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Philosophical Implications of Igbo Names in Nigerian Novels: A Study of Chinua

Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and Odili Ujubuonu’s Pregnancy of the Gods.

Ibekwe, Thaddeus Osinakachukwu

Reg. No: 2017042013

M.A Programme

A Seminar Paper Presented to the Department of English, Chukwuemeka

Odumegwu Ojukwu University, Igbariam. In Partial Fulfillment of the

Requirements for the Award of Masters Degree in English.

Prof. Ifejirika, Echezona

April, 2018.


When we look at named, we begin to see some of the beliefs that are placed on

individual’s lives. Names are identities that are placed on individual’s lives; through

which an individual can be identified. It tells reasons, circumstances and philosophy

about life. This is part of the Igbo culture which takes place after a child’s birth,

especially after ‘Omugwo’. It is a rite or feast of entrance, through which one is

welcomed to a family and community that have one ancestral root. This study looked at

names, their philosophical implications and the importance attached to them by the

people. The study made use of realism as the best approach to study names in African

novels like Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and Odili Ujubuonu The Pregnancy of

the Gods. The paper demonstrated the importance, belief and circumstances that lead to

names. It concluded that most names come with fortunes or misfortunes according to the

interpretation of the Igbo worldview. With this, there is general knowledge that names

are symbols that represent the philosophies of life.

Keywords: philosophy, circumstance, belief, omugwo, culture


Anything that has no name is lifeless. God from creation day showed his

sovereignty by creating everything with names and each name has a philosophical

implication to anything that bears it. No wonder a romantic poet sings;

All things bright and beautiful,

All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all (Hymn 442).

Looking at the philosophical interpretations of this stanza, one can see that the

brightness and beauty of any creature lies in the name it bears. For examples: ‘Onwa’ is

moon, gold, ‘olaedo’, star ‘kpakpando’, beauty ‘mma’, etc. From these examples we can

see that names have philosophical attributes to everything about life and also

communicate messages about life, behaviour and circumstance. Again, the greatness and

smallness of anything lies in names as we have in mountain ‘ugwu’, Elephant ‘Enyi’, ant

‘ahuhu’, small ‘obere’. We can see that these names show the real nature of these

mentioned, even without being seen. Their names have communicated the message on

how their natures are. Finally in the third line of the poem we can see that through names,

we can comprehend and have knowledge of what is wise or wonderful. There is no need

telling someone that ‘Arusi’ which is Oracle means something bad or evil. Looking at the

name ‘Arusi’ which simply means an object of worship by the traditional Africa,

represents something evil. ‘Aru’ which is an abomination is an evil act and ‘nsi’ which is

poison leads to abomination. From the name, its evil nature is conveyed. The same thing

goes with death which is ‘onwu’. ‘Amamihe’ ‘wisdom’, ‘Nghota’ Knowledge, ‘Nzuzu’

‘Iberibe’, ‘Efulefu’ or ‘Okanogiri’ Foolishness, ‘Nghari’ Confusion, Sudden ‘Mberede’.

‘Ebube’ Glory, ‘Akpataoyi’ goose-pimples, ‘Odiegwu’ wonderful, etc. Through names,

one can imagine what is wise and wonderful. Again through names, one can equally

imagine what is beyond human understanding as we have in ‘Muommiri’ spirit water,

‘Ogbanje’ evil rounds of birth and death, ‘Muoonwu’ spirit of death as some call it

‘Mmaonwu’ which is beauty of death. All these mean masquerade. Therefore, a name is

like a message used to pass knowledge across about life and beyond.

Everything that has life has name. A name is like a symbol that conveys either

philosophical, natural and or spiritual meanings of something. This tells that names have

something they represent. It can also be seen as the root through which life of any thing

can exist or a shadow that reflects everything about life. Nwadike Uzoma in his

collection entitled Echichemiriemi has a catching poem Ahamefuna through which he

created a mental picture about a name as he sings:

He who loses his name

How will he be identified?
Then, he has become something that is lost
Like one whose head is cut off
Identifying him will be difficult (6-10).

This is supported by a great Igbo novelist Tony Ubesie in his classic Ukpana

okpoko buru where he narrates the importance of a name as it goes thus; “He says instead

he will lose his name, let him lose his life” (13).

The importance of a name is seen in some of the names Igbo people answer.

Eziafakaego ‘Good-name-is-better-than-riches’ and Ahamefuna ‘let-my-name-not-get-

lost’. This may support the idea that sometimes the totality of one’s life anchors on one’s

name. That is, any name one bears must have an implication on one’s life. Here, names

serve as mirrors or lenses through which one can see everything about life and in

anything that exists in human life, be it good or bad.

