by Raji Mubin Olatoye, modified by Flying Colours Crew


Our names are precious and we hold them in high esteem. When we meet a stranger who is coincidentally a namesake, they become memorable and we hardly forget them or their names because we bear the same. In various applications forms, names come first before gender or address. We replace our name with our reputations and in the Yoruba land, we say, “máà ba orúkọ ẹbí yìí jẹ́” (don’t damage this family’s reputation) in the bid to show that we represent our names and our names do the same for they replace us.

In a situation where some names are being used in verbal duels to show dislike and criticism, where mispronunciation of names make them mean the opposite of the intended meanings, there is a need to discuss the sociolinguistics implications of what these attitudes represent. First, we discuss the disgusting phenomenon of turning some names to insults and abuse.


  1. Reviling with Muslim Names


Among some sets of the Yoruba people, Muslim names are often used to revile people with a view to drawing a conclusion about them. The behaviour or attitude a person displays at any given time suggests the right derogation by a Muslim name. A number of such names do not in any way represent the true meaning or attributes ascribed to people by way of rebuking them. Instances abound, but in this study, we shall examine a few of them.


  1. When a person is inordinately desirous or excessively eager to obtain and possess everything, especially money, such a person is derogated as “Wàídì Aláwàmáyà” (Wàídì, the Covetous). Wàídì in this expression is a corruption of one of the magnificent names of Allāh Al-Wāḥid (the One) and the bearer is ʻAbdul Wāḥid (the slave of the One God). How does such relate to covetousness?


  1. Someone who usually calls at an occasion without an invitation, or a child who enters into a house without permission is rebuked as “Tojúbolé Ẹran Núrù or Núsì” (Busybody, Nuru/Nusi’s goat). In this derogatory expression, the name Nūrud-Dīn (The light of Islām) has been corrupted to Nuru while Nusi is a corruption of Nuṣrah (help). Apart from this, how does the action of a meddler relate with Núrù and Núsì’s ownership of goats?


iii. An outspoken and blunt person (most often a younger person) who freely, openly and boldly contributes to any discussion is maligned as “Sálíù Elẹ́nu Gbọ̀ọ̀rọ̀” (Saliu, The Loudmouthed). In this derogation, Ṣāliḥ (peace be upon him), the name of one of the prophets of Allah, is being used to describe a person who is considered to be running off at the mouth.

  1. When someone does something after the expected or usual time, most especially in relation to education and marriage, he/she is derogated as “Adàgbà jẹ́ Ràúfù” . ʻAbdur Ra’ūf (the servant of the Benevolent God) is rendered into Raufu in this derogatory expression and it is not in anyway associated with belatedness.


  1. Someone who is fond of food is rebuked in this manner “Wakilu Wàkí and die”. In this expression, the name ʻAbdul Wakīl (Servant of the Reliable God) is used.


  1. When somebody, especially a woman exhibits the trait of stubbornness, she is often reproached as “Jẹ́mílá orí ẹ ti dìde” (literally: your madness has come again) . Jamīlah (Beautiful, Elegant) is the correct spelling of the name used for this stinging rebuke.


…to be continued


  1. I was just thinking about this this morning and I think the reason for this is because Islam have been around longer than say Christianity thereby the Yoruba has domesticated these names in such a way that the Islamic essence are lost.
    Two things are to be noted on this..
    1. aside from the oriki names,,names bore in royal houses and other names borne out of circumstances of birth all other Yoruba names like kunle, femi and the lots are fairly new if we consider generational names in the Yoruba society, you will hardly find any family bearing olakunle except for those who use either their immediate father’s name or grandfather names.
    2. In the light of the introduction above, some people with the names mentioned in the post most have at a time show the tendencies of the attribution attributed to those names, the example of adagba je raufu readily comes to mind, the complete cliche is adagba je raufu of San Ju ogunbiyi bami mugbawa,(to be renamed raufu at Old age is better than ogunbiyi serve me palm wine) ogunbiyi was a palace clown who converted to Islam and changed his name to raufu, he then began to preach against drinking, and people began to make jest of him in light of his new found religion, calling him a dagba je raufu, he would reply them that osan just ogunbiyi bami mugba wa . ALSO the jemila example was derived from it phonic semblance to jeun (wrong). Jemila jeun Lori we, meaning something is wrong with you.

    1. Wow, Miss Abimbola. You’ve got a great comment and observation. It is true that this situation is not borne out of islamophobia, due to the fact that this phenomeon is commonly found amongst Muslims. Deeper researches will be made on the captivating stories you have there, for we guess the writer concluded that “it just happened”. Upcoming posts shall treat these issues, insha Allah. Thanks for the meaningful contribution.

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