Thursday, March 8, 2018

Information About & Examples Of Traditional African Twin Names

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post provides excerpts from various websites that provide information about and examples of twin names from some traditional African languages.

Traditional African names for triplets and other traditional names that are associated with multiple births are also included in this compilation.

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

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.

This post is dedicated to the memory of my twin.


Pancocojams Editor's Note:
These excerpts are given in no particular order and are numbered for referencing purposes only.
Some names are included in more than one excerpt that is quoted below.

From Author: Mary Ikande UPDATED: 2017
"The Yoruba people, whose representatives live in Nigeria and Benin, are well known for a high rate of twin births. In the USA, for every thousand newborns, 28.9 are twins. Among the Yorubas, this index is almost twice as high - for every 1000 births, there are 45 twins. If you have heard amazing news that you are expecting twins, you will find this info we will give you below interesting. We will tell you about Yoruba names for twins, girls and boys.

What do Yoruba names for twins mean? In ancient times, the birth of twins (ibeji), was considered a negative event. These babies were even killed at the time. In the 18th century, the views on the birth of Ibeji changed: it was considered a blessing, they received a near-divine meaning. By the 19th century, the glorification was established and remained until now. There is no need to look too far for a list of Yoruba names. For twins, they are traditionally the same. Let's see what they mean: - The first twin to make an entry into the world is usually named Taiwo. This means: First to taste the world. - The second is called Kehinde. This means: The one that comes after. It is believed in Yoruba tribe that a child's name will affect his character. Taiwo is the leader because he 'calls for Kehinde' through crying at birth. Kehinde is cautious, smarter and judicious. Taiwo is always more interested in everything, prone to adventures”...
I added italics to highlight the first usage of the names of twins in this article.

Thursday, September 9, 2010 Posted by Cultural Trumpet
Onomastics: Naming in Yoruba
"Names are not mere identification tags. They are meaning containers. Naming among the Yoruba people could be a basis for learning the structure of the Yoruba names, because this names are structured like phrases and sentences having extant meaning. In other words, the study of the Yoruba names could be the study of the grammar of the language.


Taiwo----The first to arrive of a twin
Kehinde---The last to arrive of a twin
Eta Oko---Triplet
Idowu-----A child born after a set of twins
Alaba------A child born after Idowu

"Twin names
There are also special names for elder and younger twins. The second twin to be born is considered the elder as they were mature enough to help their sibling out first.

Twin....Male name....Female name....Variants
Twin....Atá.... Ataá....Atta
First born ("younger"[2] twin)....Atá Pánin....Ataá Pánin....Panyin
Second born ("elder" twin)....Atá Kúmaa....Ataá Kúmaa....Akwetee (m), Atsú, Kaakra, Kakraba, Kakira
Born after twins...Táwia
Born after Tawia....Gaddo....Nyankómàgó"

From African Congolese Names or Zairian Names

Kabanga... F...Tshiluba... Second born twin
Kanku... M/F... Tshiluba... Second born twin
Mbo ...M/F... kikongo (Bandundu)... First born twin
Mbuyi... M/F... Tshiluba... First born twin
Mpia... M/F... Kikongo (Bandundu)... Second born twin
Mukonkole... M/F... Kisonge... First born twin
Ngoyi... M/F... Kisonge... Second born twin
Nzuzi... M/F ...Kikongo... Second born twin
Shako... M/F... Tetela... Twin
Simba... M/F... Kikongo... First born twin

"female names:
ACHAN : Dinka of south Sudan name for a female child in the first pair of twins.

ATSUKPI : Ewe of Ghana name for a female twin.

HASANA : Hausa of W. Africa name meaning “first born of twins.”.

IYANGURA : Nyanja of Zambia name meaning “to arbitrate” or “to perform ceremonies for the birth of twins.”

KISSA : Baganda of Uganda unisexual name meaning “born after twins.”

XETSA : Ewe of Ghana name meaning “twin.”

ZINSA : Benin name meaning “twin.” "

"ATA : A Ghana name for a twin.

HASSAN : Hausa of W. Africa name meaning “first born of twins.”

Ngor : or Madit are two Dinka names given to male twins.

ODION : Nigerian name meaning “first born of twins.”

OKELLO : Ateso of Uganda name meaning “born after twins.”

OKO : Adangbe of Ghana name meaning “twin.”

