Oruko Amutorunwa (Names From Heaven), Their Meanings & Shocking Beliefs About These Names In Yorubaland

Among the Yorubas, culture holds an esteemed position and this is reflected in the way Yorubas do their things. One of these is the pattern of naming children, the Yorubas believe that some children come with pre-destined names from heaven, these names are called orúko àmútọ̀runwá and they are special appellations believed to be brought directly from the heavens. They are given based on the nature or the circumstances in which the child was born. Oruko means ‘name’ and amutorunwa means ‘from heaven’. In this piece, we will take a good look at these names and their meanings, I am sure you will have a nice time with it.

INTRODUCTION 

In Yorubaland, naming a child is a big deal and often a massive celebration done in a party-like atmosphere. The proper naming event of the child is done after the ritual birth of the child which is then followed by massage of the body parts and other activities. The responsibility of naming a child is usually done by the father, mother or grandparents (from either or both sides) of the newborn. In some other instances, this can be done by other relatives apart from those named above.

So what are the orúko àmútọ̀runwá? The following sections talk in details about these special names, why they are given and what they really mean:

  1. TAIYE (or Táíwò): This is the name of a twin (twins are called ibeji in Yorubaland) that comes first. Táíwò is the shortened form of Tò-aiyé-wò (meaning ‘taste or experience the world’) because according to the myth of births in Yorubaland, the first born of a twin is the person ordered to first appear through the birth canal to ‘taste’ the world and let the second know of the conditions available in the world. If the world is good, the myth is that Taiwo will signal Kehinde to come along and that if the world is horrible like as we are inside recession now, Taiwo will signal to Kehinde to stay in the celestial Banana Island to continue enjoying so that is how Kehinde will kpef inside the womb leading to wailing in the land. The second born of a twin is thus called Kéhìndéwhich means ‘the last person to arrive’. So what this means is that the Taiye is always older than the Kehinde but there is a twist to that belief. The elders say the Kehinde is actually the older of the twin because in heaven, it was Kehinde that ordered Taiye to go have a taste of the world. This is the prevalent belief all over Yorubaland today. Taiye and Kehinde are names given to twins irrespective of the gender. Kehinde is fondly shortened to ‘Kenny’ in many parts of Nigeria. 

    The Nigerian woman who had adorable twins twice! Iya Ibeji Lemeeji! 🙂

  2. IDOWU: A child that comes directly after the birth of a twin is called an Idowu. This name is also applied to a child, either male or female. Because of the general belief that Idowus are very stubborn, mischievous and troublesome, they are also called Eshu Lehin Ibeji (meaning ‘The Devil After Twins’). There is also another weird belief relating to this name.  

 It is believed among the Yorubas that if the mother of a twins fails it give birth to another child after she had twins (that is, an Idowu), that she is very likely to become insane and run mad. This is because they believe that the spirit of an Idowu is so strong and stubborn that if the woman refuses to give birth to an Idowu, the spirit will fly into her brain and make her become utterly insane. You see why we have problems with overpopulation and lack of family planning in Nigeria, these beliefs are one of the major causes because many women actually believe this and start making plans to have an Idowu even if they are not able to feed the twin they had just given birth to. Nigerians must learn how to plan their families as the gods will not pay for Pampers and baby formula. 

Idowu Philips aka Mama Rainbow is one of Nigeria’s most prominent actresses.

