What’s in a name

I was having a conversation with God daddy the other day about tradition. By rights I should say that I am an Ewe because that is where my mum is from however I have been informed that where one parent is an Ashanti, the children are thus so by default.

Regardless of that, your name is given to you by your father in the same way you take his surname. For example my cousin just had a baby girl. She is Serwaah, named after his mother. There was a bit of controversy in that, his mother said that she should be given the name Serwaah by force, he had no say in the matter, I laughed and said that at least I wouldn’t have that issue when my time comes. In addition to that in the Akan tradition at least, the child would be named after the day of the week. In my example again, the girl was born on a Thursday so named Yaa Serwaah (the christian name of the child is up to both parents if they so want to give her).

I am Efia (born on a Friday) Frimpomaa (named after my dad’s aunt). My sister was also born on a Friday but named Safoa (after my Grandmother). The last sister is Ama (Saturday) Mansah: she is the third born girl and this name comes from the akan for 3 which is mensa (excuse the spelling).

Atta is also used as a name for a twin which comes from the akan word ntaafuo (literally meaning twins)

For those of you who don’t know here are the list of Akan names corresponding to the days of the week:

Monday: Adwoa (female) Kwadwo/Kojo (male)
Tuesday: Abena (f) Kwabena (m)
Wednesday: Akua (f) Kwaku (m)
Thursday: Yaa (f) Yaw (m)
Friday: Afua/Efua/Afia/Efia (f) Kofi (m)
Saturday: Ama (f) Kwame (m)
Sunday: Akosua (f) Kwasi (m)

The Fanti’s have a slight variation of the Akan variation, their dialect is slightly different so some pronunciations are different and for example they are more likely to use Kuukua instead of Akua.

The Ga’s will normally use Nii for male and Naa for female and then their family name. Usually all the first borns are named the same and so it goes down the line. So you will find that in a family all the first born male cousins are called for example Nii Tetteh.

I am not so sure about the Ewe’s. Even my mum who is one was born and bred in Kumasi and if you look down my grandmothers family line she originates from Ashanti. You will find that their christian names come from a dictionary rather than a baby book. Common names are: Confidence, Ransom (I met a guy called Ransom yes), Patience etc.. as opposed to your James, John or Jane.

A very light hearted snapshot on the use of names in Ghana, there is more to say and more that I still need to learn about them but I find it so fascinating and a wonderful part of my culture. At least if you are stuck for a christian name for your child once he or she is born, the day of the week name is a given.

About efiasworld

A British Born Ghanaian navigating her way through life.
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2 Responses to What’s in a name

  1. seth says:

    Akans practice matrilineal system meaning your hometown is where your mum is from and you inherit from your uncle and and not from your dad. Ewes on the other hand practice patrilinieal inheritance meaning you come from your dad’s hometown and you can inherit from you dad. This means that if your mum is Ewe and your dad is Akan then traditionally you cannot inherit from any of them except when the Interstate Succession Law become applicable. On the other hand if your dad is Ewe and your mum is Akan you can inherit from both sides. In this case if both your mum and dad are from royal families then you are a princess can become queen from your dad and mum’s hometowns. The Intestate Succession law only applies to properties and you cannot inherit a title if you are not traditionally entitled to.

    In terms of naming Akans usually name a child after someone prominent in the family or a famous person whereas Ewes name first names after a virtue such as patience, confidence, beauty etc. In Ewe culture a child always take the fathers name as the family name whereas in Akan settings a child takes the fathers name when he is named after the father otherwise it is uncommon to have siblings having different surnames although they are from the same father and mother. I hope this throw a bit more light on your understanding of Ghanaian culture.


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