Monday, November 3, 2014

"Yoruba Names And Their Meanings" by Fela Sowande

Edited by Azizi Powell

The content of this post is presented for cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

My thanks to Fela Sowande for his cultural legacy.

This post presents a chapter of Fela Sowande's 1966 book The Mind Of A Nation- The Yoruba Child (Ibadan: Ibadan University). Dr. Sowande (b. Abeokuta, Nigeria, May 1905; d. Ravenna, Ohio, United States, 13 March 1987) was a Nigerian musician, composer, and scholar.

I received a copy of that manuscript from a friend who had received it as a gift from Dr. Sowande when he lectured for a brief time at the University of Pittsburgh somewhere around 1973. The chapter on personal names from that manuscript is published on a page of my cultural blog because that's the chapter I'm most interested in, and because that book is so hard to find, at least in the United States.

I published this post years ago on my multi-page cultural website, Unfortunately, in October 2014, that website vanished. Consequently, I'm re-publishing selected pages (categories) from that website on on pancocojams. Also, many of the playground rhyme pages will be re-published (with additions) on my new Google blog,

Here's the introduction to that chapter from Fela Sowande's book that I had published on that page:

Excerpt from Wikipedia about Fela Sowande:
"Olufela Obafunmilayo Sowande (b. Abeokuta, Nigeria, May 1905; d. Ohio, United States, 1987) was a Nigerian musician and composer. Considered the father of modern Nigerian art music, Sowande is perhaps the most internationally known African composer of works in the European "classical" idiom...

From 1945, he was a renowned organist and choirmaster at the West London Mission of the Methodist Church until 1952, and a considerable amount of organ music dates from this period. These are based on Nigerian melodies that gave a special appeal to the Black members of his congregation in the early years of migration from Africa and the Caribbean. Also during this time, he became known as a dance pianist, bandleader, and Hammond organist, playing popular tunes of the day.

Western and African ideas prevail in his music which included organ works such as Yorùbá Lament, Obangiji, Kyrie, Gloria, Jesu Olugbala, and Oba Aba Ke Pe. Most of these show a strong influence of Anglican Church music combined with Yoruba pentatonic melodies.

His orchestral works include Six Sketches for Full Orchestra, A Folk Symphony, and African Suite for String orchestra, and show African rhythmic and harmonic characteristics. He has also written a significant amount of secular and sacred choral music, mainly a cappella. Some of these works were composed during his period with the BBC Africa Service. He went back to Africa to scholarly work with the Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation and later the University of Ibadan. In 1968 he moved to Howard University in Washington, D.C., then the University of Pittsburgh.

In the last years of his life Sowande taught in the Department of Pan-African Studies at Kent State University, and lived in nearby Ravenna, Ohio with his wife, Eleanor McKinney, who was one of the founders of Pacifica Radio. He is buried in Randolph Township, Ohio.

Sowande also held the title "Chief Bariyo of Lagos."

There is currently a move to set up a centre to research and promote his works, as many remain unpublished or are out of print."

Note: I apologize that because of my lack of typing skills, the Yoruba names and other Yoruba words included in this manuscript are typed without their accent marks. In all other ways, this posting is an exact replication of that manuscript chapter, including page numbers. However, I have added [sic] in the case of any typos made by the author. Because I don't know how to make underlined words with this software, I have added a note in brackets indicating that a particular word is underlined in this manuscript.
-Azizi Powell (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) 1/10/2010

Page 39-40
"The Yoruba author and poet, Mr. D. A. Sobande, listed-in newspaper article some years ago-eleven types of names used in Yorubaland. He cited the hypothetical case of a Yoruba man who was called (1) Jacob, as his Christian baptismal name; (2) Yakubu, as his Moslem name; (3) Kehinde, because he was the second baby of twins, the last to arrive; (4) Oladipo, because, at the time of his birth, his family was well-to-do; (5) Ajimatim because he was a dandy; (6) Isola, because his family belonged to one of Oyo's kingly houses' (7) Omo Esu, because his people originally came from the town of Oyun in Yorubaland; [Esu=locust]. (8) Atoloye, because he was made the 'Ekerin Oba' or The Fourth to the King -a Chieftaincy. (9) A-r'owo-lo-bi-agba, a pet name for him by the junior wives of his family-compound, who were not permitted by custom, to call his by name' (10) Baba Onisona. because he was a carver by profession, and (11) Alonge, because he was tall and slim by build.

