What day of the week were you born? This one can be a very typical question when you’re in Ghana. This is due to the Ghanaian day names tradition, one of the many ceremonies and customs that take place in Ghana.
The day naming system is a very old tradition used by the Akan people and even by other west African countries such as Benin and Togo. Even Jamaica has it! It’s about giving newborn babies a special name based on the day of the week they are born. These are called “day names,” and they hold meanings regarding the soul of the baby and character traits.
Let’s take a look into the Ghanaian day names tradition and their meaning.
Ghanaian day names tradition
Children are considered to be a gift from God in Ghana. Ghanaians and their different ethnic groups have a number of different traditional ceremonies and the naming ceremony is one of them, an event that is carried out with much celebration. However, the naming ceremony is not where the day name is given, it’s where their actual name is given.
If you had the chance to meet a few Ghanaians, you may have noticed that they have more than one name. Even the biggest personalities in Ghana have more than one name.
Take for example Ghana‘s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, who 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 29-year-old popular Ghanaian-British fashion model Adwoa Caitlin Maria Aboah is Monday-born.
Understanding the naming system
The Akan system uses the Kwa language, which is used as a form of time keeping. Their calendar has 7 days in a week and Sunday is considered the first day of the week (It is believed in Akan that God created the world in 6 days and rested on the 7th day). Saturday is also a day observed as the ‘Sabbath’ in traditional/typical Akan communities.
History also plays a part in this. Although it’s a very old tradition, the concept was reworked during colonial times to suit the western calendar. Slaves from the Gold Coast taken to the Caribbean during the 18th and 19th centuries were referred to as Coromantees: an English-language term for enslaved people from the Akan ethnic group from the Gold Coast region in modern-day Ghana.
Akan day names and their meanings
Kwasi (male) Akosua (female) – the day on which “KWA”(the Creator) descended.
- KWASI means “the Lord of Life Descent”.
- AKOSUA means “descent”. Females born on Sunday are known to be leaders in society. They are very inquisitive and tend to be pulled into a thing of interest.
Kwadwo (małe) Adwoa (female) – corresponds to the day on which “KWA” created the firmament.
- KWADWO & ADWOA: both mean “Lord of Life Firmament day”
Kwabena (male) Abena (female) – The day on which land was made to appear.
- KWABENA: means “Lord of Life’s Land Day.”
- ADWOA: means “Land’s Day.”
Kwaku (małe) Akua (female) – According to the book of Genesis, was the day on which the heavenly hots (sun, moon and stars) appeared.
- KWAKU & AKUA: both mean “Lord of Life’s Group/Host”. They commemorate the creation of the sun, the moon and the stars.
Yao (male) Yaa (female) – the day on which various life forms (plants, animals, etc ) were created.
- YAO & YAA: both mean “Lord-of-Life Reproduction.”
Kofi (male) Afua (female) – the day on which the first home was created or established. This is because the word “Friday” is a combination of two words in Aka which are “Fi” (meaning home) and “Da” (meaning day).
- KOFI & AFUA: both mean “Lord of Life Home” and commemorate the creation of the first home in the Garden of Eden and the institution of marriage.
Kwame (male) Amma (female) – “God’s Rest Day.”
- KWAME / AMMA: both mean “Lord of Life’s Satisfaction Day”, names that commemorate the institution of rest. This is why Akan societies observe Saturday as the Sabbath.
Other Akan names
The Akan kanguage has some beautiful names with meanings. We wanted to share a few (and maybe you get inspired and name your next child with an Akan name!):
- Odeneho. It means one who is independent
- Bekoe. This is a child who came to fight
- Katakyie. This is a very strong man.
- Bediako. One who came purposely to engage in war.
- Agyeman. Came to save the nation
- Osei. A very noble man
- Adiyiah. Is one who encountered a lot of sorrow
- Abayie. Is a child who came well
- Antobre. One who never experienced hardship
- Abeberese. One who experience hardships
- Acheompong. Attributed to be bearers of chiefs and also kings
- Addae.It means the morning sun
- Addai. Means clouds
- Adekorato. Means treasurer
- Agyei. One who is a messenger of God
- Agyenim. A God given child who is very great
- Ansah. Meaning a person who is royal
- Donkor. This is a slave
- Serwaah. One who is noble
- Bagyina. Is a stable child
Ghanaian day names fun facts
When walking through the street you may be called out by a local with any of the day names (Akosua and Adwoa being the most “popular” ones). This is just a form of friendly gesture to say hi to you (as they obviously don’t know your name). Ghanaians amongst themselves also do that but as a way to joke around or give each other nicknames.
If you want to impress a local, learn your day name because Ghanaians love it when you introduce yourself with your actual name, followed by your day name. Second, they may find it hard to pronounce your name at first (as you may find it hard to pronounce theirs), so it will save you both the trouble! You can also learn a few slang words to impress and surprise your fellow Ghanaians.
Lastly, Ghanaians do love it when someone has the same day name as them – its a fun commonality and a great conversation starter!