Acholi Names

A  NAMES

Pronouns in Acholi

an  – I, me,
a – me, I
en – he, she, it
o – he, she, it
e – him, her
in – you
i – you
wan – we, us
wa – we, us

“a” is a pronoun prefix meaning “I”  possessive suffix meaning “me”(the pronoun for I is “an”. Since the mother’s activities and circumstances are usually under scrutiny many names start with the personal pronoun to indicate what she has done or will do. Names are to some extent a statement by the mother. Is it a coincidence that girls’ names mostly start with “a”?
“a” used as a suffix is used to humanize the action.


Abitimo
(f) timo is to do, bi prefix for future. I shall do it Abalo (f) balo is to spoil or sin. I have spoilt or sinned.

Aber (f) ber is good or beautiful.  I am good or beautiful
Abodo (f) bodo is to delay or  (bodo wic wasting ones time, deceiving?)I delayed or wasted some one’s time.
Aboga (m) from bwogo is take care of a weak a premature baby or any living thing. Took a lot of caring for him to live. In the name the “w” is silent. Note the use of the suffix “a”.
Abola (m) bolo is to throw away. Maybe the mother felt rejected by husband or his relatives. Note the use of the suffix “a”.
Abonga (m) alone, usually short for Bongomin (without a brother).
Abonyo (f) bonyo are locusts and the name is given to a child born when locusts have swarmed an area.
Aboto (f) boto is to eat the relish without kwon (millet bread). A child born during famine when millet is scarce?

Abum (f) is a type of locust. A child born when there are swarms of locusts around. It is a pleasure because roasted locust is a delicacy. It is also a scourge because locusts destroy crops.

Abur (f) bur is hole or grave. Given to a child born after many siblings have died.

Abwola (m) bwola is deceit. Maybe the mother felt cheated or deceived.

Abwot (f) bwot to leave behind. Maybe the father deserted the mother either just before or soon after the birth of the baby.

Acan (f) can is poverty. The parents feel poor could be materially or relative-wise.

Acana (m) masculine version of Acan.

Acaye (m) cayo is to despise, masculine version of Acayo. See below.

Acayo (f) indicates that the mother might have felt that she was despised, cayo means to despise.

Acellam (m), acel is one and lam is insufficient. The two words used as one means only one is insufficient. Usually if a man marries only one wife, his relatives might feel that he need s more than one wife. Polygamy was an accepted thing. The name might  also be given as an additional name if a wife has only one child.

Acen (f) cen is after, later. The second twin to be born.

Aceng (f) ceng is the sun, either born during the day, likely in the afternoon, or in the dry season when the sun is very hot.

Acero (m) to insist is cero. Maybe the mother insisted on something. Given because the mother is considered stubborn, lacer lok (one who insists on something).

Acii (f) pet name given to Akello.

Aciro (f) ciro is to endure. The indicates that the mother might have endured a lot of torture or mistreatment either from the husband or his relatives.

Acola (f) cola or wino is the afterbirth/placenta . If the placenta did not come out soon after delivery, then the baby would be named either Acola(f)/Ocola( m) or Lawino(f)/Owino( m)

Acoo (f) Coo is a worm bilharzia that are prevalent in some areas of northern Uganda. One of the parents might have been infected with it at the time of pregnancy etc.

Acora (f) coro is the unexpected. The name means an unexpected child who came after a long time or when the parents thought they could no longer have children.

Aculu (f) culu is pay back something, eg aculu kwor (I repaid a debt).

Adenya (m) denyo is to open the way or path. The parents might have felt the birth of a child opened the way for them.  Shows hope and confidence. A rare name.

Adoc (f) Born with leg first or breech.

Adok (f) dok is to return. Maybe the mother had left the marriage due to some problem. Then she returned and conceived soon afterwards.

Adong (f) dong is to remain. This is a name for a child born after Okello/Akello or the second born after a set of twins or jok.

Aero (f) ero is to provoke. The mother/parents might  have felt they provoked something or someone and the result is not usually positive for the person who provokes.

Agengo (f) gengo is to prevent. Maybe the birth of the child prevented the marriage of another wife or some act for which the mother is blamed.

