Yoruba Names and Their Meanings

Yoruba Names and Their Meanings

Published on: January 9, 2021

Welcome to our treasure trove of beautiful Yoruba names for your little one! Choosing a name is more than just a formality—it's a gift that your child carries for life. Yoruba names aren't just labels; they are often rich with meaning, culture, and heritage, encapsulating hopes, prayers, and values. Whether you're looking for a name that celebrates your Yoruba roots or you're just fascinated by the melodic tones and profound meanings, we've curated a list that combines tradition with modernity. Let's embark on this beautiful journey of finding a name that resonates with the uniqueness of your child.

This post will begin with a simple explanation of the composition of Yoruba names. You can also go straight to the list of male and female Yoruba names and their meanings below if you already understand how Yoruba names are composed.

1. What is Yoruba?

Yoruba is a language spoken by Yoruba people. It could also refer to someone who is from the Yoruba tribe. Yoruba people are a tribe that occupies and dominate about 6 states in southwest Nigeria. These states are Ekiti, Ogun, Ondo, Oyo, Osun, and Lagos State. There are also many Yoruba speakers in many other states in Nigeria, particularly in Kwara and Kogi State.

There are millions of Yoruba people in the diaspora. Yoruba language is spoken by approximately thirty million (30,000,000) people or more. You might also be surprised to find that a variation of Yoruba is used for incantations in 'Ifa' religion in some countries. Brazil is one such country.

2.1 First, lets look at prefixes that usually pertain to deities or religions.

  • Ifa - Ifa is the god of divinity in Yoruba. When this prefix is used in Yoruba names, the first letter ('I') is usually dropped. For instance, instead of Ifayemi, you would usually see Fayemi.

  • Ogun - In Yoruba mythology, Ogun Lakaye is the god of iron.

  • Oluwa - Oluwa simply means lord (lord of the ring, lord of the flies etc). However, when 'Oluwa' is used in a Yoruba name, it usually refers to Jesus Christ. This prefix became common in Yoruba names after Christianity became a religion in Nigeria.

  • Olorun - means God.

  • Orisa - means deity. Not very popular in names nowadays like those mentioned above but it is worth mentioning.

2.2 Other popular prefixes in Yoruba names

  • Ade - Ade means crown in Yoruba language. People who have this prefix in their names are usually of royal descent. However, it is important to know that there are several kings in Yoruba land. If you found that two Yoruba people have 'Ade' in their names, it does not necessarily mean that they are of the same royal descent.

  • Akin - a brave person.

  • Ayo - means joy.

  • Awo - one who is initiated.

  • Baba -  father.

  • Oba - king.

  • Ode - hunter.

  • Ola - wealth.

  • Ona - road.

  • Omo - child.

  • Owo - money.

  • Oye - this means chieftaincy. In the Yoruba monarchy, chieftaincies (Oye) are conferred on some people. The chiefs are similar to the parliament in modern systems of governance.

3. Pronounciation of Yoruba names

Are Yoruba names easy or difficult to pronounce?

There is a common misconception that Yoruba names are usually long and difficult to pronounce. This is why it is worth mentioning that people are not usually called with their 'prefix+names' in informal situations. Likewise, people usually drop the prefix when introducing themselves in less formal situations. In fact, most times, you would come across those prefixes only in written forms in formal situations.

For instance, Adeyemi would be popularly called Yemi by family members and friends. However as a form of affection in an informal situation, parents might call their children's names with the prefix. Same goes for lovers or spouses sometimes.

There is another point worthy of note. The above mentioned prefixes are usually used without a dash/hyphen. Let's suppose that a name is Yemi ( means 'I am worthy of') and its prefix is Ade. It would be written as 'Adeyemi' (I am worthy of crown) and not 'Ade-Yemi'.

You would usually end up with around 4-8 letter words when the prefixes are dropped. So contrary to what you might have thought, Yoruba names are quite easy to pronounce.

Now that you know about prefixes in Yoruba names, let's look at some male and female Yoruba names and their meanings.

Author: Michael Akerele