A name is an identity that tells what something is. It also differentiates something

from the other. In Igbo traditional setting, naming as a part of culture is a traditional feast

that mark the arrival of a child. It is a traditional rite through which a name is given to a

child. And through this rite, a child is fully welcomed both in the family and traditional

society. This tells that through naming both the family and the traditional society have

accepted and embraced a child to become part of them. Through this, identity is given to

that child. Again, through a name; power, authority and right of life, living, associating

and succeeding are also given to a child. The above idea made Basden George to opine


Naming the child is an important function. It is a mark of honor and

respect to be invited to give a name and the privilege is usually reserved

for one of the elder relatives. It is a time of great rejoicing and feasting,

and large quantities of palm wine are consumed in celebrating the

occasion (60).

Such feast according to Nwabanne Okechi comes after birth as he writes: “After

childbirth comes naming at an appropriate time in accordance with our culture”. (2)

Ogbalu confirms this when he writes: “It is a day that marks the end of omugwo that

name is given to a child” (24). These tell that names come after the birth of a child. This

is so because mothers do not know what they would have at birth, unless through Afa

(divination). Even if a seer could tell the gender of the child before birth and she

proposely gives it a name before delivery. The incident that may occur before the birth or

after the birth may go contrary to the fate of that child. The catholic Bishop, Ezeanya in

Nwabanne Okechi affirms this thus: “But by far the most frequent source of name which

was given, was circumstance at the time of the birth of a child (18). Again it is Igbo

traditional culture that a child must be named after birth. The above mentioned scholar

confirmed thus: “Naming takes place among the Hebrew and Igbo not before but after

circumcision” (23).

This tells naming as one of the feasts in Igbo traditional community comes after

birth which attracts relatives, neighbours and well-wishers.

Name according to Nwabanne Okechi’s view runs:

Is the word by which a person or thing is known and called, used

specifically in relation to him. Name (AFA) may be a proper name for

example, chukwuemeka or a common name for instance, Man… NAME

which means AFA and AFA OTUTU… is limited to the name which a

person answers and is known by (1).

This tells that name is what is given to somebody or something through which one

or something is known and called.

Ekwealor in defining name as part of feast in Igbo traditional culture writes: “This

means a name given to a new born child” (22). This tells that a new born child must be

given a name and through that name; mark of life and living are given to the child.

Ogbalu in this writes: “It is clear that Igbo people try to give names that are

meaningful which show what parents and well-wishers have in mind on the birth of a

child or what they think about their future” (26).

What Ogbalu tries to convey here is that Igbo people do not just give names. They

give names looking at the circumstances which may occur before birth, at birth or after

birth of a child. These names have philosophical meanings and implications. Through

names, beliefs and philosophy of one’s life are seen. Sometimes names Igbo people

answer serve as ‘prophetic-mirrors’ through which one’s future is seen. In Igbo

worldview names serve as reasons, beliefs and circumstances attached to one’s life

through which fate and destiny of a person could be seen. Ogbalu summed this up:

If a person is born when a great thing happened, the person is likely to be

called Chimerebere, Iheanyichukwu, Chukwudi or other names. A person

who is not in good terms with others may give a child names like:

Olejeme, Onyebuchi, Mmadumere, Mmaduabugheke or any name he

wishes (25).

This tells that names are identities that may possess or picture destiny, fate and

happenings that surround one’s life. That is Igbo traditional society gives names on what

surrounds one’s life, what happens in one’s life and what may likely happen in one’s life.

It is the totality of life experience both the bearer, the family members and society one

lives in. Looking at names, it is clear that Igbo traditional society, philosophically looks

around to see what life is all about, what life may have as meaning or meant to someone

or society before giving out a name. Nwabanne Okechi confirms this as it goes:

The base or the root of the name that a person answers is emblematic of

the perception of those who gave him the name, their belief, their

conception, their relationship with others. Their cultural origin and the

circumstances of his birth (1).

This supports the idea that a name given to a child anchors on the belief and

knowledge of things about life. The perception and conception of life are what parents

look in giving their children names.

Basdan is not far from this, to explore this more; he avers:

Two or more names may be given, the first almost invariably taking the form

Nwa (child, in combination with the name of the day on which the child was

born, e.g.: Nwa-ekke-the child of Ekkeday). The second name is suggested by

the display of some characteristics trait, or some resemblance, fancied or

otherwise, to a deceased member of the family (60).

From the above view, one can see that two or more names could be given to a

child after birth. Again, the circumstances behind the birth is also considered while

naming a child. With this, one can believe the idea that a person or a person’s life could

be traced through a name. Ekwealor summed this up: “Name is used to trace someone. A

name given to any child in Igbo land has something it signifies. The first name given to a

child tells the day the child is born like Okeke/Nweke, Okoye/Nwoye, Okafor/Nwafor,

Okonkwo/Nwankwo, etc”. (23). This is so because; Afor, Nkwo, Eke and Orie (Oye) in

Igbo cosmology are market days in Igbo traditional week.

A close interview with some elders on names provides a lot of interpretations and

meanings of names. Generally, one can say that name is a philosophy or ideology about

one’s birth or life. Ifejirika explored this using his name ‘Ifejirika’ which he stated that

the name is a symbol that tells the importance of male child in a family especially in Igbo

traditional setting. He upholds that the name which in English is thing-that-makes-one-

greater is a child not children which he says; ‘nwakaumu’, a child greater than children.

