By custom, Yorùbá children are named in a ceremony that takes place 7 days after their birth. The names of the children are traditionally taken from the father, but names can also come from those of other ranking members of the family, including the mother, grandparents, or next of kin. Both the mother and father and other next of kin can give their own favorite names to the child or children. Baby names often come from the grandparents and great grandparents of the child to be named.
Composition and importance of names
Yorùbá names are often carefully considered during the week prior to the naming ceremony, as great care is placed upon selecting a name that would not reflect any sort of negativity or disrepute; in other words, selecting a name that previously belonged to a thief or criminal for a Yorùbá child is not considered as a wise idea, as it (according to Yorùbá philosophy) could result in the child growing up to become a thief or criminal.
Yorùbá names are traditionally classified into two categories:
- Destiny Names, also known as Oruko Amutorunwa, ("names assumed to be brought from heaven" or derived from a religious background)
- Acquired Names, ("given on earth" or granted by next of kin)
Two of the most common destiny names among the Yorùbá are Taiwo (or Taiye) and Kehinde, which are given primarily to twins. It is believed that the first of the twins is Taiwo (or Taiye), whose intention in coming out first is to perceive whether or not the environment that they are about to enter is a good one for his or her superior to be in. When he or she is so satisfied, he or she grants the other twin, Kehinde (sometimes shortened to Kenny), the go ahead to come out.
An acquired name may signify the position of the family in the society (e.g. "Adewale", a typical royal family name). It may also signify the traditional vocation of the family (e.g. "Agbede", the blacksmith).
Yorùbá also have Oriki, a kind of praise recital used to emphasize the achievements of the ancestors of the various families. Oriki could be a single word like "Adunni", or it could be a verse or a series of verses. Though not typically part of a standard name, the Oriki is often used alongside one and is usually generally known to a person's contemporaries. Many an individual can even be recognized by the people of another town or even clan by using the oriki of his or her ancestral line.