According to Merriam Webster dictionary, Totem is something (such as animal and plant) that is the symbol of a family, clan and tribe. However, in the Yoruba race totem could also be an object or natural phenomenon such as rain, thunder which is a symbol peculiar to towns.&nbsp; The term <strong>ORILE</strong> (re mi do) according to the Yorubas also means origin or foundation; it is of huge importance in the tracing of a pedigree. Therefore the <strong>ORILE</strong> is not a name, it denotes the family origin. 
    Although, its real meaning is shrouded in obscurity, some believes its connotes descendant from the object- myth, while others say the object are or characterise the&nbsp; ancient gods of the family, giver of the child, earthly blessings, or that the family is connected to it. 
    The number of totems is large, as its represents every believable objects, from Opo *do mi* (pillar/post), Ojo *do do* (rain), Ogun *do mi* (god of war) Agbo *do do* (ram) etc 

As it is often the practice of a married woman to take the name of her husband, she is not allowed to take his totem, children takes the totem of their father except in rare case where they take that of their mother, this happen mostly when the child is being brought up by the mother’s family, or when the mother’s family totem is stronger or nobler than that of the father.

The following are some distinguished totems:- 

Erin – Elephant: the totem of the original line of the kings

Ogun – god of war: the totem of the original line of Basoruns

Opo – Pillar: the totem of the noble Oyo family

Okin do mi – love bird: totem of the Olofa and the Oloro

Ojo – (rain) Ologbin

Agbo – (ram) Ajagusi – father of Erinle

Eri Oloyan

Agbe or Ade Olukoyi

Iji Onigbeti

Edu Onigbayi

Iko Onigusun

Ogo Ijesa

The orile just like the oriki distinguish an individual, the orile however also helps in tracing the family line. The oriki is always used with orile, it helps express or understand admiration/endearment, as orile when used alone might sound meaningless.

Examples of how oruko(name), oriki(attributive name)  and orile(totem) are use in conjunction:-


Oruko Oriki Orile

Fagbemi akawo Ogo

Adegbite Isola Okin

Adegbola Ayinla Opo


Oruko Oriki Orile

Morenike Akanke Ade

Folakemi Asabi Iko

Adebisi Abebi Iji

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A child is said to be “born with a name” when the peculiar circumstance&nbsp; of its birth may be expressed by a name which is applicable to all children born under like circumstance. These are names believed to have been lit. (Brought from heaven) mainly due to the circumstance/nature of birth.

These names includes: Taiwo, Kehinde,Idowu, Idogbe/Alaba, Dada,Ige, Ojo/Aina, Ajayi, ǬØkę, ǬØmøpę etc.

The most important of these is twin-births. Twins in Yoruba are almost credited with extra-humans powers. 

Taiwo: This is the name of the first born of the twins of either sex. It is a shortened form of to-aye-wo (have the first taste of the world) it is believed that the first is sent to announce the coming of the second or is being sent by the second to go have a feel of the world, hence the first is said to be younger of the two having been sent on an errand by the second.

Kehinde: he who lags behind. This is the common name of second of the twin, the one believed to have sent Taiwo on errand to come check the world.

Idowu: the name of the child after the twins, this name is applicable to male and female. Acc. to S. Johnson, Idowu are always considered heady and stubborn, hence their usual appelaton ‘Esu lęhin ibeji” (the devil after twins)

Idogbe: the name of a male child after Idowu.

Alaba: the name of the female child after Idowu * however in the present days Alaba is use for both male and female

Ige: the name Ige is for a child born with breech or footling presentation.

ǬØmøpę: this signifies that the child is late i.e. the child is born later than the normal period of pregnancy.

Ojo/Aina: male/female names of child born with the umbilical cord around the neck. Even though Ojo is usually reserved for males, Aina can either be a male/female name.

Dada: a born curly haired styled child.

ǬØkę: a child born with membranes enraptured. These children are believed to be born covered in a sack-liked style, which is open with the application of palmoil to the sack.

Babatunde: father comes again a name given to the male child born soon after the death of a grandfather.

Yetunde/ more recently Iyabo: mother comes again   a name given to female child born after the death of a grandmother.

Abiodun: lit. Born at new year/ festival, a name given to male/female child born during annual celebrations.

Be a part of Kola Olatunbosun’s project Yoruba Names dictionary – Contribute Here

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