Agonyo (m) gonyo is to arrive and stay/settle. Maybe visitors arrived soon after the baby was born. Or the family moved and settled somewhere else.

Ajok (f) of the jok. Usually a child born with some deformity or an unusual circumstance   e. g. six fingers, one  short arm or leg etc.

Akec (m) kec is hunger. The baby must have been born during famine.

Akello (f) kelo is to bring of follow. A child born after a twin or jok.

Akena (m)kena is alone. Maybe one of the parent is an only child.

Akera (m) ker is royalty. A child born of royalty or when the mother felt she had been in luck or maybe the favourite wife in a polygamous marriage.

Akidi (f) kidi is stone which stands alone. The only girl in a family of boys.

Akobo (m) kobo is to transfer.

Akoko (f) koko is crying or mourning. A child born after many children have died and the mother is saying she has cried a lot.

Akol (f) is this not Kolictina for Christine?

Akoma (f) kom is body.

Akot (f) kot is rain. Maybe born during the rainy season?

Akulu (f) kulu is river or water hole where domestic water is collected from. Maybe born by the river or on the way to the river or water hole to collect water.

Akumu (f) dowry. A baby born soon after the dowry has been paid?

Akura (m) kuro is to wait. A child born after a long wait?

Akwero (f) kwero is to refuse or reject. Maybe the mother was rejected the in-laws.

Alal (f) lal is to disappear without a trace. A baby born a time when someone disappeared?

Alanyo (f) lanyo is to mistreat. Maybe the mother felt she had been mistreated either by the husband or the in-laws.

Alaro (f) laro is to contest for. A baby born during some contest, may be for a political post. The full name for such a  child would then be Alaroker ker being high position or post.

Aliker (m) ali is problem, and ker is a high position such as chieftainship. The two words together means a child was born when the father was holding a high position and was facing some problems.

Aling (f) ling is quiet, not talking. Usually describes either the natural character of the mother or she was forced by circumstances to keep quiet.

Alimadi (m) ali is problem and Madi is an ethnic group in northern Uganda, neighbour of the Acholi. The family or clan might have had problems with the Madi.

Alobo (f) lobo means soil or earth. A girl born after the family has buried many children or relatives. It is statement of mourning.

Alok (f) lok is talking, the opposite of ling keeping quiet. It is likely that the mother is talkative.

Aluku (m) luku is to follow. The mother might have run away earlier due to a quarrel or dispute with the husband. She had to be followed and persuaded to return to her marital home.

Alur (f) lur is sterility. A child born after it was thought the mother was sterile.

Amito(f) mito to want/desire. The parents must have desired to have a child.

Amon(f) mon women. Maybe many girls in the family. Or mono not good enough. In which case the mother thinks she is not good a enough for the man?

Amone(m) mone hatred, strong dislike or distrust between people. A child born when there is tension between families, maybe neighbours.

Amono(f) mono not good enough. Maybe the mother feels she is treated as if she is not good enough for the husband.

Amony(f) mony war. A baby girl born during a war.

Amuka (m) a ferocious animal. A pet name?

Amuna (f) muno European. Like a European. The name is a shortened version of Lamuno/u.

Anek (f) nek to kill. When a wife is blamed for killing the clan by having few children or not permitting her husband to marry another wife.

Anena (f) neno to see. To be seen, looked at. It means the baby is so beautiful.

Aneno(f) neno to see.  I have seen ( a lot of bad things) the mother might have said. the baby might have been born after a lot of problems experienced by the mother

Ange (f) ngec knowledge. If I had known. The mother is regretting something, maybe the marriage  or even the birth of the child.

Angom (f) ngom earth. A baby girl born after siblings/relative have died. It is a mourning name, saying this one too might end in the earth (buried).

Angut (f) ngut to repent. The mother has done something wrong and has repented. The baby must have been born after the incident

Angwec (f) ngwec to run. The mother must have run away from the marital home after she became pregnant because of problems.

Anyango (f) nyango after rise. A baby girl born soon after sunrise between 7-10 a.m.

Anyeko (f) nyeko jealousy. A child born in an atmosphere of jealousy towards either parent.

Anying (f) nying name. Maybe people had problems naming the child.

