Named For Love


Dad idolised his grandfather, Olutade. He was going to name me after him but his mother thought against it. Dad then opted for the longest rendition of the name: Oluwatomilade. He also named me after himself: Adebayo. Grandmother did not object. And thus, I was called Junior till I turned seven and began to—in retrospect—cringe-worthily inform the adults in my life that I was a senior.


Oluwatomilade translates to, God is my crown, or God is enough for me as a crown. As far as spiritual connotations go, it is a compelling name. To wear God or his identity on one’s head should be a marvellous thing and I suppose it is. But I am more enthralled that Dad named me Oluwatomilade because he loved his grandfather, that perhaps he saw him in me.


The answer to the question, what does your name mean to you, is it means more to my father than it does to me. That my name means more to him is what my name means to me. That I was named in and for the sake of love.


I inherited my great-grandfather and father’s names, mum’s temperament, and grandfather’s head. In my younger years, I was also called Ori as a not-so-subtle ode to the size of my head. My uncle, Sammy, used to sing a song, Ori nla, nla nla, Ori. Big head, big big, big head. At home, at school, at church, three names accompanied me—Tomi, Junior, Ori.


My friend, Arike, is obsessed with names. We have spent many minutes of many conversations pondering about the beauty of names, their language forms, meanings, how they roll off the tongue, and so on. She has a substantial list of names locked in memory, to be withdrawn when she brings forth children to this mad world. I think about names too. I like long names. Studying in a foreign land, long names like mine tend to punish the tongues of lecturers. I usually interject with, “Tomi!” to put them out of their misery. They always apologise. I am never offended. In fact, I secretly look forward to it.


My brothers call me Tomi but sometimes, Lade. The story of Lade is this. In my senior year at boarding school, one of my roommates farted (I swear it wasn’t me), and as usual, accusations diffused around the room with the rancid sulphur. Ever the introvert, I remained silent, causing a friend to say, “It was Lade.” Lade has stuck since. I like Lade. It reminds me of boarding school, of the times I loathed school and how I grew to love it in the end.


When she was still here, mum called me Tomi. But when she wanted to hail me, like Yoruba mothers tend to do, she called me by one of my other names: Bolu, from Moboluwaji. It means I wake up with God. To wake up with God means that God is there in my sleep, shielding me from the terror of night. It means that God is always there when I open my eyes—bad breath, crusty eyes, and all. This is magnificent but Bolu carries the weight of mum’s love. And it is heavy. And yet, ever so light.

© Tomi Olugbemi 2016

Tomi Olugbemi is a poet and student of International Politics. He spends his free time fretting about words and recovering from pessimism. He blogs at


Photo credit: condesign/

©Timi Yeseibo 2016

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33 thoughts on “Named For Love

  1. I didn’t know what my Chinese name meant until in my 20’s. Same for middle name which is same one for myself and sisters. My Chinese name translates as : Precious or Highly Treasured. I am the oldest of 6. Middle name translates as: Orchid

    We were all given English names to make life easier for us in Canada.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Such lovely meanings to your names, Jean. Do you mean that you and your sisters share the same middle name?

      The rationale behind being given English names sounds reasonable.


  2. Wow. This struck me deeply, Tomi. I love what you did with words here. It is delightful to read a piece that weds the anatomy of a name to its story. Beautiful. Really beautiful. I doubt I will ever forget this piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. i was supposed to be named after my grand mother but she told my father to name me after her mother, salma means peace actually, so i guess named for love too

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Growing in a place where ‘Nitori ojo ti yoo daran la fi n s’omo l’oruko’ (It is because of the day he’ll break the law that we give a child a name) I’m almost cynical about names. I do not attach such great importance to them. I don’t even know the provenance of the two I carry. Yet, reading Tomi’s piece cuts through that cynicism.

    Bolu carries the weight of mum’s love

    Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Haha! “Nitori ojo ti yoo daran la fi n s’omo l’oruko,” is hilarious. I’ve never heard that before. Happy to have done my bit in cutting through the cynicism. Thanks for reading, Ife.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Hello Tomi,

    Beautiful written piece, I enjoyed reading. @ “Bolu carries the weight of mum’s love” made me smile.

    I’ve come to believe in the power of names over their owners. I spent my childhood hating my name because it’s typically given to boys.

    These days, I wouldn’t trade my name for all the Cinderella-esque names in the world. My name has proven itself to be true countless times in my life. Chinedu, God does lead me. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    1. “I wouldn’t trade my name for all the Cinderella-esque names in the world.” Haha! 😀

      Chinedu is such a beautiful and powerful name. I’m glad it has proven true in your life. Thank you for reading, Nedu 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

    1. I totally identify with that! I was named Ayodeji by my mother, only for it to be changed to Olumuyiwa when I landed on the shores of Nigeria…courtesy of a “big uncle”. As soo as I returned to the UK and gained my independence, I reverted to Ayodeji…shortened to Ayo…. it was my mothers name for me and that was it for me!

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Why do we hold strongly to our mothers as we grow older? I don’t know, but I think our love for them is more realised. Or perhaps the realisation that their love for us defies age.

      Liked by 2 people

    3. Like why?!
      Lol… I crazily in love with the name my mum gave me. Officially it’s my middle name, but its what I most family and close friends call me.
      In recent times it’s all I introduce myself with.

      Liked by 3 people

  6. How delightful and inspiring. I love names with meaning, but particularly names with meaning that can be shortened for convenience. Tomi works well. I named my youngest for my husband whose name is Julian. He didn’t like his name, so I named my son Thomas for the apostle Thomas, since my husband tended to be a skeptic about things unseen. I also greatly admire the apostle Thomas, because when the other apostles were still clinging to the delusion that everything was going to end well for Jesus, Thomas was convinced they would all die if they went to Jerusalem. But Thomas told Jesus, if you are going, I am going with you. That’s faith!!! A faith based on love.
    You write beautifully and with clarity. I treasure this post greatly,

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, Eileen. It is odd that Thomas gets a bad rep for being doubtful, as if doubt is (always) a bad thing. Few people remember him as the guy who was ready to die with Jesus as you have alluded to. One of my best friends is named Thomas. I love that name and I’m glad you named your son after the apostle. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Moboluwaji is indeed such a strong name. It left me awed. Perhaps the reason I’ll always prefer African names. So much depth. So much in one name.
    Beautiful Piece, Bolu.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Interestingly, I was having a conversation late on Friday with a friend on the subject of (children’s) names, following which I went away to reflect on a few of the ones we talked about..

    As none of your ones came up, I suspect I’ll have more ammunition for when we revisit that conversation.. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

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