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The Standard e-Dictionary of Igbo Names


Igbo (Ibo--Nigerian) Names & Their Meanings

Compiled by Dele Chinwe Ladejobi-Ukwu

Nigerian Woman and Child

Select a letter from the alphabet below to view names starting with that letter: Go to English Index of Igbo names

In Igbo land, as in other parts of Nigeria, naming a baby is a very important event. The name-giving ceremony is a formal occasion to which family members and friends are invited. The event is celebrated by feasting and drinking. Depending on how wealthy the parents are, live bands or famous musicians may be invited to the occasion. A child may be given several names. Many (like me), end up remembering just a few. In African tradition, the names a baby receives are generally expressive of the circumstances surrounding his/her birth, appearance, character, a preference for a male child, history, a certain concern for the future of the child, or the parents' position or status.

My names can fill up a book. Here are the ones that I remember. I was born in Enugu State in Eastern Nigeria, far away from my father's hometown, Ijebu, in Western Nigeria. So, he named me "Bamidele" (Dele), a Yoruba name, which means "come home with me" (i.e. to the West). My middle name, "Chinwemma" is an Igbo name. I was named after my mother. "Chinwe" means "God owns" and "mma" means beautiful, nice, good, and so on. "Chinwemma" literally translates, "God owns everything beautiful/nice/good." This name may also be translated as "God is beautiful or good." My maternal grandmother named me "Enwelumokwu." My father is a moslem. My moslem name is "Bilikisu" (which I think means "the beloved one"). This name is believed to be the name of one of King Solomon's wives. My mother is catholic. My christian name is Dorian. I was born with the placenta, so our Hausa neighbors named me "Meliga" which means, "someone born with clothes on" or "someone born wearing clothes" (maybe that's why I love to shop a lot. I have to stay clothed!!). The list goes on ...

Below, I have compiled a few Igbo (Ibo) names and their meanings. The list is by no means comprehensive. I welcome suggestions and additions. Please see my compilation to learn more about the languages and cultures of Nigerian ethnic groups, including the Ijaws, Igbos, Hausas, and Yorubas.

Historical Background: The Igbo calendar has an eight-market-day cycle instead of the regular seven-day week. In the Igbo language, a week is known as an "izu." There are four market days in Igbo tradition, Nkwo, Eke, Orie (or Oye) and Afo. Each must pass twice to make up an izu or one week.

A child may be named to indicate the market day on which (s)he was born: Nweke (m), Okeke (m), Okereke (m) or Mgbeke (f) ; Nwafor (m), Okafor (m), or Mgbafor (f); Nwankwo (m), Okonkwo (m), Okoronkwo (m) or Mgbonkwo (f); and Nworie (m), Okorie (m), Okoghe (m) or Mgborie (f).

According to oral tradition, there were originally four days total in an "izu". The concept of an eight-day "izu" originated from a wealthy man who had eight sons. He named his sons after the four market days. When they were grown, he allocated a portion of land to each son at separate locations. Since family is very important to Africans, he made his sons promise to keep in touch with one another. The sons decided to use the market days as meeting days and to rotate it among themselves.

Go to English Index of Igbo names

Select a letter from the alphabet below to view names starting with that letter:

A
B
Che-Chi
Chu
D
E
F
G
H
I
J
K
L
M
N
Ob
Od-Om
On
Os - Oz
R
S
T
U
Y-Z


Please send additions, corrections and/or suggestions to me (culture@chiamaka.com)