Between honour and wealth

In  Yoruba language one can pretty much make up any names one desires based on objects, beliefs or fantasies by combining words or letters, tonal marks on letters are to guide readers of the meaning.

This post is about Yoruba language translation of words into English.

do ( \ )

re (  )

mi ( / )

For example: ‘Ola’ on its own has no meaning without tonal marks (àmìn), by putting àmìn on top, it is a lot easier to understand.

Àmìn is important when writing Yoruba, the tone is important when speaking. These are the basics with Yoruba language that we all agree with.

When writing, with àmìn in places, we all tend to agree on the meaning easily.

So I am a bit taken back in this particular instance where with tonal marks, people tend to give different meanings.

What is Ọlá in English?

A few weeks ago I saw somewhere online whereby Ọlá was translated as wealth in a given name.

Abiola : a child that is/was born in wealth.

If Ọlá is translated as wealth, what is Ọrọ̀?

In Yoruba ọrọ̀, owó = affluence, material wealth, money hence ọrọ̀ is wealth.

In Yoruba, there are a few names associated with wealth and money

Olówóòkéré |  Owódùnní | Owósení | Kofoworola (does not buy honour)

Names associated with wealth or money are quite few in Yoruba.

However Ọlá within a name is a very popular one because being honourable is preferred. Traditionally, having plenty of money is not the same as being a person of honour.

Ọlá as far as I know is something that is bigger than wealth. Ọlá is used to describe integrity, prestige and honour.

This is why Ọlá, Iyì, Ẹ̀yẹ are used interchangeable to mean the same thing, honour.

Based on the traditional affiliation to Ọlá in names, here are a few examples;

Ọlálérè  | Ọlápade |  Wúràọlá |  Jọ́laolú  | Ọládélé |  Tóriọlá  |  Ọlánipẹ̀kun

All these names above have ‘ọlá’ in common. They are a few of older names to help understand the meaning of ọlá better. If we were to say ọlá = wealth, that would be a mistranslation because ọlá in Yoruba as we can see from older names is far deeper than wealth, because wealth is finite. Ọlá in Yoruba names tends to mean something that comes from family line or one that a family aspire to – bigger than material wealth.

Trying to get clarity on the best translation of ọlá to English, out of the five people I spoke with two in the first instance without any hint from me said ọlá = honour, (what a relief to know I am losing my mind) two people after we went through a few traditional names and values were convinced.

The last person likes the sound of wealth too much so adamant – who doesn’t like money?

Now checking online – incredible to see handful of people working hard on writing in Yoruba. Popular ones were names and their English translations, all that I checked out have ọlá to mean wealth. This is not too surprising because plagiarism is quite rife and it means people seldom check what they copy.

However, my efforts paid off when I found a Yoruba translation dictionary site. May Orunmila bless those behind that work.






This shows that I am not alone here thinking ọlá = honour. I don’t know the people behind this website, but a few other Yoruba words that I checked out are accurate.

Language and culture are intertwined. Like other languages, to understand Yoruba, there are many words with origin in what people hold dear, ọlá is one of those words. Not many people are wealthy or will be wealthy, whereas being noble, uprightness don’t always come with wealth and this is what tend to be common with older generation.

It is not hard to see how this mistranslation came about. Yoruba writing for decades have been pushed aside, also looking at the society today speaks volume.

Here I am with my ọlá = honour

Different point of view on English translation for ọlá? I would love to read what you think.

Categories: A Yoruba Monarch, Education, Nigeria

Tags: ,

12 replies

  1. Sister FK, for me I like learning the Yoruba language – so for me it’s all good. I understand this is not a Yoruba language class, so I don’t expect to see it regularly.

    You allowed me to get the correct meaning of the word “ọlá” – thank you for that. (I always thought it was attached to wealth).

    It is good to know the sentiment behind such names a deliberate intention to signal to the world how they view their children. It goes beyond sounding nice or simply naming after a deceased family member.

    I see the name “ọlá” a lot. I remember the sprinter Ọlápade Adeniken – a reasonable sprinter blessed with good looks, there are many other Ọlás I’ve encountered (though they couldn’t run as fast.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oloye Jco 🙂 E se. Your interest in the language is admirable.

      Interesting that many of the books being published both online and hard copies for kids to read says ọlá = wealth. I hope overtime, we will get to the point where it becomes easier that our people are at ease to be challenged on their work without feeling threatened.