From the critic’s idea, we observe that in Igbo philosophical worldview what makes one

greater than the other is not wealth, or any other thing rather ‘child’. That’s why Igbo

people have names like: Nwakego, Nwabuike, Nwabuonu, Nwaakolom, Nwabuihe, etc.

Ekwelor supported this when he writes: “child is greater than everything. Such belief

makes the Igbo give names like: Nwaakasi, Maduka, Nwakaego, Nwaamaka, Ginikanwa,

etc” (23).

Asika in his own view pointed out the full meaning of his name, ‘Asika’, which is

‘Asikadiadi’, meaning; ‘if we agree to live, we live’. This tells that names go with

meanings. The meaning attached to this tells the importance of unity. Such name

according to Ogbalu is given to a child whose parents were not in good relationship with

others especially the kinsmen or clans men. Other names which may come up in such

way is ‘Udoka’ peace- is- supreme. Ekwelor summed this up:

Igbo traditional society give names on what happen to them especially

what happened before the birth of a child. It could be a good thing like one

who has just finished building one’s house. A child born during this

fortune is likely to be called Uloma/Unoma. It may be a bad thing like

death. A child born at this time is likely to be called; Ozoemena, Kasie,

Chimezie, Chiwuzie, Chidozie, etc. (23).

From Asika’s view we can see that most names we answer are cut short from the

way they are pronounced. The reason is because such names are too long. There is no

doubt that most of Igbo names are sentences in nature and to shorten them into words for

easy calling, made some part to be taken out as we have in: Ifeka which in full is

Ifekandu what-is-supreme-than-life. Onwu which often appears as Onwukaeme death- is-

supreme, Onwuachusim death-don’t-come-after-me, Onwuegbulem; death-don’t-kill-me,

Onwuamaonyeukwu; death-recognizes-no-great-man, Onwughaam; death-let-me-be, etc.

Chinua which in full is Chimnuolumogu let God-fight-for-me, Achebe which is Anichebe

let-the-land-protect and finally Odili which in full is Odilichukwu It-is-left-for-God.

Kasie which in full is Nkasiobi meaning comfort, etc.

Other names Igbo people answer are Azubike/Azuka such names tell the

importance of child which in Igbo cosmology believe will replace or represents their

parents in order to continue their family linage, once they face their backs to earth and

forward on the journey of no return. This shows the importance of child. Here ‘Azu’ does

not mean back, rather ‘child’.Therefore, the two names mean posterity- is- supreme.

Chinenyenwa God-gives-child. Chimobi God-knows-my-heart, Chinedu God-protects,

Chijimma God-holds-beauty, Chiadighinizu If-God-is-against-the-plot. These names

vividly support the Igbo adage; “He whose ‘chi’ does not kill nothing kills him”.

Enyereibe what-is-given-to-a-fellow. This means that if a child is a thing that is given to a

person to give to the other sometimes, it won’t reach to everybody; especially the poor.

Echezona which is Never-forget, Ewunonu, Pity-lies-on-lips. Ahamefuna let-my-name-

not-get-lost. Ujowundu fear- is- life. Each of these names have philosophy attached to

them. They have meanings and something they represent or talk about life. This is what

most Reverend Dr. Stephen Ezeanya the former Arch- Bishop of Onitsha confirms;

Nwabanne Okechi summed this up:

Now most of the Igbo names are really very good and interesting from the

religious and social points of view. These names cover a whole range of

religious sentiments. They express allowing other things, confidence,

faith, gratitude, hope, fear, humility, joy, reverence and repentance. These

are sentiments spontaneously coming from the heart of the parents who

give names to their children…(1).

This tells that names represent the whole thing about life. Again, it shows that

name is sacred, it is ritual and religious; therefore names must be respected. This is

because names do not come ordinarily. They cannot just come either, there must be

circumstance that must bring them out. Ekwealor supported the above view as it goes


In summary, we will see that a name given to any one in Igbo society has a

mystery it represents. Again, the Igbo society believe that any name given

to one goes after one. This means that a person lives his or her life

depending on how his or her name goes. Because of this, it is often thought

very well before a name is given to someone to avoid bringing ill luck on

someone through name (24).

From Ekwealor’s view we can see that there are names that bring fortune or

success to the bearer. And there are ones that bring misfortune, ill- luck or bad omen to

one who answers it. That is why before a name is given to a child, the parents must first

think about it, knowing its significance to the life of the child and also knowing both

physical, psychological, religious, spiritual, and philosophical implications, to avoid

bringing curse upon the bearer. Such names include: ‘Ibekwe’ If-kinsmen-agree. There is

a force behind this name. It tells that progress, success and everything good about the

bearer could be determine by his kinsmen. Here, there is a reason that man becomes ‘chi’

to his fellow man and can determine success or failure to one in life. If for instance he

disagrees as the name bears, no matter how the bearer struggles, he won’t meet up with

achievements or any good thing in life. The same thing applies with ‘Umunnakwe’. The

problem man have in his traditional Igbo community is ‘Umunna’ or ‘Umunnadi’

kinsmen or kinsfolk. A name like this can affects one’s life because it is assume that

one’s destiny and fate are to be determined by his kinsmen. No wonder the Igbo have a

saying; ‘Ummunnabuike’ kinsmen-is-strength or power-belongs-to-kinsmen. One thing

about name is; it goes with belief. Such belief that a fellow or kinsmen have power over

one and it works for them. After all there is a saying that “when one says yes one’s chi

affirms”. Again in Igbo cosmology, there is a belief which appears in a saying that ‘Aha

onye na-edu ya’ ones-name-brings-fortune.