Yoruba names are therefore much more than mere identification tags, much more than mere "luggage labels"; each has a reason (a) for being just what it is; and (b) for being given to a particular individual. Yoruba names embody circumstances of birth, history, family, religion, or some other equally pertinent facts relevant to that particular individual bearing the name. Yoruba names are, in fact, in most cases contractions of whole sentences. "Atoloye," for example [see above list], is but the shortened form of A to ni oye," and could be amplified into "Eniti o to lati fi je oje= He to whom a Chieftancy is but right and proper".

"Atoloye" is perhaps more properly amplified into "A to ni oye", i. e.m "Eniti o to ni oye", where "to" is a verb that means "to be durable" and signifies "wise maturity plus great age plus full retention of highly developed faculties that still retained the efficiency and resiliency normally associated with the prime of life". The only question here is, can this apply to a person on his accession to the Chieftaincy, at which time nobody could possibly know what the future held in surefor the new Chief?" On the other hands, the salutation to a Yoruba chier, from the moment of his accession, is "Ade a pe l'ori, Bata a pe l'ese, olori a sise ebi, Esin oba a ma j'oko!-which is to say-"Long will the crown remain on the chief's head; long will the shoes remain on the chief's feet; the chief's wives will bear children; the chief's virile member will always be fully active (literally: the chief's horse will eat fodder), "at a time when no one knows what thegods have planned for the chierf. By the same token, the derivation of "Atoloye" as "He who is durable as Chief" (with 'durable' being used in the sense outlined abive), is perhaps to be preferred.

Page 41
Sometimes, but rather unusually, a whole sentence is used; my aged mother told me recently how amused she was many years ago, to hear two Yoruba women calling to their respective children, to come away from a procession which my mother was taking part. The first woman called out: "Bo ku o te" meaning "If you die you disgrace yourself", revealing that this woman had had "abiku" (short- lived) children prior to this one. The second Yoruba woman called out: "Olorun nikan ni i s'omo," which means "God alone makes children"; it seems likely that, behind this second name, there was a personal history, probably connected with the conversion to Christianity. Normally, however, Yoruba names are contracted sentences. Abimbola is short for "A bi mi ba ola" or "I was born in the midst of honor" (or prestige, or renown). This is a very useful method for deriving the meaning of Yoruba names, and words, for most Yoruba words respond to the same treatment. This is possible, partly on account of the monosyllabic base on which Yoruba language rests. Compound words are, in the vast majority of cases, but single words joined together to make longer ones.

There is, of course, what we may call "the intermediate" type of Yoruba name, in which the name is neither a contraction of a whole phrase or sentence , like "Atolye", nor is it a whole sentinece [sic] in itself, like "Bo lu o te," but is 'in-between'-usually a complete but inconclusive phrase like "Abayomi" i. e. "My vilifiers would have rejoiced at my misfortune," or "I would have been held up for ridicule," each requiring an "if" phrase which has been left unexpressed. Another good example is "Biobaku," i. e., "Bi (iwo) ko ba ku," or in English: "If (you, or ) this one does not die" an inconclusive phrase requiring a "then" part to complete it; a "then" part of the name of "My heart will rejoice", or "God will have heard my prayers," or "My sorrows have ended" or some such phrase".

Page 42
Therefore, it is proper and valid to derive the meanings of Yoruba words-certainly of Yoruba proper names-by amplifying them into their original components, thus getting at the meaning of the word, or name, by summation of the meanings of its individual components. This process we might term "derivation through amplification." It is a valid process, but within certain limits only, and with the added proviso that, in amplifying words into their original components, we do not play about with tonal inflections, without clear and justifiable reasons.

But for the moment we are primarily concerned with the distinctive character of Yoruba names. By comparison, European names like Jack, Mary, Joan, Edward, etcetera, seem tame. A boy named Edward is not thereby and therefore identified with Edward the Black Prince of history; neither does a Joan automatically consider herself in some way related to the famous Joan of Arc, or to any other historically famous Joan. In Yorubaland, on the contrary, the name itself tell us so many things about that thing or person bearing that name. This subject received fine treatment at the hands of the Yoruba poet, Mr. Tubosun Sowande, in his Arofo on "Oruko" ["Names'], an English version of which will be given in full hereafter, with the author's permission, for which we are grateful.

