The Yoruba word Iyawo and the story behind it


I bet you never know that the original word for wife in Yoruba language is AYA and not IYAWO? I thought as much, although Iyawo is commonly used nowadays than the former.
The Throne Media will take you through the widely accepted story of how the term Iyawo came about:

A very long ago in Yoruba land, a beautiful princess and daughter of the first king of Iwo town named Wuraola was in the quest of getting herself a well groomed, reserved and cultured husband.

Strong, rich, intelligent and good looking men who later became Yoruba deities like Sango, Ogun, and other known male deities went to Iwo to seek her hand in marriage. Wura she hurled insults and curses at them all. She was very rude and uncultured. She displayed the worst character one can think of unto all her suitors and regardless of her remarkable and unique beauty every one of them failed to accomplish their mission of marrying her so they abandoned their mission on their very first day.

Then it was Orunmila’s turn after hearing of her remarkable and unique beauty, sought wisdom from Olodumare (Almighty God) through Ifa divination before he set out for Iwo. He was duly informed that no matter the treatment that Wura might subject him to, he must not react accordingly, he should have patience, perseverance and lots of endurance.  Olodumare revealed to Orunmila that he must be patient with Wuraola and endure her behaviors no matter how bad they are in order to succeed in the mission of marrying Wuraola.

On arriving the palace of the king of Iwo, Wura looked Orunmila scornfully; she did not welcome him, but hissed at him, and called Orunmila all sorts of names. She did not even offer Orunmila any food or entertained him as was the customary ethics to a visitor, but Orunmila ignored her attitudes and remain calm throughout the first day, the second day etc, until about the seventh day.

Seven days of accommodating Wuraola’s unrefined and uncultured manner, to worsen the situation, Wura took Orunmila’s Opon-Ifa [divination board] and used it as firewood and also took Orunmila’s Pouch [Apo Ominijekun] from him. This angered Orunmila greatly but he still succeeded to maintain his calm having been warned of the consequences of not heeding advice.
At last the King intervened, having noticed that Orunmila was humble and thoroughly well behaved despite all the humiliations Wuraola meted out on him.

Orunmila’s behaviour gave him the assurance that he would take good care of his daughter Wura if she were to become his wife. Meanwhile unknowingly, Wura’s repugnant behaviour had been a test for all the prospective suitors.
The King summoned Orunmila and handed Wura over to him as his wife. He also divided his property into two and gave Orunmila half. Orunmila thus became rich and had Wura for his wife.
Upon Orunmila’s arrival back home, his people welcomed him enthusiastically for his accomplished task, they asked for details of how his new wife was so beautiful, and yet perfectly behaved. His answer was direct: “Iya-ti-mo-je-ni-Iwo ni un” (she is the result of my sufferings at Iwo town).

These words in syllables “Iya-ti-mo-je-ni Iwo became known as Iya-Iwo, which is now corrupted to ‘Iyawo’.


Photo credit: Bunmi Adedipe Photography


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