Anywar (m) nywaro to tease, make fun of, mistreat. A name usually given to a child whose parents, feel some one was mistreating or teasing them.

Aol (f) ol tiring. I am tired. The mother might be tired of being ill treated, poverty or some other problems.

Aparo (f) paro to worry. The mother or a close relative is worried about something which concerns the family.

Apira(f) piro to plan to do something negative to someone. The parents would have felt that someone was against them and was planning to do something bad to them.

Apire (m) same meaning as Apira.

Apiyo or Apio (f) the first born twin. A boy would be Opiyo or Opio

Apoko (f) poko to divide/share. A child born when the parents felt they had shared something maybe during famine or when things were hard.  It could also be an expression of gratitude to someone who has shared something with them.

Aporomon (f) two word, poro to imitate/pretend and mon women. I imitated women. The mother feels she is not as good as other women and is just imitating them by doing something, for example, giving birth or performing some other task.

Arac (f) rac  ugly or bad. I am ugly. Someone must have described either parents as ugly, or bad.

Aringo (f) ringo  to run. The mother might have run away while pregnant because of some problems in the marital home, or run from some danger.

Aromo (f) romo to meet  accidentally and pass by someone or something. Either parent might have met or passed by someone or something good or bad.

Arweny (m) rwenyo to lose. I am lost. Either of the parents might have go lost while the baby was being expected.

Aryemo (f) ryemo is to chase or send away. The mother must have been chased from the marital home during her pregnancy with the baby.

Ataro (f) taro open, facing upwards. A baby born face up as opposed to Auma, face down.

Atek (f) tek is strong, or mean, not willing to be sent on errands. Maybe the parents felt they had been strong and overcame a problem. The birth of the child must have coincided with the problem. Not a common name because the Acholi generally do not name them children with names that indicate success. It is considered a bad omen to boast at the birth of a child.

Atenyo (f) tenyo to leave, abandon. The mother might have left her husband or other children at the marital home because of problems.

Atibo (f) tibo shadow.

Atiko (m) tiko beads or follow something single mindedly.

Atim (f) tim bush. A child born in the bush or foreign land or just away from home.

Ato (f) to death. A child born after many deaths in the family.

Atoro (m) toro to compact or compress, especially the floor of a new house, or the soil on a grave.

Auma (f) uma facing downward. A baby born face down.

Aweko (f) weko to leave or abandon. Similar to tenyo and the circumstance of the birth are also similar to that of Atenyo.

Awic (rwot, Payira) (m) wic head.

Awiny (m) winyo to hear or listen.

Awor (f) wor night. A baby born at night

Aya (f) A girl born after many boys. Similar to Akidi.

Ayat (f) yat medicine or tree. A child conceived/ born with the help of medicines or under a tree.

Abe (m) Named after aboce, an edible root plant(not very nice) which grows in forests and are sought after when there is famine. The owner of the name must have Israelited it to Abe pronounced aabee.

Ayo (f) yo road. A baby born by the roadside.

Ayot (f) yot light, simple.

Ayugi (f) yugi rubbish.

B   NAMES
Banya (m) banya debt. A  child born outside marriage.

Bitek (m) tek strong. A nickname? )

Bongomin (m) bongo without, omin brother. The father is bemoaning his having no brother.

Bongonyige (m) bongo without, nyinge name. Maybe there was controversy regarding the naming of the baby. So the compromise was “without a name”.

Bongowat (m) bongo without, wat relative. The father feels he has no relative to support him.

Bwami (m)bwami rough, opposite of  mwol gentle…………nickname?

C   NAMES

Cakamoi (m) praise name

Camo (Rwot Payira)(m)

Can (m) can is poverty

Canlit (m)can is poverty, lit is painful.

Cong (m) cong  knee

J   NAMES

Jero (m) prison. Maybe the child was born when the father/mother was in prison

K   NAMES
Kal (m) royalty.

Karama (m) celebration. A child born on Christmas day or at a time when there was some celebration.