Parodically enough, it is in Western societies, where the individual is the societal unit, that names have an anonymity which is not to be found in Yoruba names. In Yorubaland on the other hand-where the family is the unit-Yoruba names have a clear specificity, which is in sharp contrast to the somewhat anonymity of English names. Perhaps this is due to the fact that, precisely because of the relegation of the individual to a minor role within the family as the unit in Yorubaland, a Yoruba name has to be specific, to pinpoint which individual is meant, and in what relation to the family, to the society, and to the gods and goddesses or the pantheon, whose participation in the affairs of the socieity is held to be real, etcetera.

Page 43
But even the names of Yoruba towns have this same specificity, as Tubosun Sowande points out in his Arofo on "Oruku" (that is, his philosophical thoughts on the significance of names). It is therefore one of the basic characteristics of Yoruba names that they are meaningful in a precise and specific way, and that they contain, virtually, the essence of the nature or being of the thing named, be it a town, or a person, a leaf, an animal, a tree, or even man-made objects like drums, baskets, water-pots, etcetera. We can, with advantage use the names in this ASrofo to illustrate this process of "derivation through amplification. " (The author's permission to do this is appreciated).

1. "Olu Orun"
"Olu" is short for "Olowo," which is in turn a contracted form of "Olu Awo"="An Adept of Adepts:, Hence, "Olu Orun" = "Olu Awo orun"= "The Adept of Adepts (or The Chief of Chiefts) of Heaven. "Olu" signifies the "crown, the apex, the pick of the bunch", while "Awo" signifies "Mysteries." Hence "Olu Orun" does duty for "The Adept of the Adepts of the Sacred Mysteries of Heaven."

2. "Alaka"
=" Enitio ni Ake" = He who owns (the region of) Ake in Abeokuta=He who excercises executive authorityover the entire region, with (in traditional times) power of life and death over his subjects.

3. "Olubadan"
May be read as Oluwo Ibadan"; it signifies "The Paramount Chief of Ibadan (see 1. above for "Oluwo")

4. "Oludomare"
A generic term for God, variously amplified and translated. Here we are outside the province of persoanl names, and are in the realm of religious symbolic names, a realm in which derivation though amplification is singularly unwise and unprofitable.

5. "Olutunwase"
= Olu(ti o) ntun iwa se = God who remodels character in being.

Page 44
6. "Olupawada"
= "Olu (ti o) npa iwa da = God who changes character (from bad to good, implying the Regenerative Power of God.)

Note on Numbers 5 and 6
See name Number 1 for remarks on "Olu." The remarks on Number 4 also apply to Numbers 5 and 6, for we are here dealing, not with concreately manifested objects, but with aspects of a Spiritual Being of the Highest Order, God.

7. "Olokun"
A kind of fish,

8. "Kugbe"
Another kind of fish.

9. "Adenekan"
= Ade ni eniti o nkan = Crown (or honor) comes only to the chosen.

10. "Adedoyin"
= Ade di oyin = (My) crown had become (sweet as) honey.

11. "Adeyinka"
= Ade yi mi ka = (My) crown surrounds me: i.e. , all those things associated with a king's crown-prestige, honor, authority, etcetera-surround me.

12. "Adeniji"
= Ade ni iji = (My) crown has a shade (under which I rest).

13. Adetoro"
= Ade mi toro = (My) crown is without blemish (is unruffled).

= Oye rin de = High rank has walked in (to me).

15. "Oyesiku"
= Oue si ileku(n) = High rank has open the door (to all good things).

16. "Oyerola"
= Oye to ola = High rank is equivalent to (i. e., is such that it has brought) honor (or authority, dignity).

17. "Okunowo"
Okun ni owo = Okun ni owo-The strings (of beads) commands respect.

18. "Okuneye"
= Okun ni eye = The string (of beads) commands adoration.

19. "Okunbajo"
= Oku(n) ba eni (pe) jo = The string of beads gather together with us.

