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Unique Christening Traditions in the Yoruba Culture

Flickr shot by Mbah Patrick. Image showing a traditional Yoruba christening ceremony

Flickr shot by Dotun Famakinwa. Image showing a traditional Yoruba christening ceremony

The Yoruba’s have a unique culture, they are found in the western parts of Nigeria with the population of about 40 million. They have their unique cultures, an example of their unique culture is the christening of a newborn baby who is named after eight-day of birth.

This tradition has been going on for ages. Neighbors, friends and families are always invited to celebrate with the family of the child. Food, drinks and gift are always present at the ceremony.

It is believed in Yoruba land that giving a child the appropriate name is very important, as the name given to a child can affect or influence the way he or she lives. A child named after a thief is believed to grow up to be a thief that is why Yoruba people give real importance to naming a child.

Predominantly names are given by grandparents and great grandparents, but nowadays babies can be given names by their parents, grandparents or very close kin. That is why a Yoruba child has more than one name, some can go as high as having more than 10 (especially if the child is first).


Flickr shot by Mbah Patrick. Image showing a traditional Yoruba christening ceremony


The naming of a child can be broadly classified into four major categories namely;

  1. Preordained names: these are names given to a child from heaven.
  • Example of this are the twins, irrespective of gender they are called Taiyewo(often shortened to Taiwo; this is the first child that comes out of the mother’s womb) and Kehinde(the one who comes out after). The Kehinde is often said to be the older because he/she allows Taiwo to come out first. The children given birth to after the twins are named; Idowu, Alaba, Idogbe in respective order.
  • Ojo(male) or Aina (female) are names given to children born with their umbilical cord wrapped around their neck.
  • Ige Adubi is a name given to babies who came out from their moms with their legs first instead of the normal head first.
  • Olugdodi is a name given to a child with six fingers.
  • Dada is a name given to a child born with locked hair
  • Ajayi is a name given to a baby which has his/her face down when coming out of his mom instead of the normal face up.
  • Ilori is a name given to a child whose mum still menstruated while pregnant with him or her.
  • Any child given birth to during a festive period is named Odun, or Odun is added to the baby’s name. examples are Abiodun, Odunola, Odunayo, etc.


  1. The name given by birth (Abiso) is a name given to a child based on society’s believes and culture. Examples are
  • Traditional or religious names: these names are given based on religion or house traditions. There are some babies given birth to, in an ifa, sango, and awo home (all small gods) they are all named accordingly. Examples are Ifabunmi, Awogbemi, Sangoyemi. Also, children given birth to in Christians and Islam homes are also named according to religion. Examples are Michael, Emmanuel(male) Emmanuelle(female), Zainab, Rashidat, and Abdullah.
  1. Death name: these names are known as Abiku names in Yoruba land. Yoruba’s also name their child in relation to sad circumstances. They believe in reincarnation, if a mother keeps having miscarriages, stillbirths or keeps losing her children at a young age, it is believed that the first child that she lost or miscarried is the child that she keeps losing over and over. That mother who is desperate not to lose her children again names them according to the pain she feels. Example of such names are: Ikudaisi (death please don’t take this child), Malomo(please stop leaving me), Durojaiye(wait and enjoy this wealth), Durotimi(always stay by my side), Kashimawo(let’s wait and see), Kosoko(I don’t have any more hoe to dig graves for you), etc. children also giving birth to when a grandparent or very close family just died are also named based on that circumstances. They believe the person that just died has been reincarnated in the new baby. Examples of such names are Babajide(male), Babatunde(male), and Iyabo (female).
  2. Pet names: this is the last classification of names by the Yoruba’s this is a name given to a child as a pet name. This type of name is used to praise a child. It is believed that if a child is angry or sad and then called his pet name with the family praise song the child will become happy and cheerful. Examples of pet names are Alamu, Adio, Akanmu, are all male names while Abike, Anike, Arike, Asande are all female names.

The Yoruba has a lot of unique cultures and naming their children according to circumstance and time is very fascinating. If your tribe or any tribe you know has any interesting traditions please leave information about it in the comment section below.

To learn more, click on the link by David Williams on YouTube to see how the ceremony takes place.


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