ZESIRO : Buganda of Uganda name meaning “first born of twins.” "

"KABANGA m Central African, Luba
Masculine Luba name, meaning "the second-born or youngest twin".

KATUMA m Central African, Luba
Luba masculine name traditionally given to the last-born of triplets, from kàtùmà, of which the tùmà means "to send". Superstition suggests that third-born children with this name, because of their name, should not be sent on errands or deliveries.

MBUYI m Central African, Luba
Masculine Luba name meaning "the firstborn of twins", from the word mbùùyì.

NZUZI m & f Kongo
It means "second born twin" in Kikongo."

From [Kaabukùlù] Names and Nicknames Lubas
March 21, 2014, Clarisse
"Kabange (a) = second child born from multiple birth (it can be understood that Joseph Kabila was born after his sister Jaynet)
Mambuyi = mother of twins
Mbuyi = first child born from multiple birth
Muswamba (wa ba Mbuyi) = third child born of multiple birth or child following twins
Nsanga (Diboko) = survivor of a twin pregnancy
Nsanza = second child born from multiple birth
Shambuyi = father of twins (sha = father)"

From "African Names Given to Twins and Others of Multiple Birth" by Jonathan Musere
"African twins (or multiple-birth children, in general), according to their ethnic group and gender, are traditionally given specific names. Often, the siblings who preceded and the ones who followed the twins are also given specific names. Traditional reactions to multiple baby births vary from culture to culture. However, a commonalty is the subjecting of those born in multiples to ritual cleansing. Some of this cleansing can involve wild partying. Generally, such births are regarded either as bad omens, or as mysterious extraordinary happenstances, or as symbols of goodwill from God or ancestors. The births, therefore, require proper ritual cleansing for their benefits to be realized or for their possible negative impacts to be counteracted or nullified. Improper handling of multiple birth siblings would cause the spirits to vent their anger upon the family or the community. Multiples are indeed treated with extra care, if not suspicion. The following is in a piece that Jan Daeleman devotes exclusively to the exploration of multiple-birth naming traditions in Sub-Saharan Africa (1977: 189).

"The birth of twins has a very particular meaning in many Sub-Saharan tribes, as the twins are considered to bring along a message from the ancestors to their living descendants. Their birth is accompanied by very specific rites and a carefully patterned name-giving. the Ngwi language the twins are called Nker, "grave", which makes their relationship with the ancestor world very explicit: they are indeed considered to be mediators between the world of the living and the world of the dead. ...they are also designated as "numinous children"...and compared with the bird...sent by God to guide all other birds (birds being believed to be of supernatural origin)....Twins are given names that refer not only to mysterious natural phenomena as "thunder" and "lightning", but also to mysterious aweinspiring [sic] animals such as the "snake"...or felines such as the lion, the leopard, the serval...African tiger-cat...the "kingly" and "lordly" animals.... The...Koongo interpret them to be..."sacred children"...pre-existent spirits...being incarnated in the family of their choice.... Welcoming-rites...aim at making them realize that they are acknowledged as spirits."

Paulus Mohome writes about the Basotho of southern Africa (1972:178).

"...the birth of twins always is a cause of joy and anxiety. ...a great deal of excitement as well as concern surrounds the birth of twins, more so if they happen to be identical twins. They are regarded as a special gift from the ancestors. The birth of twins is said to indicate that the ancestral spirits are happy and proud about such parents. The cause for concern always stems from the belief that the twins are delicate and thus frail. There exists a strong belief among the Basotho that twins rarely grow to be adults without dying. To insure the survival of twins, great precautionary and protective measures are taken. ... the mother receives special care by being given plenty of food so as to maximize her lactic capability. Rituals and taboos are elaborate. The joy of the parents is shown by organizing lavish food and beer parties to celebrate the occasion. Two sheep or goats are slaughtered to welcome the twins. Custom dictates that everything must be done twofold, for it is believed that if this is not done, one of the twins may die."

The Nandi of Kenya have their side of the story (Hollis 1969: 68).

"The birth of twins is looked upon as an inauspicious event, and the mother is considered unclean for the rest of her life. She is given her own cow and may not touch the milk or blood of any other animal. She may enter nobody's [sic] until she has sprinkled a calabash full of water on the ground, and she may never cross the threshold of a cattle kraal again. One of the twins is always called Simatua (Fiscus sp.) whilst the other receives an animal's name such as Chep-tiony, Chep-sepet, Chemaket, Che-makut, etc."