Note on Numbers 17, 18, and 19
Here, "Okun" is the string of beads, one of the sinsignias of the poweful Ogboni Society, usually worn round the writst. The "Ogboni" is a secret all-make cult, that wielded tremendous powers in traditional society. But it had one office always filled by a woman-the "Erelu."

Page 45
20. "Olayinka"
= Ola yi mi ka = Honor (authority, dignity) surrounds me.

21. Olatunde
= Ola tun de. i. e., tun (pada) de = Honor has returned again.

22. Olabopo
= Ola bo si ipo (re) = Honor has returned to its rightful place.

23. Ogundele
= Ogun (the Orisa) has reached (his) home.

24. "Ogundare"
Ogun da are = Ogun has found in my favor, acquitted me.

25. Ogunsola
= Ogun se ola = Ogun has created (ie. e. clothed me with ) honor.

26. "Ogundehin"
= Ogun dehin (wa) = Ogun has turned back to come to us.

27. "Egunleti"
= Egun ni eti = The Ancestral Spirit (Rgun) has ears (to hear us through this baby)

28. "Ojediran"
= Oje di (ohun) iran (diran) = The cult of the Ancestors has become part of our family heritage (something handed down from one generation to the next, down the line forever and a day.

29. "Abegunrin"
= Eniti o mba Egun rin = One who walks with the Ancestral Spirit ( i.e. , who communes with the Ancestral Spirit).

30. "Sangowanwa"
= Sango wa mi wa = Sango has come looking for me.

= Sango has closed the ranks (of our group).

32. "Sangolaja"
= Sango la ija = Sango has made peace (has settled the dispute).

33. "Oyagbaro"
= Oya gbo aro = Oya has heard our grief (and turned it into joy).; [Oya is the wife of Sango]

34. "Oyabunmi"
= Oya bun emi = Oya has given me (this child).

35. "Oyatunde"
Oya tun de = Oyahas come back again.

36. "Oyagogun"
= Oya to ogun = Oyato ogun = Oya is (in herself) effective magic.

37. "Ayangbami"
= Ayan gba emi = Ayan has accepted me [could also mean: Ayan has saved me(from childlessness).]

38. "Ayandiran"
= Ayandi [ohun) iran(diran) = Ayan has become an heirloom; i. e., the worship of Ayan (the patron god of drumming and drumming styles)has become something handed down from generation to generation in our family.

Page 46.
39. "Alayande"
=Eniti o nsin Ayan de = The devotee of Ayan has arrived.

40. Ayanlaja
= Ayan la ija = Ayan has made peace, replaced strife with concord.

41. "Fatoyinbo"
= Ifa to Oyinbo = Ifa is to be equated with Oyinbo. Here, "Oyinbo" is not [Note "not" is underlined] the white man," but the Yoruba child of Yoruba parents who at birth is light-skinned, and is held to bring good fortune to himself and to all connected with him.

Note on "Fatoyinbo"
This Yoruba name is salutary reminder that the most obvious-and seemingly correct amplification of Yoruba compound words is just as likely as not to lead us astray, and give us the most incorrect derivation of meanings. It pinpoints the fact that "derivation by amplification" could well be the very thing that guides us, not to, but away from the proper meaning of a compound word. With nothing else but the name to go on, "Fatoyinbo" would naturally be simplified into "Ifa to Oyinbo," and since the Yoruba word for "the white man" is "Oyinbo," the amplification would almost be bound to be understood as "Ifa is to be equated with the white man," and this might well be held to imply that Ifa is as important, or as great, or as powerful as "the white man," who is (supposedly) all these things, on account of his very considerable scientific and artistic achievements. If we remembered to ask: "How did traditional Ifa come to take note of the white man is such a direct manner?" we would certainly not lack those-including those Yorubas who see no good in Ifa anyway-who would readily, if not anxiously advance the theory that this is proof positive that Ifa is of fairly recent growth, or that this is but one instance of those adulterations of which they have complained, perpetrated by unscrupulous Ifa Priests whose sole aim is to extort money from their ususpecting and innocent victims. If we had to depend solely on the Yoruba name, and on the supposed infallibility of derivation through amplification, there would be no answer to the above, or any similar, theory.