People are not answering names just because they want. There is always a

circumstance that leads to any name one answers. Still on this, we should also note that

there are names that bring fortune, favour or success to the bearer. Such names include:

Ihuoma good-face, Onyinyechi gift-of-God, Uloaku treasure-home, Anulika happiness,

Chinedu God’s-guide, Iheoma fortune. Obiageli Coming-to-enjoy, Obianuju Coming-in-

abundance, etc.

Other ways by which one can be given a name or derived name from are:

i. Market: Market names are the four traditional markets in Igbo society. Most

often, people answer these names because they are born on the days which

these markets are observed. Market names like: Nwafor, Nwankwo, Nwoye

and Nweke. Ogbalu in support of this says as it goes thus: “Some answers

Nweke, Nwoye, Nwafor, Nwankwo, as names of their market which was the

day they were born” (25).

ii. Animals like: Ezeugo, Egbe, Agu, Odum, Enyi, etc.

iii. From traditional title or chieftaincy title like: Nze or Ozo, etc. Such names tell

the behaviour of the bearer and what the bearer is capable of doing. It brings

respect and dignity to the bearer. Such names like: Ogbuonyiriagu killing-

what-greater-than-the-lion, Nwatakwocha if-a-child-watches-his-hands-clean.

Akunwata treasure-of-a-child, Ubanese wealth-is-the-problem, Ononeenyi

going-on-the-elephant, Onwa moon, Nwakeibeya A-child-that-is-greater-than-


Women who have traditional title like Lolo or Iyom have names like:

Ugoeze/Achalaugo queen-of-eagle, Obieze, Heart-of-a-king, Olaedo gold,

Agbarakaibe The-spirit-that-greater-than-others. Some men after marrying

their wives give them names like: Ugodiya Eagle-of-her-husband, Obidiya

Heart-of-her-husband, Enyidiya Friend-of-her-husband, Odinobi Living-in-

my-heart, Akudiya Treasure-of-her-husband etc. These names tell how closely

their wives are to them.

iv. Name as one’s choice: This is mostly found among the young men, married

women and some men who have no title. Such names are: Ntu nail, Ukpaka

Breadfruit, Anukporonkuneejuonu The-dry-meat-that-fills-the-mouth,

Okwuasoanya words-respect-no-one, Onoduugo Eagle’s-status, Ijenwaokuku

The-steps-of-a-chick, Gwamnihu say-it-before-me, Ikpemaraeziokwu


The overall view is supported by Ogbalu as he writes:

Names like these are called nicknames. Young men often answer these

than the madiens. Most often, young men answer names that signifies

what they are capable of doing. Some answers: Isiakwu (because it is said

that palm head can never be put under the armpit) Dimkpa, Ochiogba, etc.

When a person meets his fellow, he calls him by his nick name. Some

married women also have nicknames. Some answers: Ugegbe, Jioji,

Momiwota, Eze-Nwaanyi (26).

Sometimes a person takes a name on his personal achievement. This may be as a

result of his great deed especially when he kills animal like lion he answers Ogbuagu.

Again, one’s richness, good or open minded heart and extended hands with good will,

can attract names like: Ogbuefi Cow-killer, Omereora doing-for-the-people, Ochiriozuo

leading-and-feeding-the-people etc. Such names as title names ‘Afaotutu’ is what

Nwabenne Okechi summarized as:

Afaotutu is a name given to a person by another person or by a community

or by a group of people or taken by an individual to assert and highlight

his physical attributes, endowments, achievement or his particular role in

the society (40).

There are feast names or festive names people answer. This shows that they are

born on such feast days like: Njoku, Ezeji, Nwarieji, Ikeji, etc. Ogbalu summed this up:

“Sometimes a child born on a feast day is named after the feast which he was born like:

Njoku; a person born on the feast of Njoku is named after Njoku” (25).

From reasons behind names, one can equally accept the idea that names of towns

and villages in traditional Igbo society have traditional and historical roots on their

existence. Just like other names which must come with something or events. Village

names do not come ordinarily. There must be a circumstance that leads to them. It is

often tied to history through which the indigenes see the existence of their life, culture,

belief, tradition etc. Looking at the most of village names in Igbo traditional society and

their philosophical implications, one will believe that names of villages and towns are

derived from the circumstances that surround the life of their patriarchs or ancestors,

whose experiences on events and happenings around the lands and environment they

earlier found themselves; gave them names which they answer today.

