Everything You Need to Know About the Ghanaian Tradition of Day Names

Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park, Accra, Ghana
Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park, Accra, Ghana | Photo by Ifeoluwa A. on Unsplash
Kwame Aidoo

In West Africa, newborns are given special names depending on the day they are born. Diverse ethnicities have variants and meanings as a symbol of cultural integrity and ancestral affiliation. Here’s your need-to-know guide about the Ghanaian language history of names.

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Background

The naming system of the Akan people is as distinct as that which elders in Togo (the Ewe people), the Ga people, Benin (the Fon people), and the African diaspora pass on to toddlers. Other forms of traditional naming include middle names, which can refer to order of birth as part of the caste of siblings, twin status, or could be an inherited maiden name.

Aside the fact that day names are a simple means for commonality, they are easy conversation starters and icebreakers.

The system

Ghanaian woman celebrating the arrival of clean water in her village.

The Akan people use the Kwa language group’s system of timekeeping, which is based on a six-day week (‘nnanson‘), with the seventh day inclusive. In Ashanti homes, Sunday-born males and females are named Kwasi or Kwesi and Akosua respectively (meaning ‘associated with the universe’); Monday-born are Kwadwo or Kojo, Adjoa or Adwoa (meaning ‘associated with peace’); Tuesday-born are Kwabena or Kobi, Abena (meaning ‘associated with the ocean’); Wednesday-born Kwaku or Kweku, Akua (meaning ‘associated with spider/Ananse’); Thursday-born Yaw, Yaa ( meaning ‘associated with the earth’); Friday-born Kofi, Afia or Afua (meaning ‘associated with fertility’); and Saturday-born Kwame, Ama (meaning ‘associated with God’).

Fanti boys and girls, on the other hand, are given the day names: Monday – Cudjoe, Kojo, Quajo, Adjoa, Ajuba, Juba; Tuesday – Quabena, Abena, Bena; Wednesday – Quaco, Aqua, Acooba, Cooba; Thursday – Quaw, Aba, Yaaba; Friday – Cuffy, Afiba, Fiba; Saturday – Quame, Quamina, Ama; and Sunday – Quashie, Quasheba.

History also plays a part. Slaves from the Gold Coast taken to the Caribbean during the 18th and 19th centuries were referred to as Coromantees. As such, the Ndyuka people and parents in Jamaica give their children the following day names: Monday – Cudjoe, Kodyo, Adyuba; Tuesday – Cubbenah, Abeni; Wednesday – Quaco, Kwaku, Akuba; Thursday – Quao, Yaw, Yaba; Friday – Cuffee, Kofi, Afiba; Saturday – Quamin, Kwami, Amba; and Sunday – Quashee, Kwasi, Kwasiba.

Names of renown

Most Ghanaians have at least one name from this system. Ghana‘s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, was born on a Saturday, while the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Atta Annan, was so named for being born on a Friday. The 25-year-old popular Ghanaian-British fashion model Adwoa Caitlin Maria Aboah is Monday-born.

Variations

Aside the main day names, there are variants and flexibly diverse adjustments. Examples include: Sunday – Akwasi, Kwasi, Kwesi, Akwesi, Sisi, Kacely, Kosi; Monday – Kojo, Kwadwo, Jojo, Joojo, Kujoe; Tuesday – Kwabena, Kobe, Kobi, Ebo, Kabelah, Komla, Kwabela; Wednesday – Kwaku, Abeiku, Kuuku, Kweku; Thursday – Yaw, Ekow; Friday – Kofi, Fifi, Fiifi, Yoofi; and Saturday – Kwame, Kwamena, Kwamina. The extensions and variants result from differences in ethnicities or bending of monikers to make them sound a certain way.

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