Page 47
We have, however, two ways of approach open to us. One is to be found in the legend concerning Orunmila, which is qute relevant and interesting enough, but deals with the light-skinned Yorubaman-the 'Oyinbo' or Ebo-as a general type. The other deals with the Primordial Ebo, the Oyinbo who is in every sense a Yorubaman born and bred, and who is apparently the "archetype for all the subsequent Ebos; for this Primordial Ebo, we turn to a Stanza of Ifa, from the Odu "Ogunda-meji."

The legend relates that, one day, a hunter went out to hunt, and climbed a tree; there he saw someone walking backwards and forwards on the same spot; this hunter captured the person, and found that it was a woman; the hunter took her home; he offered her meat, but she would not eat; yam, but she would not eat. Then, one day, as this hunter was coming back from the forest, he came upon Orunmila, who was offering hen's eggs to Esu. Orunmila gave one egg to the hunter; this woman began to pick up the egg-shells tp eat. Orunmila thereupon offered her an egg, which she accepted and ate. The hunter was suprised, and told Orunmila that since he had captured this woman, she had not eaten anything; he offered to sell her to Orunmila, and Orunmila bought the woman for 20,000 cowries. Orunmila asked the hunter for the name of the woman, to which the hunter replied that when he first found her, she was apprently suffered from giddiness, so they named her "Oyi" [Giddiness].

Orunmila now enquired from Ifa whether this woman-the daughter of Olokun-would bear him children. She was told to sacrifice twenty chickens and two thousand cowries in twenty places; she did, and gave birth to twenty children; thens she offered sacrifice a second time, thirty chickens and two thousand cowries in thirty places, and she gave birth to thirty children. Then she conceived again. This time, she and Orunmila decided to pay a visit to her father, the Olukun [the Sea-God]. Olokun received them with great joy, and gave Oyi some hot liquor to drink; which she did.

Page 48
When her baby arrived, it was white-skinned, and it was said that it was the hot liquor that had peeled off its dark skin; and so the baby was called "Ebo," literally, eyiti o bo" that which has been peeled.This child was born in the house of Olokun. Orunmila then told the child to make his home with Olokun.

Here the Stanza of Ifa ends, but Olokun has always been recognized as a fabulously wealthy god. This grandchild of his, Ebo, is therefore like the grandchild of a multimillionaire, who is the apple of his grandfather's eye, and who attracts incredible good fortune to himself, and to all with whom he is connected.
With the foregoing as a background, and bearing in mind that, in some places in Yorubaland, Fatoyinbo is pronounced "Fatoyibo," we may also amplify this name into "Ifa ti Oyi bo," and-as the traditionalist say that "ifa is Oro" [Oro ni Ifa]-we may suggest that "Ifa ti Oyi bo" is really doing duty for "Oro ti Oyi bo-the Spirit child whose dark skin was peeled by Oyi," thorugh the hot liquor she drank while carrying the baby.

All this may mean exactly nothing, and the usefulness of it warns us against being too fully committed to the very obvious, and being too fully dependent on the Yoruba Dictionary. It is likely, however, that the Stanza from "Ogunda-meji" just quoted may have supplied the origin of the Yourba term "Oyinbo" for the white man, who may have been thought to have his natural skined 'peeled' somewhere, sometime, for some mysterious reason. Or perhaps he was thought to be the descendant of the first "Ebo," the child of Oyi and Orunmila?

Not all Yorubas (or Africans) are dark-skinned. Some are fair-skinned, and some are light-skinned-the albinos. It is said that the traditional Yoruba believed that Orisanla does the moulding of the individual person when the sun is below the horizon. Orisanla moulds the head only, but within the head is the complete man, in embryo. In those individual cases where Orisanla does not complete his job before dawn, the person is consequently light-skinned; where Orisanla does not complete his job until after dawn, the person is consequently an albino.

Page 49
Inability to complete the moulding of the person while the sun is still below the horizon is said to be due either to available material proving refractory, or to mistakes having been made which need to be corrected, time being thus lost.

According to this view, man is not mass-produced. Each individual is gicen specific attentionm on specific lines indiccated by his "case-history," by which the "Oke" child is born completely covered by his amniotic sac, and an "Olugbodi" has six toes, etcetera. But the albino is one thing, the European is quite another matter altogether.

