By custom, Yorùbá children are named in a ceremony that takes place 7 days after their birth. The names of the children are traditionally found by divination performed by a group of Babalawo - traditional Ifa priests, but in recent times names can also come from those of ranking members of the family, including the father, 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. The name traditionally divined by the Babalawo indicates the Orisa that guides the child and whether the child is a reincarnated ancestor and the destiny of the child and the spiritual entities that will assist the child in achieving it. There is first a private ceremony for just the parents where the names are given, both public and secret, along with taboos for the child and parents and suggestions on what the child will need to be successful. Some days after that a public ceremony with feasting and entertainment is held and family and friends are all invited to celebrate the arrival of the child.
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.
Another with a traditional religious example is Ifáṣolá- Ifá makes success. Likely given to a child that is to be trained as a Babalawo and the practice of Ifá will make the child wealthy and successful.
Modern Christian parents use the form of traditional names but substitute the Orisa name with Olu or Oluwa, meaning Lord or My Lord, which indicates the Christian concept of God and Jesus Christ. For example: Oluwáṣeun - (The) Lord has made it - the parents prayed for a child and was granted one by God.
Muslim parents tend to give their children Arabic names sometimes with Yorùbá phonetics. Rafiah becomes Rafiatu.
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.