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Oríkì, or praise poetry, is a cultural phenomenon amongst Yoruba-speakers of West Africa.


The oríkì varies in length depending on whether it is the name given to a child to describe the future portents of the life or a recital of the accomplishments of a person's clan. It is invoked to praise a child for bringing pride to the parents or to attempt to evoke virtuous character traits of bravery, fortitude and perseverance that are believed to be innate in a person by pedigree.

It is not always clear what was pre-eminent in the mind of the person who named a child with the shorter praise name. Traditionally, a boy born with the umbilical cord around his neck is called Òjó (there are exceptions; the Ijebu subculture names a boy or girl Àìná), but the name Òjó has praise poetry that does not even mention that but implies that the child would be the darling of ladies and might be a little impatient.

Oríkì and surnames[edit]

Usually, a family derives its surname from a strong, accomplished patriarch or matriarch, and it is common to find the latter's accomplishments recited in the longer version of the oríkì of all progeny. An excerpt from praise poetry for the name Òjó would be:


Examples of oríkì names and their meanings (m and f denote the gender thereof):

  • Àjoké - meant to be taken care of by all. - f
  • Àlàké - to take care of her as a result of victory over circumstance. - f
  • Ànìké - had (birthed) to be pampered. - f
  • Àshàké - selected to be spoiled (with good things) - f
  • Àbèní - begged for (from God or, more traditionally, the gods) - f
  • Àríké - meant to be spoiled on sight - f
  • Àdùké - people will fight over the privilege to spoil her - f
  • Àbèbí - begged for to be birthed (probably a difficult birth) - f
  • Àjàní - fought to have this child - m
  • Àkànní - met only once to have this child - m
  • Àjàgbé - fought to carry this child - m
  • Àkànde Àgàn - favourite of the prince - m
  • Akanni - first male child - m
  • Adigun - Name of God - m
  • Apeke - Called to be cared for - f
  • Adunni - One sweet to have -f
  • Amoke - Known about and cared for
  • Ajadi - the end of conflict
  • Ariyo - One that brings joy on sight - m
  • Ayoka - One who causes joy - f
  • Atunke - One who would continually be taken care of -f

See also[edit]

External links[edit]