42. "Fabunmi"
= Ifa bun emi = Ifa has given me [this child].

43. "Fagbemi"
= Ifa gbe emi+ Ifa is on my side. [Ifa supports me].

44. "Falana"
= Ifa la ona = Ifa has opened (or has shown)the way.

45. "Odutola"
= Odu to ola = Odu is equivalent to (is worthy of) honor.

46. "Oduneye"
=Odu ni ey = Odu intrinsically possesses adoration (is such that men automatically adore and worship it).

47. "Odulate"
=Odu la ote =Odu has made conspiracy ineffective (has cut conspiracy open as with a knife).

48. "Awotunde"
= Awo tun de = The mysteries (Awo) have a new lease on life (or the Adept=Awo-has returned again).

49. "Awolaja"
= Awo la ija = The adept (by his birth) has brought peace.

50. "Awolowo"
= Awo ni owo = The adept has reverence (shown to him; or The Mysteries are holy, sacred).

Note on Numbers 41 to 50 above
"Ifa" has no one definition that is generally acceptable; it is often referred to as an oracular deity, or as a god of divination, or as something else. Some Yoruba writers, mainly of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, go further and state categorically that "Ifa" was a person of known parentage,

Page 50
a good-for-nothing fellow who sought to get rich quickly by fortune-telling, but these Yoruba authors-coverted Yorubas who, on becoming Christians, were clearly obsessed with discrediting their traditional beliefs-can be ignored altogether in a serious approach to a definition of "Ifa". Yoruba traditionalists aver, simply, that "Ifa" is "Oro" "The Word," which was in the beginning, and was with God, and was God, without which was nothing made that was made. As such, Ifa, is a symbolic name for an intangible Spiritual Something, which cannot be confined in language, however subtle, or in speech, however poetic.

It is true that the Babalawos (or Ifa Priests), tell people at divination that "Ifa says...." but so does the Bible tell us that "the Word of the Lord came unto the Prophet X" without thereby compelling us to believe that this Word of the Lord had brown shoes and a red tie, and rode in a Chevrolet. Only an irrational and uncontrollable prejudice would seen to dictate a studied refusal to examine without bias, the views of Yoruba traditionaists on the definition of Ifa. Available material on Ifa from responsible sources so far collected makes more sense, if we accept, even provisionally, that "Ifa" is the Yoruba equivalent of "the Word". The various aspects of Ifa begin to have shape, meaning, purpose, and logic. This holds good whether we are mainly or primarily concerned with the aspect of divination, or of therapy, or of morality, as outlined in the exxpressions of Ifa on Right Thinking, Right Behavior, Right Speaking, etcetera, ...or in the historical aspect; in the history of the gods and heroes, the origins of the nations of Yorubaland, and of cosmic events-such as the Creation of the World and of Mankind. Some traditionalists amplify this word "IFA" into "I-fa," where "fa" means to "scoop up," and say definitely: "ko si ohun ti Ifa ko fa tan, i.e,, There is nothing that Ifa does not fathom, " and available evidence is distinclty in their favor.

In the region of Yoruba proper names, the presence of IFA is made evident by the prefixes: "Odu," "Awo," and "Fa," which is a shortened form of Ifa. Both Odu and Awo symbolise "that which is holy, a sacred Mystery," or

Page 51
imply "the adept" as in the Yoruba term Babalawo" which may perhaps be amplified into "Baba ti o no awo," i. e. "A Father who is in possession of the knowledge of the Mysteries," where "father " is used in the same sense as in "a Catholic Father." "Babalawo" is, however, more properly "Baba ninu awo," or "One who is in the position of Father among those who have knowledge of the mysteries," rather than like someone who has obtained his Master's Degree in our academic world.

"Odu" is a difficult word to unravel. We do know, however, that the name of by far the most favorite wife of Orunmila was "Odu," from one of the Stanzas of "Ofun-maji; " that she married "Orunmila on the understanding that no woman would ever set eyes on her; that once. while Orunmila was out of town, his other wives, overcome with curiousity, took their lamps, and went in to have a look at Odu; that Odu left in anger, and the town was thrown into utter confusion; that Orunmila persuaded Odu to return with some difficulty, since when, no woman has ever set eyes on her. From other sources we know further, that Odu was called "Oro Magaji," i.e., "The Vast Unfathomable Word," and that she originally dwelt in the depths of an impenetrable forest, prior to her marriage with Orunmila. Perhaps it would be wiser to regard the foregoing about Odu as a mixture of history and symbolism, and be chary of bringing to its attempted unravelling, the attitude of mind that would evaluate the Mystery of the Crucifixion by measuring the leght and breadth of a Crucifix in a Church."