Some of the beliefs the Igbo traditional society observe in giving names are:

i. They belief that God lives that’s why they answer names like: Chukwudi; God-

lives, Chibuzo God-first, Chinaemerem God-is-doing-it-for-me, Chinazaekpere

God-answers-prayers, Chinwendu God-gives-life, Chukwudubem God-leads-me,

Chisom God-is-with-me, Obiomachukwu God’s-mercy, Chukwujioke God-holds-

my-share, Chinenye God-giveth, etc.

ii. They belief that life is precious: Igbo traditional society belief that there is

nothing greater than life; that is life surpasses all things. That’s why they answer

names like: Ifekandu what-is-greater-than-life, Ndubusi life-first, Nduka life-is-

supreme etc.

iii. They belief on death: Igbo people belief so much on death. They take death and

funerals as one of their cultures. Their belief on this appears in the adage which

they often say; “Ihe ana amaghi ka aga esi mee bu onwu”. It is only death that has

no solution. On this belief, they give names like: Onwubiko Death-please,

Onwuamaeze Death-is-respecter-of-no-king, Onwuka Death-is-supreme etc.

iv. They believe that a child does not belong to one person. In this they give names

like: Obiora Heart-of-all, Adaora Daughter-of-all, Nwaora Child-of-all.

v. They believe that a child surpasses all things. There is nothing to compare with a

child in Igbo society; that’s why they give names like: Ginikanwa what-is-greater-

than-child, Nwaamaka child-is-good, Nwakaego child-is-greater-than-wealth etc.

Names give reasons to both things and life. It is through names that Africans are

able to correct some of the white man’s ideologies over Africa such ideologies that Africa

is a place of darkness, so barbaric, null and void, a lifeless and cultureless society.

Through philosophical implications of Igbo names, Africans are able to see the real

image of themselves, good pictures about themselves, their belief, culture and religion.

Through names a clear view is given to the white man that all his ideas, perceptions,

thoughts and narratives about African are lies. It is also through names that the

derogatory pictures which the white man has given to Africa were changed, and real

pictures about Africa were placed. Their notions about Africa which was constructed

through names are as follows:

i. They said that Africans are fetish people, unreligious people who do not know

God. But some of the names the Igbo traditional society gives to their children

say no to such conception and tell them that before their religion; Africa had

already known God and equally have religion. Names which prove these are:

Chineke God-that-creates, Chukwu or Olisa supreme-God, Chinazaekpere

God-answers-prayers, Chinenyenwa; God-gives-child, Chukwudi God-lives,

Ekpereamaka Prayer-is-good, Tochukwu Praise-God, Sopuruchukwu respect-

God, etc. These tell that Africans have knowledge about God and

communicate him through their religion.

ii. They believe that Africa have no culture but with some Igbo names prove that

Africa have culture. Names like: Njoku, Diji, Ezeji, Nwarieji (for the feast of

new yam festival). This tells that Africa have culture.

iii. They are of the view that Africa have no philosophy but names like Uchebuba

wisdom-is-wealth, Uzuakpundu craft-gives-no-child, Mbakaogu rebukes-is-

superior-than-fight. All these tell African philosophy.

iv. They also said that Africa have no civilization but names like: Eze, Igwe

which is king. Chinemeze God-makes-king, (for leadership). And

Ikpemaraeziokwu justice-is-life, Ikpeameonyeukwu justice-is-respecter-of-no-

man (for justice and law). These names tell that civilization has been in Africa

before the coming of the white-man. All this answers to white-man’s

conceptions about Africa, are seen through names.

Philosophical implications of names in Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”.

Chimnuolumogu Achebe was born in 1930 in Ogidi Eastern part of Anambra state,

Nigeria. Things Fall Apart was his first novel in 1958 which made it one of the earliest

pre-colonial novels. It is generally accepted that through Things Fall Apart, Achebe gives

answers to some of the notions the white-man have againt Africa. Through names also,

he gives a beautiful picture about African life, culture and belief which stand against the

derogatory pictures the white-man have given to Africa, especially, Joseph Conrad’s

“Heart of Darkness” and Joyce Carey’s “Mr. Johnson”. This in no doubt seen through

names like: ‘Mgba’ wrestling, ‘Chi’ gods, ‘Ogwugwu’ deity, ‘Ogbanje’ the-evil-rounds-

of-birth-and-death, masquerade, ‘Ochu’ an abominable act, New-yam-festival etc. The

settings, characters, themes and subject matter through which Achebe gives good

pictures on richness of Africa are seen through names.

Okonkwo: This is the chief character of the novel. Through him, Achebe drives home

point on existence of days and markets in Africa. From Okonkwo, Achebe explores the

ideology that there are men who made their achievements by their own strength. And

again, there are men who made their failure by their own making. The life of Okonkwo is

clear to the readers that everything about life is determined by fate and destiny.

