only few people knew his real name as Anua Lawal Rigogo."

Excerpt #7
From Nicknames Nigerians call 13 state governors
Author: Nkem Ikeke UPDATED: 2016
..."Nigerians are a great people and they have a funny way of naming things and people. They have a name for everything under the sun… They are very good at giving nicknames to things and even humans. The nicknames they give to people are usually as a result of something, maybe an event. Most of the time, these nicknames eventually replace the real names. Most Nigerian governors have already been given nicknames and below are some of the funny names they are being addressed as.

1.Akinwumi Ambode: He is the governor of Lagos state and has been nicknamed ‘Quilox’, which is one of Nigeria’s most celebrated nightclubs. He was given this name because he’s said to frequently patronize the expensive nightclub. This came to the limelight after someone spotted him at the popular nightclub sometime in 2015 after he was sworn in as governor.

3. Ayodele Fayose: The governor of Ekiti state is mostly referred to as the ‘Stomach Infrastructure’ governor because he believes in feeding his people and is always sharing food items. He is the most controversial governor. Fayose made the term, stomach infrastructure popular in Nigeria's political dictionary.

4. Abiola Ajimobi: The governor of Oyo state is called ‘Eji’ because of his gap-tooth. The word ‘EJi’ is the Yoruba translation of gap-tooth.

8. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi: The governor of Enugu state got the name ‘Cry Cry Baby’, following his shedding of tears when he visited Ukpabi, Nimbo, in Uzo-Uwani local government area of the state after they were attacked by Fulani herdsmen.

10. Abdullahi Ganduje: The governor of Kano state is referred to by residents of the state as 'Mijin Hajiya’ and ‘Me Barci’. Mijin Hajiya because of his wife's influence on him or Me barci because he frequently sleeps in public functions.“

Excerpt #8
Eur J Paediatr Dent. 2009 Sep;10
Kolawole KA1, Otuyemi OD, Adeosun OD.
The aim of this study was to assess the incidence of nicknames and name-calling among a sample of Nigerian schoolchildren, to examine the types of names reported by the children, the relationship of the nicknames to dental appearance and the impact of such nicknames on the children.

A sample consisting of 506 randomly selected children from secondary schools in Ile-Ife, Nigeria, were invited to participate in the study. Self- administered pre-tested questionnaires were completed independently by the children in their schools. The questionnaire related to the incidence of nicknames and teasing, nature, frequency, relationship to physical appearance and the effect of such names on the children.

The incidence of nicknames was found to be high among the schoolchildren (77%) with no significant difference between boys and girls. Eighty eight percent were called by their nicknames on a daily basis. The majority of the nicknames were derived from the children's names (34.9%), while others related to their appearance, body features, and personality. The nickname was appearance-related in about one third of the children and more often this related to the weight of the child (26.77%). The teeth were the source of nickname in only 6 (4.7%) of the children with equal occurrence rate in boys and girls.

The results of this study show that being given nicknames is a common occurrence in Nigerian schools, one third of which may be appearance-related with most children indifferent to these nicknames. Dental appearance may not be a significant contributor to such names."

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  1. Hello,

    Yamsey Noah in Excerpt #2 above, most likely refers to the Nigerian Nollywood Actor Ramsey Noah. His father was a white European, while his mother is a Nigerian-Yoruba. He himself was born and raised in Nigeria. He was most popular in the 1990s and early 2000s before 2010. He is not as active in Nollywood as before.

    Hope this helps.

    1. Hello, Anonymous.

      Thanks for sharing that information. I'll refer people reading this post to your comment.

      Best wishes!