51. "Efutayo"
= Efu to ayo = Efu has brought me (is synoymous with) joy.

52. "Efuwale"
= Efu wa ile = Efu has come home.

53. "Efuyalo"
= Eru ya lo = Efu has broken away (from its original home, to another home). See note below.

54. "Efukoya"
= Efu ko iya = Efu has refused (to let me suffer) tribulation.

55. "Sobayo"
= Either "Oso ba ayo" = Oso has met (with joy", or "Oso bi ayo" = Oso has given birth to joy."

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56. "Sobiye"
= Oso bi iye = Oso has given birth to Understanding, Wisdom.

57. "Sowande"
= Oso wa mi de = Oso has sought and found me.

58. "Sodijo"
= Oso has closed the ranks of our group.

Note on Numbers 51 to 58
The prefixes "Efu" and "Oso" indicate the worshippers of Orisanla, also known as Obatala. He is a very ancient god, to whom was entrusted the actual modelling of the physical man, out of a solid mass he was given. He shaped the head, ears, nose, all the physical characteristics of man. He is, apparently the only Orisa that has a specific color, and the color is "white". The Yoruba word for white is "ala." and this Orisa's other name of "Obatala" is sometimes said to have been derived from "ala". The prefix 'efu' is short for 'efun', the Yoruba word for 'white chalk', which is also the symbol of thsi Orisa.

"Oso" likewise referes to Orisanla; it is the Yoruba word for "wizard," understood in its original sense of "one who is wise in the knowledge of spiritual things," and not in the distorted and superimposed incorrect sense of "socerrer.".

Where the husband is a devotee of Orisanla but the wife is not, a child born by the wife becomes an "Efu" that has broken away from the husband's family to that of the wife, hence an "Efuyalo."

59. "Otadina"
= Ota di ona (iku) = Ota has barred the way (to death).

60. "Orisadota"
= Orisa di ota (ti ki nku) [Orisa has become the deathless sea-pebble.]

Note on Numbers 59 and 60
"Ota"- the special sea-pebble that is the symbol of the ruver goddess Osun -is synonymous, in Yoruba thought with deathlessness.

61. Akinyele
=Akin ye ile (wa) = Akin (the man of valor) is in his right place in our home (literally: Akin befits our home).

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62. "Akindele"
= Akin de ile (wa) = Akin has arrived (in our home); or Akin de ile (re) = Akin has arrived in his home (suggesting that the man of valor has considered that family the rightful place for him to go to, a compliment to the family.

63. "Akinkade"
= Akin la de (bi owuro) = Akin has emerged (like the dawn).

64. Akinjagunla"
= Akin has fought and won ( or who fights and wins).

65. "Mope"
Omo pe (ni inu iya re) = The child (stayed) late (inside its mother).

66. "Abayomi"
= A ba yo mi = I would have been 'rejoiced at' = I woud have been held up to ridicule.

Note on Number 66
Here we have an incomplete sentence. The full amplification of "Abayomi" is sometimes given as "A ba yo mi, Olorun ni ko je" = I would have been held up to ridicule, but for God who did not permit it to happen". This is a Yoruba name that could be given many varied circumstances, as for example, where a disputed parenthood is settled to one's satisfaction, where a barren woman suddenly produces a child (as in the story of Sara in the Bible), or in any other circumstances of like nature.

67. "Banjoko"
= Ba mi joko - Sit down (stay here) with me.

68. "Kokumo"
= Ko ku mo = (The child) does not die any more.

69. "Okoosi"
= Oko ko si = There is no spade (with which to dig the grave, so the child must not die).

70. "Okoya"
= Oko ya = The spade is broken (hence a grave cannot be dug, and the child knows better than to die).

