Let the name speak! The deep meaning of Ghanaian First Names

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The tradition goes back to the Akan tribe: to name their children by the day of their birth. However, Ghanaian names have an even deeper meaning. We take you into this culture and show you as well your Ghanaian name!

The Ghanaian culture cannot be considered a uniform one. Rather, it consists of hundreds of different ethnic influences and tribes who speak their own dialects and their own languages, having different cultural backgrounds. However, the different Ghanaian ethnic groups largely share one common belief: the naming of their children.

From Ghana to Jamaica

The Akan, culturally and linguistically related tribes in West Africa, do the same as other African and Jamaican ethnic groups: Name their children after the respective day they were born. Over time, the Akan have defined seven names per gender, each referring to a day of the week:

 

 

Weekday Akan-day Female names Male names
Monday Edwoada/Dwoada Adwoa/Adjoa, Ejo, Adzo Jojo, Kojo, Kwadwo
Tuesday Ebenada/Benada Abena, Abla Kwabena, Kobina, Ebo
Wednesday Wukuada Akua, Aku, Ekuwa Kweku, Kuuku, Kwaku
Thursday Yawoada Yaaba, Yaa Yao, Yaw, Ekwo
Friday Efiada/Fiada Efua/Afua, Afi, Afia Kofi, Yoofi, Fiifi
Saturday Memeneda Awo, Aba, Ama, Amma Kwame, Ato, Kwamena
Sunday Kwasiada Akosua, Kisi, Esi Siisi, Akwasi, Kwesi

 

This naming after the days of the week has a much deeper meaning, because the day on which a person was born has about the similar significance as in the western hemisphere the assignment to a sign of the zodiac.

So, what if several siblings are born on the same day of the week? Not a problem, then simply numerical or sequential words are integrated into the name:

  • „Manu“ (the second, male) / „Maanu“ (the second, female)
  • „Mensa“ (the third, male) / „Mansa“ (the third, female) or
  • „Annan“ (the fourth, male) / „Anane“ (the fourth, female).

"Annan Kwame", for example, would be the fourth son born on a Saturday. A first born can be recognized by the first name " Piesie ". And what if they are twins? Here, too, the name logic has a solution: In this case, the first name "At(t)a" is simply assigned. "Tawia" is the name given to the child born after twins.

 

Names, Names, Names

In addition, it is not unusual to put another name before the weekday name: This then describes the situation in which a child was born. If, for example, a couple has a desired a child after a long time, the name " Nhyira ", which means "God's blessing", is not uncommon. Thus there are different additional names: For example, a "Nyambura" was born during the rainy season or an "Abionakam" was born on the way ("along the way").

Of course that's not all. Depending on the region (and whether it is Christian or Muslim) the children will often get common Christian or Muslim first names.

With it, at least the first names are complete. The names are given in the following order:

  • Religious name (either Christian or Muslim)
  • Number (Frist/ Second/... born)
  • Day of the week
  • Twin information
  • Situation Information
  • Surname

With this knowledge it is easy to find out your personal Ghanaian name. If you use the overview above as your orientation, you can (except for the situation information) compile your personal Ghanaian name very precisely. If you feel like sharing it with us, we would be happy! By the way, the writers of this article at fairafric are Katharina Maanu Kisi Nhyira and NicholasKweku Manu.

Should you be white or light skin coloured, then it can happen that - despite a correct Ghanaian name - you are simply called "Kwasibruni" in Ghana. This is a mixture of the words "Kwasi" and "Obruni". "Kwasi" stands for the word Sunday and "Obruni" is Twi (a dialect) and means as much as white. This name for light-skinned people probably goes back to white Christian missionaries who declared Sunday as the day of the Lord, but exactly the origin of this phrase is not verified.

If incidentally you have someone in Ghana who is born in the same situation or on the same day of the week as you, you will be regarded directly as brothers or sisters - because you are connected by a common day of birth!

Prominent name personalities:

  • UN Secretary General Kofi Annan ("Kofi" = male for "born on a Friday")
  • Ghana's First President Dr. Kwame Nkrumah ("Kwame" = male for "born on a Saturday")
  • Writer Ama Ata Aidoo ("Ama" = female name for “born on Saturday” and “Ata” shows that she is a twin)