ORÍKÌ (The Yoruba golden way of nomenclature)

ORÍKÌ (The Yoruba golden way of nomenclature)

ORÍKÌ: Do you know that before slave trade, Yoruba don’t bear surname as part of their own name? Before then, everybody bears his own name in a unique way.


Bearing ones father’s or grand father’s name as surname actually began when the British came to Nigeria,and father’s name became mandatory to be added as surname during primary school registration.

Instead, yoruba name an individual child in a unique way that is never seen anywhere else in the world. It is a format of 3 names i.e ORÚKỌ ÀBÍSỌ (personal name), ORÍKÌ (epithet), ORÍLÈ (ancestral totem name). For instance, Adekola Ajani Ìkọ́ or Oladele Alabi Ọ̀kín. Let us look into each name identity and what it represents.



ORUKO ÀBÍSỌ: Oruko abiso is a personal name given to an individual based on family nobility or identity. ẹ.g royal families name their children with prefix like Ade or Oye, warriors name Akin, noble family name Ola, the family of Egungun worshipers name their children Ọ̀jẹ̀ etc.


ORÍKÌ: Oriki is a personal name given to individual to be used to praise him or her, it is an epithet. ẹ.g Anike, Akande, Alake, Ajao etc Oriki is a personal pet name.


ORÍLẸ̀: Orílẹ̀ is the Oriki of the ancestral lineage of an individual’s family, clan or race. The name is used to identify him or her with the family lineage and to praise such person as a true son or daughter of the family. With the totem name, one can easily trace a person to the source, the town where his forefathers originally came from

ORILE are represented by their own name, anyone bearing such name is traceable directly to the town where their family originally migrated from. For instance:

Ẹ̀rìnmòjé:- They are from Ẹrinle, Erin Osun, Erin Ijesha. Àwọn ni Erinmoje ọmọ sàádà.


Ẹwú:- They are from Ìkire or Ejigbo in Osun State. The two towns were founded by brothers. Àwọn lomo Ẹwú nínwìnrín ọmọ a dale gbogbo Yi wọn ká. Ẹwú nínwìnrín ọmọ adàlẹ́ gbin ewura. Ẹwú file hànmí fọ̀nà hànmí, ẹwú kò ní fabuja Ile Ìkire han baba ẹnìkan.


Ayerounfę:- They descended from Saki, Eruwa, can also be found in Ondo.


Elese/ Oko Irese:- They are originally traceable to have come from Igbaja or Oko. Àwọn ni Oko Irese ọmọ wòyírà. Wòyírà ki I ma baa Ra ẹrú kẹ́rú.


Arẹ̀sà :- The people bearing Aresa or praised as Iresa are actually descendants of the ancient town of Iresadu or Iresapa in Osun State. They are brother’s, Aresa Dudu l’ẹ̀gbọ́n pupa l’aburo. Àwọn ni ìnáòdí ọmọ ajílálà ọ́sọ́, ọmọ ajífọjọ́ gbogbo Dara bi egbin.

Sometimes a particular family has an object, a totem to represent them, such an object is used as the third name (the totem name) of the person.

Throughout the world, it is only Yoruba that bear such unique nomenclature to identify a person. We will here look into some ORILE totems and the family race they represent.


Ọ̀kín:- This is the totem identity of the Olofa of Ofa and the Oloro of Oro both now in Kwara State. The royal families of Olofa and Oloro are the popular families bearing this totem. Anyone bearing this totem (e.g Alabi Ọ̀kín, Ajao Ọ̀kín) descended from either of these two families. Àwọn ni Ìyẹ̀rú-ọ̀kín ọmọ Ọlọ́fàmọyọ̀, Ọlalọmi ọmọ abísujórúkọ, ìjàkadì l’oro Ọ̀ffà.


