Origin Of The Word " Oyibo"..

Oyibo or Oyinbo is a word used in Nigerian Pidgin, Igbo and Y‎oruba to refer to westernized people. ‎In Nigeria, it is generally used to refer to a person of European descent or people perceived to not be culturally African. The word is pronounced ‎oyinbo ‎ in Yoruba speaking areas and oyibo ‎ in Igbo language. Both terms are valid in Pidgin English.

How The Word Evolved ‎

The origin of the word is difficult to ascertain. It is believed that the name is coined from igbo word.
In Igbo language, demonym takes the form “onye” + “place of origin.” Hence, whereas an Igbo person is called “onye Igbo,” a Yoruba is called “Onye Yoruba” and a German “onye Germany.” Thus, the first white people were called either “onye ocha” (singular) or “ndi ocha” (plural), for “white person” and “white people,” respectively. This was because the Igbos of those days did not know from where the white people came. Interaction between the Igbos and the white people resulted in the white people trying to refer to the Igbos with a name similar to what the Igbos called them but there was a problem in pronouncing Igbo words due to the presence of double lettered alphabets, which involve nasal pronunciation, in some of the consonants, such as 'ch', 'gb', 'gh', 'gw', 'kp', 'kw', 'nw', 'ny', 'sh'.

These were not present in the English language, hence the difficulty in the European man's effort in giving the Igbos a similar demonym as the Igbo people had given to him, instead a name resulting from a mutilation of Igbo words was produced "Oyi ibo' instead of " onyi igbo' meaning 'Igbo person' just as he 'the white man' was called ' onye ocha' meaning 'white person'. It was this 'oyi ibo' that the Igbos later started referring to as 'white person' in a way of mocking the white man for his inability in saying "Onye Igbo". This would later be adopted by other Southern Nigerian tribes as the standard name for the white man and coupled with dialect variance one obtains different pronunciations such as "Oyinbo' in Yoruba and other western Nigerian tribes. Also, 'Oyibo' means English Language in Igbo. In general usage, it may refer to individuals with various skin complaints such as vitiligo or genetic conditions such as albinism. ‎

Oyibo is also used in reference to people who are foreign or Europeanised, including Saros in the Igbo towns of Port Harcourt, Onitsha and Enugu in the late 19th and early 20th century. ‎Sierra Leonean missionaries, according to Ajayi Crowther, a Yoruba, and John Taylor, an Igbo, descendants of repatriated slaves, were referred to as oyibo ojii (Igbo: black foreigners) or "native foreigners" by the people of Onitsha in the late 19th century.‎

Olaudah Equiano, an African abolitionist, claimed in his 1789 ‎narrative that the people in Essaka, Igboland, where he claimed to be from, had used the term Oye-Eboe in reference to "red men living at a distance" which may possibly be an earlier version ofoyibo. Equiano's use of Oye-Eboe, however, was in reference to other Africans and not white men.‎ Gloria Chuku suggests that Equiano's use of Oye-Eboe is not linked to oyibo, and that it is a reference to the generic term Onitsha and other more westerly ‎Igbo people referred to other Igbo people. ‎R. A. K. Oldfield, a European, while on the Niger River near Aboh in 1832 had recorded locals calling out to him and his entourage "Oh, Eboe! Oh, Eboe!" meaning "White man, White man!" linked to modern 'oyibo'. ‎

TopBack to Top