The Luhya of Kenya and Uganda have a lengthy traditional ritual (Wako 1985: 37-38).

"If a woman gave birth to two children, they were called "Amakhwana." The mother of twins was nicknamed Nabakhwana or Balongo. ...But on giving birth to twins, the husband and herself shut in their hut for one month or more [sic]. A sheep would be slaughtered for her and neighbors would come and stage dances in the home. On the day of exposing the twins [to the public], the mother would cover her waist with special leaves called "amaatikhani." ...He [the father] would...choose the day for releasing the twins and their mother from staying indoors. ...the man would take a long three-pronged stick and a young cockerel while his wife would take a small hoe called "Akhasiri," a small pot of "busaa" and some water. Then they would set off for the ceremony, accompanied with a large crowd of men, women and children. ...On arrival at the home where the ceremony was to be held, there was no formal welcome as the house was full of people dancing and rejoicing. The new arrivals had therefore to force their way in. Often fighting erupted with those who attempted to prevent them from going in. The man specifically invited to perform the ceremony would proceed to the house in which the twins were, followed by his wife and using his three pronged stick, he would push the door open. The two pairs would meet at the entrance, where upon [sic] the door opener and his wife would spit some liquor in the twins' faces. This would be the climax of the ceremony and would be followed by drinking and dancing. ...twins...the first [born]...was called Odongo if a boy and Adongo if a girl. If one of the twins died, it had to be buried behind the mother's house. There was no mourning for a dead twin. The living twin was referred to as Abanji. a woman who gave birth to twins was forbidden to enter any house at her original [parental] home until her husband had given her parents a heifer and the door opening ceremony had been performed. ...In other areas, the first twin..whether a girl or a boy was called Mukhwana. The second twin was called Mulongo. The child that followed twins was called Shisia whether a boy or a girl. The follower of Shisia was called Khamala. If one twin died, the surviving one was called Walekhwa.

Multiple-birth related names used in central Africa include Ishemboyo and Boika (for a father of twins), Tangbo and Inababiri (for a mother of twins), Inabushuri (for a mother of triplets), Manata, i.e., "carrier of twins" and Kibika, i.e., "the one who calls the twins" (for a sibling whose birth preceded that of twins), Mputu (for a firstborn sibling after twins), Tingbo, i.e., "twin's arm" (for a second-born sibling after twins), Tsiimba, i.e., wild cat and Nzusi, i.e., serval tiger-cat (for female twins), Khosi, i.e., lion and Makaanzu, i.e., "the one who holds the lion by his feet" (for male twins), and (for triplets) Omba, Shako, and Mbucu (Daeleman 1977: 191-14).

Among the Baganda of Uganda, the twin who is given birth to first is commonly named Wasswa (m), or Singoma (m), or Babirye ( f ), or Nangoma ( f ), whilst the younger one is named Kato (m), or Teenywa (m), or Nakato ( f ) or Wuuja ( f ). The names Wasswa, Babirye, Teenywa, and Wuuja are adapted from ones used by the neighboring Basoga, while Singoma and Nangoma are adapted from names used by the neighboring Banyoro.

According to Whitehead (1947: 46), the Nuer of Sudan name the firstborn after twins Bol (m), or Nyabol ( f ); the second born after twins is named Geng (m), or Kaat (m), or Nyacwil ( f ); and the third born after twins is named Tot (m), or Nyatoot ( f ). According to Evans-Pritchard (1948: 108), the firstborn after twins is called Bol (m), or Bicok (m), or Nyibuol ( f ); while the second born after twins is named Tot (m) or Cuil (m) or Nyatot ( f )."...
The ellipses [...] are given as they are found in this article.

I decided not to add italics to highlight the names in this article that are given to multiple births because those examples are given throughout this article.

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1 comment:

  1. Ogonna Chuks-orji's 1972 book Names From Africa includes an entry in the female names section for the Luganda (Uganda) name "kissa" (pronunciation kiss-SAH) meaning "born after twins".

    Eliza Dinwiddie-Boyd's 1997 book Proud Heritage 11,001 Names For Your African American Baby includes the entries "kissa" and "kizza" Luganda, "born after twins" in the female names section.