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The names that the Igbo give to their people are of immense significance. Igbo personal names reflect and shows the supreme importance attached to religion in the life of the Igbo people and promotes the cultural heritage of the Igbo. A name is a mark, to be nameless is to be without identity and names has it origin from the Holy Bible where God made man and woman (Adam and Eve) giving them the instruction to give names to other creatures (Genesis 1:26-28, 2:18-20). The objective of this research is to showcase the beauty of Igbo names and to investigate those damages that emerging trends’ has done to naming system in Igbo land. Westernization of Igbo names, clipping etc has done a great damage on Igbo names and even the Igbo culture. Igbo people are known as a people that are endowed with unique cultures and tradition but the trend in naming system is diminishing the culture of the Igbos. Association with other ethnic groups also contribute to this trend. The work after show casing the beauty of Igbo names ends with a call to the Igbos to appreciate and be proud of what they have for their culture of naming to survive.




1.1    Background of the Study

The origin of all anthroponyms (human names) is traceable to a well known Bible story where God entrusted the ability of naming creatures into the hands of man beginning from the first man Adam (Genesis 2:20). Ever since names have remained an inseparable past of any known human society. Besides the lingual function of names as an essay means of identification of human persons, it plays a vital role in the preservation and propagation of the culture and tradition of a given people.

The Igbo’s as a people richly endowed with unique but useful heritage faces a major challenge posed by emerging trend in their naming system. The term “Igbo” refers to one of the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria. It is only in Nigeria that the Igbos are found on a global note, like other ethnic groups, they have their origin and culture. They are the people found in the area delimitable by an imaginary line running outside the settlements of Agbori, Kwale, Obianruku, Ebu and Enuguezike.

This imaginary line encloses an area where the people who not only speak the various dialects of the Igbo language but also share typical and significant culture traits, complexes and patterns exist Onwejiogwu (1995:3). According to Emenanjo and Ogbalu (1982:17). There are several accounts as to the grouping of Igbo’s into five sub-cultures namely the Southern Igbo’s of Mbari temples centered around Owerri and Ngwa, the Eastern cultural features of age grade system and inheritance through the male and female lines where we have the ‘Aro’ who partnlineally organized Atlantic trade with Europeans in the 18th and 19th century, the Northern Igbo comprising Nnewi, Nti, Awka and Nsukka the distinctive features of ozo title emanating from ancestral temple system ‘obu’ and the western Igbo characterized by centralized kingship and sharing of some festivals in common such as the new yam festival. The area occupied by the Igbos is known as their culture area where they live in groups of partnlineage (Umunna).

Linguistically, Igbo is one of the major languages in Nigeria, it is a language that comprises many satellite dialects. Some of which are Udi, Abakaliki, Onitsha, Owerri and Ikwere dialects Ikekonwu (1986). Among these dialects of Igbo language, we have a standard form known as ‘central Igbo’. According to Emenanjo (1978:21) two dialects of Igbo have contributed mostly to this standard Igbo, a generalized Owerri/Umuahia dialects and Onitsha dialect.

The Igbo’s are mostly farmers, palm wine tapers and fishermen. They also engage in craftwork, blacksmithing and trading. Besides, the obvious truth the Igbos share common cosmological beliefs towards the great creator popularly known as ‘ chi’ ‘ukwu’, the Igbo world view, philosophy and whole being can be seen in their naming system. This shows that they are so many associative and contextual meaning of Igbo names and these meanings are tied to the Igbo Peoples’ world.

If it is also true that the Igbo people (the African Jews) were known for their high rationality, meticulous planning/execution and higher attachment to their cultural environment and that these features manifest in the names they give to their wards then the need for a research into emerging trend in Igbo naming system is a matter of necessity.


1.2    Statement of the Problem

 A cursory look at emerging trends in Igbo naming system reveal some problems capable of undermining the identity of the Igbos in their traditional and customary stance in Nigeria and the world at large. The problem of diminishing rate of the rich cultural values attached to native Igbo names these days points to a number of rising trends. Traditional Igbo names has been changed to contemporary Igbo names.

Traditional Igbo names are ancient names that portray the Igbo faith and belief in relation to their environments such names are based on activities, events and experiences common to the ancient Igbo for example a man of great wealth in yam could name his son ‘Njoku’ after the God of yam or Ezeji etc but today contemporary Igbo names has influenced traditional names for examples names that take ‘chi’ prefix to the root Chioma, Chiamaka, Chigozie, Chinoso, Chibuike etc.

Westernization of native names: blending, undue use of acronyous abbreviation, creative respelling of native Igbo names. The crave to westernize is not preserving our cultural heritage. Ndi Igbo that have such meaningful names as Jimechigi, Ikechukwu prefer meaningless ‘Jim Iyke’. Some other reasonable names of Igbo origin are clipped/shortened, abbreviated, blended and simplified into ridiculous jaggons that tarnish the cultural image of the Igbos in their naming system.

Obinna is shortened into Obyno, Uchenna – Uchman, Nneka – Neky, Ngozi – Ng etc. It is very obvious that these trends as clearly pointed out represent a serious clog in the wheel of progress within the Igbo naming system and cultural heritage of the Igbos and the negating impact of this problem is the main thrust of this research.

1.3    Purpose of the Study

          Generally, the purpose of this study is to identify strategies that would involve onomastic approach for tackling the effects of emerging trend in Igbo naming system. Specifically the study seeks.

  • To source and explore emerging trends in naming system in Igbo land.
  • To ascertain the major guiding principles and ethics in the Igbo Naming arrangement in past and present.
  • To find out how best to promote the cultural heritage of the Igbo’s so as to return the interest of the Igbo to their native names.

1.4    Significance of the Study

 It is expected that this research in its finding will be of immense benefit to all those that appreciate the value of Igbo names as a useful tool for preserving our cultural heritage. Very importantly also the study will verily add to existing pool of data in the study of onomastics. It will go a long way in presenting the socio-economic and political relevance of names in any given Igbo community, conclusively while parents of Igbo extraction will certainly learn a lesson or two from this study and apply same in the names they give to their children. Igbo scholars and non Igbos alike will fall back on the study to satsify their quest for linguistic versatility.

  • Research Questions

In the quest for a way out of the problem of this research, the following investigative question are posed;

  • To what extent can we state the relevance of Igbo naming system in sustaining the cultural heritage of the Igbos?
  • To what degree can we describe the emerging trends in Igbo naming system?
  • How far can Igbo people be redirected in their orientation as it concerns naming.

1.5    Scope of the Study

 This study is limited to the naming system in Igbo nation of Nigeria only some major towns in the Igbo nation will be mentioned and rich extracts gotten from there. The bane of the work is to uncover the impotents encountered in Igbo names as a result of emerging trend in Igbo naming system.

  • Delimitations of Study

This work through a long essay has some limiting factors to its length content and indepth analysis, such factors as lack of sufficient fund to effect an extensive field work across distant places in Igbo land posed a serious limit to my effort. It was also tough sourcing relevant materials for the study of limited literature on the research topic.


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