      Most of the older names with ọlá in it don’t make sense at all if translated as wealth.

      Since you are our Oloye :), I’d give another example:
      My paternal grandmother is called Ọrẹ̀tọlá.
      Ọrẹ̀ is a deity in Ile ife. Ọrẹ̀ is the same as Olúwerẹ̀ (this is how we trace connections given oral history)

      Now Ọrẹ̀tọlá was the last child and story goes that because it took her mother long time to conceive, parents made sacrifices to Ọrẹ̀ so when she was born, they were more than happy to show off where they got her from so was named Ọrẹ̀tọlá = Ọrẹ̀ is enough of honour. In essence people are proud to be associated with their deity so named their child after it.

      Sorry Oloye, I hope I haven’t bore you.


      • The account was fascinating. I was thinking to be a parent you have to memorise all these accounts to pass onto the younger generation. Learning is a wonderful thing and if someone chooses to share what is ‘theirs’ with me – I can only be thankful and appreciative.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Folakemi,

    I love this!

    Thanks, Mr. Alani, for the candor. As Folakemi has stated, do not be hard on yourself but it’s never too late to start because uphill as the journey of learning a lot about Yoruba may look, it takes just that first step as a Chinese proverb advises about the journey of a thousand miles starting with the first step. Pick up books and, better still, go tech as Fola suggests. Good luck.

    Thanks, Mr. swo8 for the insight; your take is not only very correct but right on the mark about the comparison which is why in Yorubas say –

    Ò nwa owó lọ, o pàdé iyì l’ọ́nà – colloqually, someone in search of making money meets honor/respect/position of influence … The choice to make is apparent.

    Thank, LubegaI about contribution on names in the Baganda ethnic group in Eastern Africa. In fact, names are so important in most of Africa’s various ethnic groups tlhat it is painful how Nigerians – at least of the Yoruba ethnic group have gone wildly astray in opting for high-sounding Christian and, oft times, Muslim names, practices that fly in the face of another saying –

    Ilé l’à nwò k’a tó s’ọmọ l’órúkọ – A child is named according to circumstances of his/her birth (most times).

    For instance in the past, when Adé starts a name, the child has links with royalty; twins have their àmút’ọ̀rúnwá names in addition to other names – ALL twins, boys or girls, are Taiwo (1st to emerge) and Kẹhìndé (2nd). Ditto babies who enter the world with feet first (breech birth): Ìgè; one of my grandchildren came into the world with her umbilical cord around her neck which made my spouse and I not only name her the Yoruba àmút’ọ̀rúnwá for girls – Àíná – but we make sure we call her that name, we also use her orikì a lot so that she knows and can pass it along.

    Religion has brought names such as JESUTOFUNMI – Jesus is enough for me without giving babies names that show who they are. I’m a Christian, by the way. A young man told my spouse and I when asked for his àmút’ọ̀rúnwá name that it is ABDULWALID! My spouse gave his own baptismal name and mine and then asked for his ORIKI; said it’s also ABDULWALID!! My husband who has Muslim and Christian relations explained to me that many Muslims think it’s “paganism” to have names other than Muslim!!!

    Thanks, Folakemi, for taking up a subject to which I’m deeply committed: preventing the disappearance, God forbid, the death of Yoruba language.

    Sincere regards,

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Most provoking. I started to realize my Yorùbá inadequacy, both spoken and written, about a year ago. I used to be non chalant but now it jus hurts 😢😟

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Alani. I think our generation have to be a bit gentle on ourselves because written that helps to deepen understanding of language has not been there for too long.

      Let’s hope that with this opportunity of technology, we will share and learn more.


  4. Lovely post Fola. Ola is worth much more than oro but that is just my opinion. Ola in English doesn’t have any translation that I know of. Oro could be similar to gold – meaning wealth. To have wealth without honour is nothing better than to be a thief.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow interesting post.I cant help but good luck with the search.Names in the Baganda tribe are attached to clans.Lubega is my father’s name ,a man’s name in the Ngabi clan (antelope).My surname is Namatovu,a female in the Ngabi clan.That is Juliet Lubega is pretty much a western combination.I am Juliet Namatovu,so to make life easier I use Juliet.N.Lubega.And there is no such thing as the Lubega family.My siblings were 2 girls;Nalubega and Nansamba. My brother Matovu. The Na… for women is very common but not exclusive.

    Liked by 1 person

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