The Ghanaian Tradition of Day Names and Everything You Need to Know About it
In West Africa, newborns are given special names depending on the day they are born. Diverse ethnicities have variants and meanings as a symbol of cultural integrity and ancestral affiliation. Here’s your need-to-know guide.
The naming system of the Akan people is as distinct as that which elders in Togo (the Ewe people), the Ga people, Benin (the Fon people), and the African diaspora pass on to toddlers. Other forms of traditional naming include middle names, which can refer to order of birth as part of the caste of siblings, twin status, or could be an inherited maiden name.
Aside the fact that day names are a simple means for commonality, they are easy conversation starters and icebreakers.
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.
The Akan people use the Kwa language group’s system of timekeeping, which is based on a six-day week (‘nnanson‘), with the seventh day inclusive. In Ashanti homes, Sunday-born males and females are named Kwasi or Kwesi and Akosua respectively (meaning ‘associated with the universe’); Monday-born are Kwadwo or Kojo, Adjoa or Adwoa (meaning ‘associated with peace’); Tuesday-born are Kwabena or Kobi, Abena (meaning ‘associated with the ocean’); Wednesday-born Kwaku or Kweku, Akua (meaning ‘associated with spider/Ananse’); Thursday-born Yaw, Yaa ( meaning ‘associated with the earth’); Friday-born Kofi, Afia or Afua (meaning ‘associated with fertility’); and Saturday-born Kwame, Ama (meaning ‘associated with God’).
Adwoa/Adjoa, Ejo, Adzo
Jojo, Kojo, Kwadwo
Kwabena, Kobina, Ebo
Akua, Aku, Ekuwa
Kweku, Kuuku, Kwaku
Yao, Yaw, Ekwo
Efua/Afua, Afi, Afia
Kofi, Yoofi, Fiifi
Awo, Aba, Ama, Amma
Kwame, Ato, Kwamena
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
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)