‘Nkwo’ is one of the traditional markets in Igbo traditional society. In Igbo

cosmology, these markets are Angel deities which God sent to institute markets. They

are: Eke, Orie (Oye), Afo and Nkwo. ‘Nkwo’ though the youngest but strongest and is a

female oracle. From the knowledge on name; there is no doubt that Okonkwo was born

on Nkwo market day of Umuofia which made his father, Unoka gave him such name.

Nkwo market is highly respected in Igbo community and a well-known market

throughout Olu and Igbo. This is so because of the belief that Nkwo is a great market.

Such belief is seen in the life of Okonkwo as the author avers: “Okonkwo was well

known throughout the nine villages and even beyond... Okonkwo’s fame had grown like

a bush-fire in the harmattan” (3).

The ‘Oko’ which somehow can be seen as ‘Nwa’ child, or someone related to

something ‘Onye’, tells that he related to Nkwo as such greatness seen in Nkwo is also

seen in him, because he belongs to Nkwo. The author writes: “…he was treated with

great honor and respect” (12).This tells that the follows him.

Ikemefuna: This is a pathos character in the novel. A child from Mbaino who came to

Umuofia as a compensation and atonement for peace over the murder of Ogbuefi Udo’s

wife by his father.

From the name which in English means let-my-strength-get-no-lost, tells he is the

only son of his father. Such name in Igbo community is given to a male child especially

the first or only male child in the family through whom the father believes that his

strength (remembrance) would remain in sands of time. The author confirms he is the

only son as it goes thus: “Once or twice he tried to run away, but he did not know where

to begin. He thought of his mother and his three- year-old sister and wept bitterly” (25).

The author also adds; “He still thought about his mother and his three-year-old sister, and

had moments of sadness and depression” (31).

With a psychological view, Ikemefuna who always remembers no other person except his

mother and his three-year-old sister tells he is the only son. If not so, the skill, wisdom

and knowledge in him would not have allowed his father to give him out. Achebe

approves this:

Ikemefuna had an endless stock of folk tales. Even those which Nwoye

knew already were told with a new freshness and the local flavor of a

different clan... Ikemefuna told him that the proper name for a corn-cob

with only a few scattered grains was Eze-agadi-nwanyi, or the teeth of an

old woman… in the end he decided that Nnadi must live in that land of

Ikemefuna’s favorite story where the ant holds his court in splendor and

sands dance forever (32).

The coming of Ikemefuna to Okonkwo’s household had a great effect in the life

and character of Nwoye. Achebe confirms this: “Okonkwo was inwardly pleased at his

son’s development and he knew it was due to Ikemefuna”(47).

Ikemefuna’s name follows him even to his death, his strength did not get lost. It

tormented Okonkwo who killed him. The author narrates the life of Okonkwo after the

death of Ikemefuna:

Okonkwo did not taste any food for two days after the death of Ikemefuna.

He drank wine from morning till night and his eyes were red and fierce

like the eyes of a rat when it was caught by the tail and dashed against the

floor…He did not sleep at night. He tried not to think about Ikemefuna,

but the more he tried the more he thought about him. Once he got up from

the bed and walked about his compound. But he was so weak that his legs

could hardly carry him, his feet like a drunken giant walking with the

limbs of a mosquito. Now and then a cold shiver descended on his head

and spread down his body (57).

Okonkwo the fearless warrior suddenly becomes afraid after the death of

Ikemefuna. The author writes: “His mind went back to Ikemefuna and he shivered” (58).

Okownkwo was so afraid that he could not stay alone and wanted somebody to be with

him as it goes in the novel: “He called his son Nwoye, to sit with him in his Obi” (57).

The worst is that the killing of Ikemefuna makes Nwoye to be afraid of his father. The

novel reveals this: “But the boy was afraid of him and slipped out of the hut as soon as he

noticed him dozing” (57).

Though Ikemefuna had died, yet his strength (spirit) bearing his name still lives. It

takes revenge on Okonkwo that Okonkwo the Ebube-dike of Umuofia suddenly becomes

a coward which made him asked himself.

‘When did you become a shivering old woman’, Okonkwo asked himself, ‘you,

who are known in all the nine villages for your valor in war? How can a man who

has killed five men in battle fall to pieces because he has added a boy to their

number? Okonkwo you have become a woman indeed’ (59).

The circumstances that surround the life of Okonkwo after the death of Ikemefuna

even till his death comes from the belief on the name, Ikemefuna. Though he had died

but his strength did not get lost.

Unoka which is house-is-supreme is the father of Okonkwo. His name has great

effect in his life that he prefers staying at home than going to farm. To him, staying at

home and merriments are best way to live a life. The author writes: “If any money came

his way, and it seldom did, he immediately bought gourds of palm-wine, called around

his neighbors and made merry” (4). This made him not strong in farm. And he hates

anything that could bring about war.

The author confirms his weakness in things that make one a man. He writes:

“Unoka was never happy when it came to war. He was in fact a coward and could not

bear the sight of blood” (6).

