Akan Day Names

On what day of the week were you born? Though this question might strike the uninitiated as odd, in southern Ghana, most people can answer it easily. This is because, many of the local ethnic groups, from the Akan to the Ewe and Ga, assign names based on which day and what gender a child is born.

Among the Akan, the largest ethnolinguistic group in Southern Ghana, these names also carry associations to different divine elements which are believed to reflect the essence and character of the bearer.

Sunday is Kwasiada, and boys and girls born on this day will be named Kwasi or Akosua respectively after Asi, which means the Universe. Children born on Ɛdwoada or Monday are named Kwadwo (male) or Adwoa (female) after Dwo, the element of peace. Kwabena (m) and Abena (f) are the names given to those born on Ɛbenada or Tuesday, the birthday of Bene, the Ocean. Wukuada or Wednesday is associated with Wukuo, the Spider. Those born on this day are called Kwaku (m) or Akua (f). Named after Ya, the Earth, Yaw (m) or Yaa (f) is what you would call children born on Yawoada, Thursday. Afi is Fertility, and Kofi (m) or Afua (f) are names given to those born on Efiada or Friday. Finally, in honour of Amene or God, children born on Memeneda or Saturday, are called Kwame (m) or Ama (f).

As enslaved Akan people, called Coromantees, were displaced through the Transatlantic Slave Trade in the 18th and 19th centuries, these naming traditions also spread to the Caribbean. In Jamaica for instance, the following day-name variations are used: Quashee (m) or Kwasiba (f) for Sunday-borns, Cudjoe (m) or Adyuba (f) for Monday-borns, Cubbenah (m) of Abeni (f) for Tuesday-borns, Quaco (m) or Akuba (f) for Wednesday-borns, Quao (m) or Yaba (f) for Thursday-borns, Cuffee (m) or Afiba (f) for Friday-borns, and finally Quamin (m) or Amba (f) for Saturday-borns.

Nnenna Onuoha

(Image: Wikimedia)

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