What’s in a name, really?

In most African societies and particularly in Nigeria, names are given great significance. Recently, there are instances where most parents have diverted from giving local names to giving names that have no meaning and relevance to their kids.
Mrs. Ebere Chika, a 43-year-old educationist who explains naming in Igbo culture, says, “Names are given in Igbo land to a child considering the circumstance leading to the birth of that child. Some indicate the family situation or mother’s situation at the birth of the child. Other names are an appreciation to God. For example, ‘Nwakaego’ means that a child is more precious than money and you will notice that in his life time that child will succeed, with or without money.”
Names are said to hold a lot of significance in a child’s life as they are believed to be the driving force of what that child will be in the future.
Mr. Linus Nwagu, a 40-year-old engineer, says, “It is funny when I hear weird names that have no relevance being given to a child. The names we give to our children ought to be like a guiding light in their lives, not one that would have negative effect on them as they grow. I tell you I have heard someone name his daughter Appearance. That’s how weird it can be.”
There are different strokes for different people and societies. A child is said to come with a name from heaven. Mr Adedayo Akindele, a 42-year-old banker says, “A child is said to be born with a name when there is a peculiar circumstance leading to the birth of that child. In our culture, great importance is given to naming a child, though it is important to note that not all children are born with a name tag; and when such happens the normal names are given to them. At the same time they must be names that will help bring progress to the life of that child. Progress is one name given to children; a weird name but it at least has significance in life.”
Several schools of thought have diverse beliefs about the significance and power behind a name as some believe that the hidden meaning of a name is more akin to astrology or fortune telling.
According to Mr. Peter Okey, a psychologist, a name is cherished in most societies and cultures. He says,“Take for example the Jews, they believe that a name represents the soul of a person and therefore can influence the person’s life. Because of this single fact they do not name a child after a living soul for fear that both will have to share one destiny thereby shortening the life span of the older person. So, in essence you can see how relevant a name is to such a society which is not in any way different from our culture here in Nigeria.”
Ustaz Bello Musa, a 40-year-old Islamic scholar, says “The matter of naming a child is most times taken less seriously by the parents, thereby making inevitable mistakes that affect the child negatively. A name might sound nice when pronounced but might have a negative meaning. So it is highly recommended that parents be mindful of the names they give to their children because it goes a long way in shaping what their lives will turn out to be.
As a word of advice, parents should want to give some thought to the various opinions about the significance of names even if some seem rooted in out-dated philosophies. Parents should want to give deep thought before deciding on a name for the child because, if we appreciate the belief that a name has link with the destiny of a child, then the responsibility to determine the life of our children through the names we give them is truly a serious one.


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