Home Features The Origin Of The Word ‘Ìyàwó’ Otherwise Known As “WIFE” In English

The Origin Of The Word ‘Ìyàwó’ Otherwise Known As “WIFE” In English

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It is unknown to many speakers of the Yorùbá language that the original Yorùbá word for wife is ‘aya’ and not the commonly used ‘Ìyàwó’.

Back in the early years of the Yorùbá people, the word “ Iyawo “did not have a place in the Yorùbá language not until an incident brought about its coinage and usage. Old Nigeria presents you the origin of the Yorùbá word Ìyàwó.

Origin of the Yorùbá word Ìyàwó:

Long ago in Yorùbá land, a beautiful princess and daughter of the first king of Iwó town named Wúràọlá were in the quest of getting herself a patient, tolerant and well-mannered husband.
Strong and good looking men, the likes of Sàngó, Ògún and others, had already travelled to Iwó town to seek the hand of Wúràọlá in marriage but left not with a wife but uncontrollable anger. Wúràọlá had been rude to every one of them. In fact, she hurled insults and curses at her suitors which made them all leave on the same day they arrived in the town of Iwo because they couldn’t tolerate her bad behaviours.

Ọ̀rúnmìlà, a good looking man, also journeyed to Iwó in the bid to win the hand of Wúràọlá in marriage. But before he set out, he had already consulted Olódùmarè , the supreme being, through Ifá .

Olódùmarè revealed to Òrúnmìlà that he must be patient with Wúràọlá and endure her behaviours no matter how bad they are in order to succeed in the quest of marrying Wúràọlá .

When Òrúnmìlà got to the palace of the king of Iwó, he was greeted with a hiss and scornful look by Wúràọlá. The unperturbed Òrúnmìlà smiled and returned her greetings with kind and sweet words and also presented gifts to the king.

Òrúnmìlà stayed in Iwó for seven days which can be described as nothing but a hell on earth. Wúràọlá didn’t serve Òrúnmìlà water let alone food. She insulted the goodness out of Òrúnmìlà but he stayed calm and smiled at her. He even smiled when she used his opon ifa (divination board) as firewood and when she took his pouch (àpò ominijekun) from him. Though Òrúnmìlà boiled with rage, still, he didn’t show it or leave Iwo according to the instructions of Olódùmarè.

On the sixth day of Òrúnmìlà’s stay in Iwó town, the king of Iwó gave Wúràọlá in marriage to him after concluding that he is a patient, kind and tolerant man suitable to marry his daughter. Meanwhile, Wúràọlá’s bad behaviours were planned to test her suitors so as to get her a husband with good manners and temper. She was a lovely, caring and well-behaved lady. Òrúnmìlà was glad that he heeded to the instructions of Olódùmarè and on the seventh day, he and Wúràọlá journey back to his town.

Òrúnmìlà was welcomed and praised by his town’s people for his achievement. When they asked him about Wuraola, his wife, he responded, “Ìyà tí mo jẹ ní Iwó” (my sufferings in Iwó town ) That was how wives became known as Ìyà-Iwó (sufferings in Iwó ) and now Ìyàwó . So men don’t be afraid or surprise by what you experience daily, it started ages ago….!


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