Kibwota (m) bwoto to desert or leave. The father must have deserted the mother while she  was pregnant or soon after the birth of the child. There also rare instances when mothers abandon their babies soon after giving birth

Kidega (m)dego to dislike. Usually the mother feels she is dislike by her in-laws.
Kiden (f) den debt.A child born out of wedlock?

Kila (f)  kilo is to remove the hard cover of the sugar cane, fruit, usually using the bare teeth.

Notes on Acholi names

Prefix + verb (Aryemo, Oweka)
Pefix  + noun (Atim, Lakony)
Prefix + adjective (Arac, Odwong)
Nouns only (eg Can, Kony, Nyero, Nyeko )
Noun + adjective (Komakec)

The name-giving ceremony (Cako nying)

After the birth of a child, the mother and the baby were confined for three days if it isa boy or four days if it is a girl. During this time the both the infant and mother are cared for and “min lanyuru’ given plenty of food , washed and allowed to rest. On the third or fourth day(or forth and fifth day?) the mother and the baby  come out and the baby is greeted and given names by anybody present. (Any special food, songs, dance?)

Ngati mo keken twero cako nying latin. Nying ma omoko doko nying latin.  Welo ma ongole, ma latin pud kinywalo anywala twero bene mino nying.
Kayo –  dayo aye cako nyinge?

Nying kicako nining? Nying Acholi weng tyen lokke tye.

Nying coo  ki nying mon papat. Pol  nying coo cake ki O, ka pol nying mon cake ki A

  1. Educative or reminder (Mugo tito lok): Komakec, Kidega, Aporomon , Aliker
  2. The place where they were born. (Nying mugo nyuto kama ki nywalo iiye latin): Otim, Oyoo, Okulu.
  3. How the baby was born (Mugo nyuto kit ma kinywalo kwede latin): Odoc, Auma
  4. Condition or time of birth (Ikare mukene nying nyuto kit kare ma kinywalo kwede latin): Okech, Lakot, Awor, Lamwaka
  5. Lutino mukene kiminigi nying ludito, dayo nyo kwaro, onyo dano ma nying gi oywek.
  6. Nicknames  are given either by friends, family or self. Circumstances depend on joking relationship, to tease etc eg  Okello Munno (he brought europeans). The father was arrested the day he was born. Although he was an Okello because he followed twins, his birth also coincided with an act associated with the colonial government, arrest.

Olanya Wiyabara (my head is aching), was given the name because he often complained of a     headache.
Ojok Munno, named thus because he liked to behave like a European.

  1. Nying mwoc – mwoc individual then me kaka eg Mogi (pak)siad about the individual by
    him/herself. Moi (mwoc) after a big feat like killing a ferocious animal or a man (not a woman).
    Kwer malubo nyodo ki cako nying
  2. Rudi  myel, laputa. In the case of twins(rudi), breach, with six fingers or toes on one hand or foot, or those born with deformities, were considered children of Jok. Special rituals were performed soon after their birth to protect them and the household from , appease, thank Jok (?)
    Twin has to be taken to paneyone (the paternal home – or where the mother comes from). Some       rituals are carried out there.
  3. Jok,
  4. Cako nying, kwer me nino adek pi awobi ki angwen pi anyaka.

Other names
1.  Pak/ yweka: moi eg Luywemoi, Cakamoi
2.  Pa mego: Min Lamunu
3.  Nying me kano kaka makato ne ikare pa Amin, ki Museveni, pi lworo, onyo me yenyo tic.

References: 
1.  .J P Ocitti (1973), African Indigenous Education: As Practised by the Acholi of Uganda, East
African Literature Bureau, Nairobi, Kampala, Dar-es-Salaam.
2.  A. Apoko (1967), “At Home in the Village: growing up in Acholi” in Lorene K. Fox, (ed),  The East African  Childhood: Three Versions, Oxford University Press, Nairobi, 1967, pp 45-75.

Lwongo nying Acholi
Calo leb Acholi ducu, ka nying ma tye ki ‘t, k ‘ idye  o, e, i, o, u ci  ( the letters t and k are pronounced  as nasal and slured. For example the k in Nyeko becomes ‘h” and pronounced Nyeho, with a soft and nasal  h sound. While the t in Obita becomes  a slurred, nasal and soft ‘r’ and pronounced Obira).