71. "Igbekoyi"
= Igbe ko eyi- The wasteland (cementary or burial ground) refuses (to accept) this valid so it cannot die.

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72. "Kuyinu"
= Iku eyiti o nu = The death that was lost.

Note on Number 72
"Kuyinu" is not all clear. Read as "Kuyinu" it amplifies into "Iku eyiti o nu" and could mean "The death that was lost"; but does this imply that the child that was dead has come back, or does it imply that the message from God to Death to collect this [Note the word "this" is underlined) child got lost, so that the child lives? This name is more often pronounced "Kuyinu," and "nu" exists in Yoruba, meaning "to stuff"; whether this is the more correct reading, and what the meaning should then be, is not at all clear.

73. "Enitan"
= Eni itan = One concerning whom there is a history.

74. "Ariwodola"
= The noise (of trouble) has turned to sounds of joy (to honor).

75. "Omolaruwo"
= Omo la oruwo = Omo la oruwo = The child's head has emerged (is firm on its neck).

76. "Eko"
= Ideko or Eti Oko - The edge of the farmland (where the early Benin trademen used to arrange to meet the original people of the Island now known as Lagos. It was then the outskirts).

77. "Abeokuta"
= Abe Okutu = Under the rock (i. e., the Olumo rock, where the first group of the Egbas first settled).

78. "Ilorin"
= I-lo-irin = The place where iron is smelted.

79. "Ibadan"
= Eba Odan = By the side of the fields.

Derivation By Amplification
It has already been pointed out that Yoruba compound words can be amplified into their single component words, and the meaning of the compound word derived the sum-total of the meanings of the separate component woreds that make up the compound word. The theory is that, if "a" = "b=c=d," then the

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meaning of "a" = the sum total of the meanings of "b+c+d." It is this that we have termed "derivation through amplification. It is this that we have termed "derivation by amplification". It is a process that is both useful and valid, as may have been apparent from its use in the list of 79 names above.

But this method has severe limitations, and is not to be relied upon, once we are out of the realm of the concrete, and in the realm of the symbolic. We do differentiate very sharply between a "sign" and a "symbol" They are two vastly different things altogether.

A "sign" is a man-made "representational index," relating to something quite easily identifiable, and for man's communicatory convenience. The road signs for the motorist are good examplees.

A "symbol" on the hand is a very different matter altogether. Far from being a mere 'representational index', a symbol is but a bridge that connects us with that intangible indefinable 'something' for which the symbol stands; a symbol has been defined as "the signature of Spiritual Forces," or as the vehicle through which the Spiritual Forces manifest. Man can-and does-by dint of concentrated thought, mediation and intuition, fashion-as a symbol-the vehicle consonant with the nature of a particular force, for the manifestation of that force. He can, and does-though correct symbolism-build a bridge by which he can establish direct contact with That which exists beyond and independent of the bridge. But neither the bridge, nor the vehicle may be equated with that for which they do service.

Thus, once we are in the realm of the symbolic, derivation though amplification becomes but a broken reed, of no real value. This was hinted at in name Number 4 (Olodumare) above.

But even within the limits in which derivation through amplification is valid, we must always bear in mind that, in a tone-language, we may not play about tonal inflections by altering them to suit our purpose, during our amplifications. The ever-present tempation to do so in order to ease matters must be strenously avoided,

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Deprivation through amplification is useful and valid, therefore, only within certain limits, and it would be most unwise, even without these limits, to regard it as fool-proof. This observation must apply to the 79 names in the above list, although we have made every effort to narrow chances of error to a minimum, in the treatment of these names."


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  1. What about the sir name Oso?

    1. Thanks for your comment, Anonymous. has a long list of names beginning with "o". Many if not most of these names are unisex (given to male and females). That list only includes three names that begin with the element "Oso" -although the "o" isn't really the same as the "o" in Latin languages:


      Unfortunately, that website gives no meanings for these names.

  2. Hello,

    Here is a website containing general listing of Yoruba names:

    It also encourages people to email Yoruba names and their meanings to the web masters.

    Hope it helps.


    1. Thanks, anonymous.

      Here's the hyperlink for that website:

      I found that site a while ago and consider it by far the most comprehensive online site for Yoruba names. It's home page indicates that it has "over 6330 Yoruba names and growing."