A coward who could not go to war always sits at home and such relates to the

name Unoka. It is the same home he would stay to make war an interesting story. Most

often a such person would be the one to tell others about a brave man who had once lived

and died as a result of war.

The laziness of Unoka lies on the belief that follows his name because he who prefers

staying at home is often seen as a lazy man. The novelist narrates his laziness as it runs:

When your neighbors go out with their axe to cut down virgin forests, you

sow your yams on exhausted farms that take no labour to clear. They cross

seven rivers to make their farms; you stay at home and offer sacrifice to a

reluctant soil (16).

The half percent of misfortune that followed Unoka was as a result of his name.

The author confirms this: “Unoka was an ill-fated man, he had a bad chi or personal god”

(16). ‘Chi’ is one’s guiding spirit; it could be seen through one’s name. Its existence in

one’s life is manifested in circumstances that surround one’s life which obviously appears

in one’s names. The misfortune that followed Unoka made him have no grave. Again; the

way he was taken out and died in the evil forest proved that home is supreme. The author

avers: “…an evil fortune followed him to the grave…for he had no grave… he was not

allowed to die in the house. He was carried to Evil Forest and left there to die” (17).

This was the circumstance that followed his death. Looking at such with the belief

that surrounds his name; proves the saying “No place like home”.

Philosophical implications of names in Odili Ujubuonu’s Pregnancy of The Gods. Odili

is one the African novelists whose work reveals the rich culture, tradition and heritage of

Africa. . This tells that he is one of the African novelists who have seen the need to

protect and project the image of Africa. Just like Achebe, he tries to create fascinating

pictures about Africa. This he does through names he gives to his characters, settings and

other things like: Ekwe, Ikoro, masquerade, okeokpe etc.

Udo: This is the chief character of the novel. Udo means peace. Such name is given to a

child who is born in a family or society at a time when there was no peace. Such a child

always comes with peace to the family. And once he arrives, peace takes place. This as a

result of fate and belief that follows the name, Udoka which is peace-is-supreme.

From the story line, the fate that follows the name and the family which Udo

comes from; a royal household of Osondu and extended Okike family, would make one

imagine that Udo was born at a time when there was family or societal conflict, which

earned him such a name that tells the importance of peace. Again, the name stands as a

symbol that Africa as seen in Mbaozo is a peaceful society. Udo is simple and peace

loving man. This name follows him as it appears both in his character and behaviour in

the novel. Udo as his name goes always strives for peace. This is seen when in his

attempt of giving her sister, Egondu peace of mind in her marriage which the family is

against. And at the same time, tries to keep the dignity and the sacredness of his royal

family. The novelist summed this up: ‘This is a very difficult decision to take. If I say

‘no’, I would be hurting you forever, but if I say ‘yes’, I would be facing a wrath I cannot

describe’ (25).

Here Udo tries to support his sister in her choice of marriage as to enable her have

a happy life.And at same time trying to maintain peace in his royal family who see such

choice of marrying an Osu, an abominable act. The author writes: “Udo to allow his sister

marry an Osu against the broad refusal of Osondu clan. To Ochendo, that was an affront

on the god, an abomination; a desecration of what his fore fathers held so dear and so

chaste” (69).

This brings conflict between him and Ochendo who sees him as that proverbial

stupid child who knows that her mother’s farm abhors basket and yet brings mush room

to plant in it. Udo’s support to his only sister to marry an Osu appears to be a traditional

or rather royal betrayal. This made Ochendo insulted him with much hatred but Udo

could do nothing than to keep silent in other to maintain peace. Odili summed this up:

You fool just thank your chi that you were allowed into this compound.

What yam do you want to plant and on what land? He queried, bitterly.

Go, for I shall not have you and your in-laws desecrate the family land

with your soiled hands and yams. You stubborn fly that follows the corpse

into the grave. He spat out in disgust, as Udo walked out of the large

family compound. (28).

In all these, Udo still maintained his name. He could not react, though he was

striving to get his right; his own portion of land. He went out with no violence bearing his

name which means peace. It is as a result of this also that made him not to fight with

Adiabou, his best friend, who challenged him a second time after he had disgraced him in

a wrestling contest, which made him lose the girl he loved. The author writes “Udo

incidentally, never agreed to fight him again because for a long time he carried guilt of

making his friend lose the girl he loved” (66).

The peace found in Udo’s character is vividly approved by his wife as she

confirms that her husband is a peace loving man. The novelist writes: “…your brother

was a good man to me. He was the kindest I knew” (38). This tells that Ekemma found

peace of life immediately Udo married her. The novelist confirms:

It was after marrying Udo ten years before his death that her lacking ceased.

He gave her a home, clothes, food, laughter, hope, love and his constant

support. Yes, home, comfort, hope, love and everything… (33).

