Children’s names are important for many reasons. For starters, a child’s name is the primary means that people – family and non-family members alike – will use to refer to that child. Honey, Baby, Darling, Sweetie and other terms of endearment, or even nicknames, are fine, but they can never replace the formal name of a child. Have you ever met a child with no name?
Honestly, that would be sad and very unsettling, considering all the naming options that parents have at their disposal. Think of all the forms (application forms,
JAMB forms, scantron, etc) a person has to complete over the course of his or her life. Can you think of a single form where there was no name field? Still racking your head, abi? So, you get my point.
But perhaps, it is because there are too many available choices that some parents opt for unique children’s names. By unique, I mean uncommon, possibly strange, but definitely unusual. So, that rules out John, Mary and David. Those are very common Christian baby names.
The modern Nigerian Christian has been experimenting with unique names for years. And when I start giving examples, you’ll see why the word “experiment” is appropriate. While I understand that some names are God-given, prophetic and even tell stories surrounding the birth of a child, there are certain names that make you wonder what the parents were thinking when they decided to give their children these names.
I have taken the liberty of grouping these names into a few categories. Here they are:
Children’s Names that Underscore Virtue and Christian Aspirations
I am sure you know someone who has one or more of these names:
These names are typical Christian names and they are unisex names. Yes, there are boys and men called Faith and Peace. There’s nothing unusual or unique about them, right? Let’s look at the next category.
Children’s Names that are Arguably Esoteric
Admittedly, the word “esoteric” may not be the best adjective to describe these names. However, once you’ve scanned the list you’ll see why they deserve a special class of their own. And of course, if you can think of a better description for this group of names, feel free to share. Here are some examples:
- Favour / Favor
These names are a lot less common than the ones in the first category, right? I thought so too.
As I thought about the names in both categories, I realized that they weren’t as unusual or strange or uncommon as they seem. Why? Because we’ve been using these names for a long, long time … in a different form. Still don’t understand? Don’t worry, you’ll soon get it.
Okay, raise your hand if you’ve ever encountered any of the following names:
- Aanu (sometimes spelled “Anu”) as in Aanuoluwapo meaning God’s mercy is great or Great is the Lord’s mercy
- Ife as in Ifeoluwa meaning The Love of God or God’s Love
- Fiyin as in Fiyinfoluwa meaning Give God Praise
Okay, Fiyin is not as common as Ife and Aanu/Anu, but I think you get the point. The names look more familiar and a lot less strange in Yoruba and our traditional Nigerian languages than they do in their stripped down English forms.
Speaking of traditional Nigerian names, here are some interesting Yoruba Christian names I have encountered. Please feel free to share names in your own language too.
Unique Yoruba Christian Children’s Names
- Iyanuoluwa: Iyanu means Marvel, Wonder. So, Iyanuoluwa means Marvel of God or Wonder of God. Not so different from Marvelous.
- Irawo: Irawo means Star
- Iteoluwakiishi: Ite means Throne. So, Iteoluwakiishi means God’s Throne is Forever
- Oluwalonimi means I am God’s Own
I found these names particularly interesting to unravel and interpret, just because it’s not every day you meet people with names like these.
And come to think of it, how different is this from picking biblical names anyway? There were some very strange names in the Bible too and parents just dash their children these names without even knowing the meaning. For example:
- Jacob means Supplanter or May God protect, depending on which theory you side with
- David means Beloved
- Jabez means Sorrow, Trouble
Modern Nigerian parents exercise a lot more freedom and poetic license in choosing their children’s names and sometimes when you hear some names, you can’t help but chuckle and think, “See the parents flexing their naming muscles!”
But I believe that whatever name you choose to give your child is fine as long as it does not have a negative meaning.
P. S. I am yet to hear of anyone who named their child “Perseverance.” But I bet there’s a Perseverance out there. Somewhere.