Ìjí:- This is the Totem name of the Onígbẹti. People having this Totem are originally from Igbẹti, the totem being that of the Onigbeti of Igbeti. A popular family bearing this totem is the family of Adegoke Adelabu (Penkelemesi) of Ibadan. Another example was Sango, when he was alive, Sango was called Ajala Iji, telling us that the god of thunder is originally from Igbeti. Sango is praised as Ajala Ìjí, Olufiran, Ina loju, ina lẹnu, sángiri, làgiri, alàgirikàkà fi igba ẹdun bọ̀.


Òpó (post):– This is the totem of a noble Oyo family. This shows that people having this totem name are originally from Oyo-Ile. . A popular family belonging to this family is the family of the Emir of Ilorin family. Though they are Fulani on their father (Alimi)’s side; the family adopted the totem of their mother, a Yoruba-woman who though being Alimi’s second wife produced the first two sons of Alimi, and her lineage had been producing the Emirs of Ilorin to the exclusion of the sons of the Fulani wife who was the first wife ever since. Òpó people are praised as: Òpó rósọ, òpó gbàjá, Òpómúléró mọjaàlekan.


Ẹ̀lọ́:- This is the totem of the Ẹlẹ́rìn. People bearing this totem are originally from Ẹ̀rìn-Ilé, it being the Totem of the Ẹlẹ́rìn. The families of the Ẹlẹ́rìn of Ẹ̀rìn-Ilé in Kwara State and the Ẹlẹ́rìn of Erin-Osun in Osun State are some of the families bearing this totem.


Àró:- This is the Totem of the Aare Latoosa family of Ibadan who was the last Aareona Kakanfo of Yorubaland to fight a war.


Ọ̀gọ̀:- This is the Totem name of some Ijesha families. People bearing this totem are originally from Ijeshaland. Prince Sunday Adegeye (King Sunny Ade) is one popular person I know bearing this totem, so originally his family must have come from Ijeshaland, even though he now claims Ondo as his place of origin.


Ògún:- This is the Totem of the family of the Bashorun of Oyo-Ile; however Alaafin Abiodun Adegoolu whose mother was of the Bashorun of Oyo family adopted the totem of his mother (the Bashoruns of Oyo being then in the ascendant during the reign of Bashorun Gaa) and since then this totem has also been the totem of all descendants of all Alaafins of Oyo from Alaafin Abiodun Adegoolu downward. The ruling families of Oyo who are now exclusively of Alaafin Atiba lineage and the families of the Bashoruns of Oyo are some of the families bearing this totem. So anyone bearing this totem is either from Alaafin of Oyo or Bashorun of Oyo families.


Erin:- This is anciently the totem of the old lines of Alaafins before Alaafin Abiodun Adegoolu. All the families bearing this totem descended from the old lines of Alafins of Oyo before Alaafin Abiodun Adegoolu. So anyone bearing this totem is from the old lines of Alaafin of Oyo.


Ade:- This is the totem of the Onikoyi. Anyone bearing this totem is originally from Ikoyi, one of the principal towns in the Ekun Osi Province of old Oyo. The status of the family is now greatly reduced and the family carries on their existence in a town of that name in Osun State. Anyone bearing the totem is originally from Ikoyi of the Ekun Osi Province of old Oyo Empire.


Ẹ̀rí:- This is the totem name of the Oloyan. Anyone bearing this totem is originally from Oyan in Osun State. The royal family of Oloyan are the popular people bearing this totem.

Other totems are;

Ìkọ́:- the Totem of the Olokunesin family of Oyo. It is the official duty of the title-bearer of this family to hold the reins of the horse of the Alaafin whenever he wants to mount or dismount his horse. Anyone bearing this totem is originally from the family of Olokunesin of Oyo.


In summary, this Yoruba way of naming is uniquely deep and explains why praising a Yoruba son or daughter with their Oriki is deep and is beyond mere calling of name. We will continue to research and showcase the beauty of Yoruba cultural identity. And I can tell you, it is the most beautiful.

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