  1. IDOGBE: This is the name that is given to a male child who comes after an Idowu.
  2. ALABA: This is the name that is given to a female child who comes after an Idowu.
  3. ETA OKO: In an unusual circumstance where triplets are born, the children are named Taiwo, Kehinde and Eta Oko respectively.
  4. ILORI: When a child is born with no prior menstruation, he or she is named ‘Ilori’.
    OJO: If a male child is born with the umbilical cord twisted around the neck, he is automatically named Ojo.
  5. AINA: If a female child is born with the umbilical cord twisted around the neck, she is automatically given the name Aina. Please note that Aina may be given to males as well but Ojo is never given to females.
  6. OKE: If a child is born inside an intact (not ruptured) membrane covering the body, the oruko amutorunwa is Oke.
  7. DADA: This is for a child born with long, thick and curly hair, the locked hair is not cut and the child is seen so special that some households take them to be living gods. Dadas can also be called Dada Awure or Olowo Ori and are believed to be obstinate and physically-strong.
  8. IGE: This is a child born after coming out of the womb with the legs first. This is known as the footling breech presentation of birth and it is more common in babies born prematurely or before their due date and has considerable complications.
  9. OLUGBODI: This is the name given to a child who has been born with six fingers on each hand (supernumerary digits or polydactyly). See photos: 
  10. OMOPE (OMOPENU): This is the name given to a child who spends more than the normal and average nine months period inside the womb. Omope means ‘the child is late’.
  11. AJAYI: When a child is born with the face downwards, the Yorubas call such a child Ajayi. The child can also be called Ogidi Olu or Adojude.
  12. BOSEDE: When a child is born on a holy day, the name of choice is Bosede (or Abosede or Abiose).
  13. SALAKO: This is the name for a male child who has been born covered with ruptured membranes.
  14. TALABI:  When a daughter is born with her body covered with ruptured membranes, Yorubas call her Talabi which also means ‘the robed one’.
  15. ABIONA (ABISONA): This is the name for a child born on the road, on a pathway or normally when the mother is not at home and is either on away on a journey or simply heading somewhere then went into labour on the way and gave birth.
  16. ABIODUN (ABISODUN): Yorubas have many celebratory events such as festivals and all kinds of major jubilations. When a child is born during any of these, the child is called Abiodun or Abisodun.
  17. JO’HOJO: When a mother dies during childbirth either due to one complication or other reason, the child is named Jo’hojo.
  18. BABARIMISA: This is a child whose father fled upon his birth. There can of course be various reasons for such fleeing.
  19. BABATUNDE: This literally means ‘father has come again.’ When a son is born shortly after the death of his grandfather, the belief is that it was the grandfather who got reincarnated and the child is thus named Babatunde or Babatunji in some other cases.
  20. YETUNDE: Iyetunde literally means ‘mother has come again’ and this is the name given to a daughter who was born shortly after the demise of the grandmother. Other variations of this same name are Iyabode, Yewande and
  21. ONI: A small male or female child who cries all the time is called Oni by the Yorubas. Some clans call theirs Asa or Oroye (especially worshippers of the Orisa Oko deity).   
  22. OLA: The name for a child born after an Oni. Ola also means tomorrow.
  23. OTUNLA: A child born after an Ola. Otunla also means the day after tomorrow.

Please note that oruko amutorunwa are not the only names given to a child in Yorubaland, a child is usually given other names and can be as much a dozen or even more. Other names given to the child are Oruko Abiso (Given Names), all these are given in an elaborate naming ceremony (Īsomolórúko). Watch the Īsomolórúko (Naming Ceremony) Of Oláwolé in Brazil below:

Video Credits: Ìyáwọlé Jessyka Rayanna

THANKS FOR YOUR TIME.

ABIYAMO.

REFERENCES

  1. Ife, Issues 4-8, The Institute, 1991
  2. A Semiotic Approach To The Theology of Inculturation by Cyril Orji
  3. Women in the Yoruba Religious Sphere by Oyeronke Olajubu
  4. The Cradle of Yoruba Culture by Dayo Ologundudu, Center for Spoken Words, 2008
  5. African Culture, Modern Science and Religious Thought by P Adelumo Dopamu, Samuel O Oyewole, African Centre for Religious and the Sciences, University of Ilorin, 2003.
  6. Words and Meaning in Yoruba Religion: Linguistic Connections in Yoruba, Ancient Egyptian and Semitic by Modupe Oduyoye, Karnak House, 1996.
  7. The History of the Yorubas: From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the British Protectorate by The Rev. Samuel Johnson, 1921.
  8. Breech Birth
  9. Polydactyly
  10. Yoruba Culture
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