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


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)



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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s