These short three videos demonstrate how important it is to render the correct melody, when speaking and writing Yorùbá. The language makes use of seven vowels: a, e, , i, o, , u. In European languages these dotted vowels ẹ and ọ also exist in speech, but pronouncing them either as e/ẹ or o/ọ hardly changes the meaning of a word. It would just sound strange. In Yorùbá, this is likely to change the meaning of the word completely. 

Today there are many (self-)published books on Yorùbá culture and spirituality on the market. Often they are not proofread by a Yorùbá linguist and are confusing. An example would be a  book I read. It is written in English and based on Afro-Cuban Lukumí traditions. The author decided to write the names of Cuban Lukumí "Orichas" as Yorùbá "Òrìṣàs". Problem is that Yorùbá language lacks a plural "s". The book states e.g. that "Ymja" (what should be spelled Yemja) was married to Òrìṣà Ògún, what is also the name of the river where she is worshipped. But the river is called Ògùn, low-low tone, not Ògún, low-high tone. What looks like the same word to European language speakers has a completely different meaning to Yorùbá native speakers. There is no connection between the Orisha and the river in linguistic terms. 

I decided to use images to address the English/Spanish/Portuguese Olorisha/Oloricha/Olorixá community worldwide, without needing any boring translations. Some of the drawings are rather abstract, as are some of the terms illustrated. At least its fun to guess what it might mean or maybe it makes you want to buy a Yorùbá dictionary in the future. Yorùbá is a beautiful language and fun to study. Here's a list and the translation of the videos into English. Follow us on!

The intro says: "Yorùbá Melody. What's the meaning of those words? Listen!"


oko: farm

òkò: anything thrown as a missile, like a stone, also used in a spiritual sense (a curse)

okó: penis

ọkọ: husband

ọkọ́: hoe

ọ̀kọ̀: spear

ọkọ̀: vehicle

ó ko ó: he/she/it met him/her/it (incidentally)

o kọ́ ọ: you taught him/her/it


ara: body

ará: (1) inhabitant (2) kinsman

ààrá: thunder (arabic loanword)

àrà: novelty, wonder


aro: cymbal

aró: indigo dye

arò: song or words expressing lamentation, sadness, sorrow

àró: chieftaincy title in Ogboni

ààrò (= àrìrò = àdìrò): tripod, for example under a cooking pot

àáró: mutual help in doing farmwork

arọ: lame person

àrọ: funnel through which one can pour liquids

arọ́: blacksmith workshop

àrọ̀: mudfish

àárọ̀: morning

àárò: missing somebody


ó dára: he/she/it is good

ọ̀dàrà: praisename of Orisha Eshu

ọ̀dárà: the one who performs tricks

The intro says: "Yorùbá Melody. What's the meaning of those words? Listen!"


bàtà: shoe

bàtá: name of a drum


ooru: heat

òru: night

orù: clay pot for water with narrow mouth 

oorun: sleep

òórùn: odour, smell

oòrùn: sun

ọrun: bow (for shooting with arrows)

ọrùn: neck

ọrún: period of 5 days

ọ̀run: sky, heaven

ọ̀rún: one hundred


egungun: bone

egúngún: masked dancer representing an ancestor

eegun: bone

eégún: masked dancer representing an ancestor

ègún: curse, hex

egùn: seed yam (secondary growth)

ègùn: people from Porto Novo area in Benin (Ewe/Fon)

ẹgún: kapok (silk cotton) tree

ẹ̀gún: thorn

ẹ̀gùn: (1) dreamlike state, trance (2) suitable perching spot for a hunter in the forest


oro: fierceness

ooro: name of a certain tree, Antiaris Africana

òòró: perpendicularity, verticality

òórọ̀: morning

oró: (1) poison (2) pain

orò: (1) name of an Òrìṣà (2) custom, ritual

ọrọ̀: wealth

ọ̀rọ̀: (1) speech, word, sentence (2) spirit that lives in certain trees

ọ̀rọ̀n: trouble

ọrọ́: all types of cactus 

òro: a pulpy fruit used for making soup (Wild Mango, Irvingia Gabonensis, Simarubareae)

Ó rọ ọ́ : He/she forged it. (e.g. a blacksmith)

Ó rọ̀: It was soft, it hung down, it fell (rain), it collapsed etc. All related to the concept of soft and droopy.

Ó rò ó: He/she/it thought about him/her/it. 

Ó ró: (1) He/she/it utters a sound (2) He/she/it stands. 

Ó ró o: She/he tied it (clothes).

Ó ro ó: It hurts him.

Ó rán án: He/she sewed it.

Ó rò: He/she gave a report. 

The intro says: "Yorùbá Melody. What's the meaning of those words? Listen!"


ogun: war

ògùn: (1) name of a river (2) name of a Nigerian state

ogún: (1) inheritance (2) twenty

ògún: name of an Orisha

òògùn: medicine, charm

òógùn: perspiration, sweat

ó gún un: He/she/it stabbed him/her/it. This is an interesting example. Written correctly with the object in "high-high-mid" tone, in speech it becomes shortened to "high-mid" ó g'un.

ó gùn ún: He/she/it climbs him/her/it.

ó gùn: It is long.

ó gún: It is symmetrical, straight. 


igbá: calabash

ìgbà: time

igba: two hundred

igbà: a type of rope

ìgbá: a type of vegetable


ìkòkò: pot with a very wide opening

ìkọ̀kọ̀: privacy


èdè: language

edé: shrimp, lobster

edè: melon seed

ẹdẹ: name of a Yorùbá town


If you are interested in Yorùbá dictionaries, see this review on 18 of them on our blog! The bàtá drum sounds in this video are used to illustrate the melody of the words and the three possible tones of the language. The actual Yorùbá art of talking on bàtá drums would include much more parameters than the simple tone patterns. 

Thank you to Yorùbá linguist Victor Manfredi for the inspiration and linguistic help (I learned e.g. that my first recording of the word "Yòrùbá" as low-low-high tone would have been a correct variant, though not known as "standard"!) and Babaláwo Nathan Lugo from the Ìjọ Asáforítifá Òrìṣà Community in Florida for his help. Have fun listening to Yorùbá Melody!