The Akan people of Ghana frequently name their children after the day of the week they were born and the order in which they were born. These "day names" have further meanings concerning the soul and character of the person. Middle names have considerably more variety and can refer to their birth order, twin status, or an ancestor's middle name.
This naming tradition is shared throughout West Africa and the African diaspora. During the 18th–19th centuries, slaves in the Caribbean from the region that is modern-day Ghana were referred to as Coromantees. Many of the leaders of slave rebellions had "day names" including Cuffy or Kofi, Cudjoe or Kojo, and Quamina or Kwame/Kwamina.
Most Ghanaians have at least one name from this system, even if they also have an English or Christian name. Notable figures with day names include Ghana's first president Kwame Nkrumah and former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
In the official orthography of the Twi language, the Ashanti versions of these names as spoken in Kumasi are as follows. The diacritics on á a̍ à represent high, mid, and low tone (tone does not need to be marked on every vowel), while the diacritic on a̩ is used for vowel harmony and can be ignored. (Diacritics are frequently dropped in any case.) Variants of the names are used in other languages, or may represent different transliteration schemes. The variants mostly consist of different affixes (in Ashanti, kwa- or ko- for men and a- plus -a or -wa for women). For example, among the Fante, the prefixes are kwe- and e-, respectively. Akan d̩wo is pronounced something like English Joe, but there do appear to be two sets of names for those born on Tuesday.
|Day born||Twi||Variants||Root||Assoc.||Jamaican/ Asante names |
|Male name||Female name||Ndyuka|
|Kwasí||Akosua||Kwesi, Siisi, Akwasi, Kosi;
Akosi, Akosiwa, Así, Esi, Kwasiba.
|Kwasi, Kwasiba||Asi||Universe||Quashie, Quasheba|
|Kwadwó||Adwoa||Kodjó, Kojo, Jojo, Cudjoe;
Adjua, Ajwoba, Adjoa, Adjowa
|Kodyo, Adyuba||Dwo||Peace||Cudjoe/Kojo/Quajo, Adjoa/Ajuba/Juba|
|Kwabená||Abenaa, Abénaa||Komlá, Komlã, Komlan,Kabenla Kobby, Ebo, Kobi Kobina;
Ablá, Ablã, Abena, Araba, Abrema
|Kwakú||Akua, Akúá, Akuba||Koku, Kokou, Kweku, Kaku, Kuuku;
|Kwaku, Akuba||Wukuo||Spider||Quaco, Aqua/Acooba/Cooba|
|Yaw||Yaa||Yao, Yawo, Yawu, Ekow, Kow, Kwaw;
Ayawa, Baaba, Yaaba, Yaba, Aba
|Yaw, Yaba||Ya||Earth||Quaw, Aba/Yaaba|
|Kofí||Afua||Koffi, Fiifi, Yoofi;
Afí, Afua, Afia, Efia, Efua
|Kofi, Afiba||Afi,||Fertility||Cuffy, Afiba/Fiba|
|Kwámè, Kwǎmè,||Ama, Ám̀ma, Ámmá||Ato, Kwami, Kuw-ame, Kw-amena, Kwamina, Komi;
Ame, Ama, Ami, Amba, Ameyo
|Kwami, Amba||Mene||God||Quame/Quamina, Ama|
There are also special names for elder and younger twins. The second twin to be born is considered the elder as they were mature enough to help their sibling out first.
|Twin||Male name||Female name||Variants|
|First born ("younger" twin)||Atá Pánin||Ataá Pánin||Panyin|
|Second born ("elder" twin)||Atá Kúmaa||Ataá Kúmaa||Akwetee (m), Atsú, Kaakra, Kakraba, Kakira|
|Born after twins||Táwia|
|Born after Tawia||Gaddo||Nyankómàgó|
There are also names based on the order of birth, the order born after twins, and the order born after remarriage.
|Order||Male name||Female name||Variants|
|First born||Píèsíe||Berko (m), Arko (m), Dede (f), Dedei (f), Abaka, Kande (f)?|
|Third born||Meńsã́||Mánsã||Mensah, Mansah babatundi|
|Fourth born||Anan, Anané||Annan|
|Fifth born||Núm, Anúm|
|Seventh born||Asón||Nsṍwaa||Esson, Ansong|
|Eighth born||Bótwe||Awotwe, Awotwie|
|Ninth born||Ákron, Nkróma||Nkróma||Akun, Ackon, Nkrumah|
Children are also given names when delivered under special circumstances.
|on the field||Afúom||"The field"|
|on the road||Ɔkwán||"The road"|
|in war||Bekṍe, Bedíàkṍ||"war time"|
|happy circumstances||Afiríyie||"good year"|
|one who loves||Adofo||"the special one from God"|
|great one||Agyenim||"the great one from God"|
|after long childlessness||Nyamékyε||"gift from God"|
|premature or sickly||Nyaméama||"what God has given (no man can take away)"|
|after death of father||Antó||"it didn't meet him"|
|Yεmpέw||"we don't want you"|
Ashanti people given-names are concluded with a family name (surname) preceded by a given name. The family name (surname) are always given after close relatives and sometimes friends. Since Ashanti names are always given by the men if a couple receives a son as their first born-baby then the son is named after the father of the husband and if the baby is a girl then she will be named after her mother of the husband. As a result if the man is called Osei Kofi and his wife gives birth to a girl as their first born, the girl may be called Yaa Dufie even if she was not born on Friday. The reason is that the mother of the husband (Osei Kofi) is called Yaa Dufie. The Ashanti people usually give these names so that the names of close relatives be maintained in the families to show the love for their families.
In the olden days of Ashanti it was a disgrace if an Ashanti man was not able to name any child after his father and/or mother because that was the pride of every Ashanti household. Most of the ethnic-Ashanti family name (surname) given to boys could also be given to girls just by adding the letters "aa". Some Ashanti family names (surnames) can be given to both boys and girls without changing or adding anything. However, there are other ethnic-Ashanti family name (surnames) that are exclusively male names, while others are exclusively female names.
|Ethnic-Ashanti family names (surnames)|
- Bartle, Philip F. W. (January 1978). "Forty Days: The Akan Calendar". Africa: Journal of the International African Institute. Edinburgh University Press. 48 (1): 80–84. doi:10.2307/1158712. JSTOR 1158712.
- Neita, Lance, "So what's in a name?", Jamaica Observer, 30 August 2014.
- For the Akan, the first-born twin is considered the younger, as the elder is thought to have stayed behind to help the younger out.
- "List of Ashanti (Twi, Asante) Names". afropedea.org.
- "The Sociolinguistic of Ashanti Personal Names" (PDF). njas.helsinki.fi (PDF).
- "The Ashanti and their names". asanteman.freeservers.com. Archived from the original on 14 March 2014.
- J. E. Redden and N. Owusu (1963, 1995). Twi Basic Course. Foreign Service Institute (Hippocrene reprint). ISBN 0-7818-0394-2
- Florence Abena Dolphyne (1996). A Comprehensive Course in Twi (Asante) for the Non-Twi Learner. Accra: Ghana Universities Press. ISBN 9964302452
- Akan Teleteaching course
- Aukan Library (Ndyuka)