Culture & HistoryLifestyle

Origin and Meaning of ‘Iyawo’, The Yourba Word for Wife

The Yourba word ‘Iyawo’ is a popularly used and recognised word for wife among the Yoruba people of Western Nigeria. It is interchanged with the word ‘Aya’which translates to wife. It is of no surprise that the use of ‘Iyawo’ as extended to other members of the Nigerian society. In the Western part of Nigeria, ‘Iyawo’ has been used to refer to a new bride.


It is also important to know that ‘Iyawo’ is not the initial Yourba word for wife. ‘Aya’ is the original Yourba word for wife. This is unknown to many speakers of the Yourba language. The word ‘Iyawo’ did not have a place in the Yoruba language not until an incident brought about its coinage and usage.

Origin and Meaning of Iyawo', the Yourba bride
A Yourba bride (Pinterest)

Unveiling the origin of ‘Iyawo’ and its meaning will be our major focus in this article.

Meaning of ‘Iyawo’

‘Iyawo’ is a Nigerian word for a woman, wife, girlfriend or any female that is matured enough. The word comes from the Yoruba language but, has been adopted by almost all parts of Nigeria.

Read more: History of igbo culture and tradition

Origin of ‘Iyawo’

Origin and Meaning of 'Iyawo', the Yourba bride
A Yourba lady (Pinterest)

In the history of the Yoruba people, the word ‘Iyawo’ was neither known nor involved in the language of the tribe until an extraordinary event in Iwo town brought about its coinage and usage.

During the ancient times of the Yorubaland, they was a very beautiful princess and daughter of the first king of Iwo town named Wuraola. She was on a quest for a partner that was patient, tolerant and endearing. Thus, the energetic and hardworking suitors, the likes of Sango and Ogun travelled to Iwo town to propose marriage to Wuraola. Unfortunately, they were neither blessed with Wuraola nor granted a friendly engagement with her.

Wuraola would exhibit a lot of unfriendly gestures and intolerable behaviours to all her suitors, which made them leave angrily on the day of their arrival.

Then, a man named Orunmila travelled to Iwo town to seek Wuraola’s hand in marriage. He was a Yoruba historical figure and a good looking man.

Before setting out for his journey, he consulted with Olodumare, the supreme being in the Yoruba Kingdom. The supreme being gave some instructions to him which incorporates being patient to win her heart.

When he arrived at the palace, he wasn’t welcomed warmly by Wuraola. Due to the instructions given to him by the supreme being, Orunmila returned this gesture with a smile and kind words and presented gifts to the king.

Surprisely, he stayed in Iwo for several days despite the princess unwelcoming gestures and behaviours. She didn’t even offer Orunmila any refreshments. Rather, she insulted the kindness of Orunmila. But, the Oga decided to remain quiet and smile to her.

She got to the extend of using his opon ifa (divination board) as firewood and also took his apo ominijekun (pouch). This got Orunmila so angry but, he didn’t show it or leave Iwo according to the instructions of the supreme being.

On the sixth day of his stay in Iwo town, the king gave Wuraola to Orunmila in marriage after concluding that he is a patient, kind and tolerant man suitable to marry his daughter.

Meanwhile, Wuraola’s bad behaviors was articulated to test her suitors so as to get her a husband with good manners and temper. In reality, she was a lovely, caring and well behaved lady. Orunmila was so happy that he listened to the instructions of the supreme being and the next day, he and his wife journey back to his town.

When he got home, he was welcomed and praised by his people for his achievement. When they asked him about his wife, he said, ‘Iya ti mo je ni Iwo’ meaning ‘my sufferings in Iwo town’. Since then, wives became known as ‘Iya-Iwo’ meaning ‘sufferings in Iwo’. The word conjoined and it is known as ‘Iyawo’.

A traditional Yourba wedding

Wow! This is such an interesting story. I hope you liked it just as I did.

Chika Aliede

I am a content writer that specializes on health, lifestyle and travel. I bring intuition and knowledge in the area of health, lifestyle and travel.

Related Articles

Back to top button