Uncommon Stories

IGBO NAMES ARE DEEPER THAN THEIR TRANSLATIONS

A names should be pleasant both on the lips of the caller and in the ears of the hearer. But a name one cannot emotionally relate to can never deliver the effect.

Apart from names like Grace and Hope (and I still prefer their Igbo trans: Amara and Chekwube), I don’t know the real meaning of Peter and Paul. My apologies to those that bear the names. I know none of us had a choice to our given names. But the future is for us to correct the past.

If I ever think of a name like Samson – the strong, there’s an Igbo alternative of a stronger character than Samson. That’s Ojadili – the only man that took a fight to the lands of the spirit. And for Mary, the virgin, there’s Onwuelo (nwanyị na amaghị nwoke). A Noah will one day bring Eke Ọgba, the boa constrictor, into the house. I don’t know why a child would go by that name. Oh, I forgot he was the new Adam. However, for Adam and Noah, I will go for Eri, the son of God and inhabitant of the Ecclesiastical Kingdom of Nri.

I visited a friend during the Christmas break and met her young daughter. The little girl’s name is Ife-Nkili (something to be admired). I became jealous. What a name! Names should be pleasant both on the lips of the caller and in the ears of the hearer. But, a name one cannot emotionally relate to can never deliver the effect.

Igbo Names And Depths

That’s why names like Chika, Obiora, Ngozi ka, and numerous native names will never be overtaken by time. Every Nwamaka can tell a full story of her name; show me any Nneoma and Nnenna, and I will show you a father that loves his mother.

Philosophical names like Azuka (back is greater) and Nkiruka (forward is greater) will never be understood by whoever is not Igbo. And when we say Ikenna, outsiders could only literally translate it as The Father’s Strength. They will never know that the ‘strength’ is symbolic. (Azuka, Azubuike, and Igbo names that start with Azu refer to the importance of having human supporters. Azu in that context could be replaced with Madu which means human beings)


Melancholic names should be strong enough to disturb the heart. Names like Ozoemena, Aghaegbuna, Ikegbunam, Ofia ajụ, Kasiem Obi e.t.c


I believe someone’s name should be a full introduction. Yes, when a man says ‘My name is Olusola’, I won’t be wrong to think he has a Yoruba blood, and if your name is Isaiah, I would just but wonder the tribe of Israel you belong to.

Ozii Baba, a TedX Speaker, is an Onitsha-based storyteller and social entrepreneur. He works directly with children and young people.

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