These are what every woman needs. Udo gives all to his wife and she has a

peaceful home. To conclude that Udo is a symbol of peace, he never quarreled with his

wife or attempted blaming her over her barrenness. He peacefully endures this and

faithfully accepts her with all care. The novelist summed this up: “I failed him. I failed to

give him the fruit of his labour. I denied him an heir. Now that he has gone, who will

answer his name?” (33)

Unlike other men with African philosophy on child. Udo does not look into this.

He loves his wife and gives her peace. That is what his name means and he stands for it.

Indeed, as his name goes; udo is a symbol of peace.

Ekemma is the wife of Udo. Her name means beauty. From the name, one can

imagine that she was born on Eke day which gave her the name as it means ‘beauty of

Eke’. This beauty is really seen in her as the novel reveals:

She believed that the gods favoured Ekemma with beauty. Her nose stood

straight, her eyes were as clear as the morning spring and she had that set

of teeth every little girl losing her milk teeth, prayed for. Her neck also

reminded her of ele, the deer that is so beautiful and calm that the people

of Umuele built for it, an altar. (39).

This narrates how beautiful Ekemma is. It also appears that her name follows her.

From the author’s narrative, Ekemma is a beautiful woman.

Egondu is another character in the novel. A sister to Udo and lovely sister in-law

to Ekemma. Egondu which is living-money has two meanings attached to it. Firstly it

means life. This tells that life is precious than anything money can buy. Secondly, it

means that money is life to man. That’s why the Igbo have a saying: “money goes with

blood”. Again some answers name like ‘Akunesiobike’ wealth-strengthens-the-heart.

This tells that life cannot go without money. The both walk like the proverbial yam and

oil in Igbo cosmology. Such is vividly seen in Egondu’s behaviour. She is attached to his

brother, Udo, the way money is attached to life. The novelist confirms: “Egondu was

hardly seen without her brother beside her. They did most things together…” (21). This

tells how close Egondu and her brother, Udo are. She became life to her brother when

their parents died. As it goes thus: “When her parents died, she became both parents to

Udo. She shared everything with him and was ready to go hungry so that he would not”

(21). This really proves that she stands like money to Udo’s life. This is vividly seen after

the death of Udo. She gives all love, care and comfort to her sister in-law, Ekemma. To

conclude that life is nothing without money ,the novelist narrates how Egondu’s life was

incomplete when Udo died. It goes thus:

He would not be there to welcome her home whenever she visited; he

would neither be there to advise her to be patient with life, nor would he

ever again play the father by filling a long basket with yams for her to take

home (20).

This supports the belief that follows her name. looking at this name with a

philosophical eye view, ‘money’ here is not ordinarily a paper-money or material things.

Rather, it means human companionship, assistance, love and peace. All this goes with

life. It also means that human being is a living money. This is so because human beings

can buy anything which ‘paper money’ cannot buy like: love, caring and peace. From this

point we can see the importance of man to his fellow man. The name also stands as a

symbol that represents ‘human being’. It also tells the different relationships between

man and man, and man with money; driving home point that man is a living money

which means more than paper money. This is what Egondu shows to her brother and his

wife, Ekemma.


Life is meaningless without name. It is name that gives meaning to life and also

govern everything about life. Before a name is given, there must be a circumstance

surrounding the life of a bearer, either before or after his birth. Names are like mirrors

through which life, belief and circumstance attached to one’s life are seen. It normally

takes place as soon as the mother of the child comes out from ‘Omugwo’. It calls for a

feast which involves ritual and religious rites. Each name has meaning and philosophical

implications tie to it. Looking at names in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and Odili

Ujubuonu’s The Pregnancy of the Gods; it is clear that names go with belief. Name of

each character used in this paper stands as symbol that signifies life. The philosophy

about life is also seen through them. Today, one can answer different names, example;

the name one given to one by one’s parents, the name one gives to oneself and name

acquired through chieftaincy title. This is called ‘Afaotutu’. The paper educates that

names are identities to individual lives. It creates a unique knowledge for readers to

search for meanings and philosophies of their names. Again,to see if they have

implications in their lives. The paper is also of the view that there are names that bring

fortunes and misfortunes. It concludes that the entire philosophy about life are seen

through names.

Works Cited

Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. London: Heinemann, 1958.

Baseden, George. Among the Ibos of Nigeria. Onitsha: University Publishing, 1982.

Ekwealor, C.C. Omenala Na Ewumemu Ndi Igbo. Onitsha: Palma Publishing, 1998.

Monk, W.H. Ancient and Modern. London: William Clowes and Sons, 1916.

Nwadike, Uzoma. Echiche Miri Emi. Onitsha: Kawuriz and Manilas Publishers, 2004.

Ogbalu, Chidozie. Omenala Igbo. Onitsha: University Press, 1974.

Okechi, Nwabanne. Name: Afa, Afa Otutu the Heritage of Igbo from Hebrew. Onitsha:
Goodmark Prints, 2006.

Ubesie, Tony. Ukpana Okpoko Buuru. Ibadan: Oxford University Press, 1975.

Ujubuonu, Odili. Pregnancy of the Gods. Lagos: Jalaa Writers’ Collective, 2013.