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While researching the topic of naming in Igbo culture, I found that there are different categories that names can fall under.

To briefly reemphasize the main points from the previous post, Igbo children are traditionally given names:

  • based on the market day they were born (eke, orie, afor, nkwo);
  • historical or culturally significant circumstances surrounding their family, social environment, or their birth;
  • the birth order designation of the males and females in the family
    • for example: opara/ opala is the 1st born son, whereas the 1st daughter is ada, the 2nd ulu, & the 3rd is ibari. 
  • girls are often named after symbols of beauty in nature & art
  • statements of life experience
    • the vast majority of names are abbreviated statements of great meaning & significance
    • interpretations of life experiences or of events that took place in the history of the family.

Igbo names are often a form of prayer for the child, or that the child’s birth into the family was an answered prayer. Some Igbo names also indicate whether or not a family has had a rough past experience, especially as it relates to child bearing.

The Categories of Names

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There are numerous categories of Igbo names, but for the sake of this post, it will only be limited to those that are the most common.

  • There are names that use the child’s arrival as an occasion to boast & make statements of triumph over misfortune or victory over evil ones.
    • Ndukagba — “let detractors at last leave me in peace”, Onukwugha — “the mouth that spoke ill should now recant”
  • ‘Kwe’ names are names that reflect a background of past opposition with the promise of greater achievement in life if only their enemies would give their family a chance.
    • Uwakwe — “if only the world would let me”, Ibekwe — “if only my peers would let me”
  • There are pro-child names that are given in appreciation of the blessing of a child (nwa) as the greatest gift one could wish for in life.
    • Nwakaego — “child is more than money”, Ginikanwa — “what is greater than a child?”
    • Under the category of pro-child (nwa) names, include those that are supposed to guarantee posterity & inheritance by giving names that perpetuate immortality in a sense by allowing parents to secure their legacy, so to speak, with the name of the child.
      • Afamefuna — “may my name not be lost”, Nwariaku — “may my child inherit my property”
  • There are pro-life names, as life (ndu) is acclaimed the greatest of all values.
    • Ndukaku — “life is greater than riches”, Chijindu — “God is the sustainer of life”
  • Death (onwu) names are typically given after a previous child(ren) dies.
    • Onwubiko — “please, death, spare us”, Onwuamaenyi — “death knows no friends”, Onwugbaramuko — “death robbed me of my pride”
  • Among the most popular are the God (Chi) names that invokes the individual’s personal god (chi) or God, the Creator (Chineke), or the Great God (Chukwu) for protection, prosperity, & helping them to reach their destiny.
    • Chinonso — “God is nearby”, Chinedum — “God leads me” , Chinwendu — “God is the owner of life”, Chukwuemeka — “God has been so good”
  • Eke names
    • Eke, or destiny, is the principle of creation & apportionment of lot & destiny within the God concept.
  • Uwa names – Seeing the world (uwa) as destiny.
    • Uwazie — “may destiny be good to me”, Uwakwe — “may destiny let me”/ (“may destiny work in my favor”)

Igbo Names – Forms & Foundations

1. Afa omumu (birth name)
2. Afa nna (surname)
3. Afa ogugu (given name)
4. Afa ulo/uno (pet/ family name)
5. Afa njo (reincarnation name)
6. Afa otutu/otu (nickname/ society name)
7. Afa echichi (title name)

-NKIRUKA OBI | FOLLOW ME ON INSTAGRAM AND TWITTER @AFRICANMINDED

 

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4 thoughts on “What’s In A Name, (Pt. 1.2): Categories of Igbo Names

  1. This is beautiful. When I think of it now, all of my Nigerian/West African friends have names with various prefixes and suffixes that make much more sense to me after reading this. I will definitely read the previous post. This is really great information and it only fuels my desire to one day visit The Motherland.

    Liked by 1 person

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