Latin languages aren’t the only romantic languages in the world, Yoruba is actually quite a sweet language as well and the culture is also one that somewhat revolves around love, whether it’s the love of a family member or the love of a partner or love interest.
So I will show you how to show your affection, your appreciation and dare I say your undying love for your partner, crush or spouse in Yoruba.
There are different way to express your love in Yoruba. When you are expressing your love for a family member or for a very close friend you can use the word “fẹ́ràn”, an interesting thing about the word “fẹ́ràn” is that it can mean both like and love in Yoruba.
How to say “I love____” in Yoruba
If you want to say that you love a family member, for example your mother or your father, you would use the phrase “Mo fẹ́ràn”. “Mo” just means “I” in Yoruba, you’ve probably already heard loads of Yoruba people say the word, and “fẹ́ràn” literally just means “love”. Then, you just add whatever it is that you love to the end of the phrase “Mo fẹ́ràn”:
“Mo fẹ́ràn bàbá mi” = I love my Dad
“Mo fẹ́ràn màmáà mi” = I love my Mum
“O fẹ́ràn ẹ̀gbọ́n mi” = You love my older sibling
You can also use “Mo fẹ́ràn” to describe things that you like
“Mo fẹ́ràn ajá” = I like dogs
“Mo fẹ́ràn ológbò” = I like cats
“Mo fẹ́ràn ẹ” = I love you
How to say “I love you” in Yoruba
Even though you can say “Mo fẹ́ràn ẹ” to say “I love you” to someone in Yoruba, there is another way to say “I love you” in Yoruba that is arguably more popular. This way doesn’t actually use the word “fẹ́ràn” like in the phrases above, it uses another word to describe love which is “fẹ́”.
“fẹ́” actually means “to want” in Yoruba, and you use it just the same way you use “want” in English.
“Mo fẹ́ jẹun” = I want to eat
“Mo fẹ́ lọ” = I want to go
“A fẹ́ jáde” = We want to go out
Now back to how to use “fẹ́” when telling someone that you love them. The phrase I love you in Yoruba is:
“Mo ni fẹ́ rẹ” means “I love you” in Yoruba, though if you translate it more literally it means “I want you” in Yoruba. Similarly to how “te quiero” means “I want you” in Spanish literally, but people use it to say “I love you”.
Terms of endearment in Yoruba
“Mo ni fẹ́ rẹ” is just the start in Yoruba, you might want to up the ante and show your affection in other ways, and there are so many ways to do so, one of the main ways could be through terms of endearment. Some of the most common terms of endearment in English are:
Terms of endearment in Yoruba work in a slightly different way, they aren’t necessarily single words like “darling” or “sweetheart”, but are usually phrases showing who that person is to them, and usually are quite literal in translation, don’t worry it will make more sense with examples.
My husband – ọkọ mi
You might hear someone say “ọkọ mi” which means “my husband” in Yoruba and think that she’s just going around trying to let the whole world know that this person is her husband, “this is my mans!“….errr not necessarily. She is actually just being affectionate with her husband, she is more or less saying, “babe” or “sweetheart”.
My wife – ìyàwó mi
In the same way you might hear someone say “ìyàwó mi” in Yoruba which means “my wife”, the phrase “my wife” can also be used as a term of endearment. Some Yoruba men will call their girlfriends “ìyàwó mi” even though they aren’t their wives, in the same way that you could say “wifey” to someone that isn’t your wife but that you have great affection for.
My love – ìfẹ́ mi
The most neutral phrase in Yoruba that doesn’t really depend as much on if you’re married or not is “ìfẹ́ mi”, which means my love. It’s short, sweet and has inspired many a Nollywood movie title. ‘Ìfẹ́ mi’ is a term of endearment that you could use on Valentine’s Day…or any day for that matter.
My child – ọmọ mi
Stemming away from romantic terms of endearments, you also have a whole host of terms of endearments that you could use between friends and family, one of those terms of endearment is “ọmọ mi”.
“Ọmọ mi” isn’t a romantic term of endearment, it isn’t used between partners or lovers it’s used between parents and children. Quite literally “ọmọ mi” means “my child” in Yoruba, it’s used by parents to their children to show affection.
Also, sometimes you might hear Aunties or Uncles use “ọmọ mi” to show affection towards very young nieces or nephews.
One thing that you should know is that in general Nigerians are really big on nicknames, shortening names, changing names up, adding “ooo” to the end of names to show affection or to hype people up. Just to give an example, you could have a friend called Bimbo and you could find all her friends calling her very strange variations of her name.
Calling friends by their surname
Another thing is that sometimes Nigerians, particularly the boys, like to call each other by their surnames. It’s just something that is sometimes done between certain friends, so if you have a friend called Adetunde Odutayo, you might hear his friends refer to him as, “Odutayo” but it’s not his first name o!
How to “say girlfriend/boyfriend” in Yoruba
Yoruba doesn’t really have explicit words for “girlfriend” or “boyfriend” the best equivalent would be the word “olólùfẹ́” which more literally translated means…lover.
olólùfẹ́ = boyfriend
olólùfẹ́ = girlfriend
NB in the Nigerian culture people’s parents don’t tend to refer to their child’s girlfriend or boyfriend (if they even know about them) as a boyfriend or girlfriend, you are more likely to hear them refer to the person as a friend.
(So if you happen to be that “friend”, please don’t be offended hehehe).
How to say “marriage” in Yoruba
Depending on how serious your relationship is, wedding bells might be right around the corner, so just a heads up, the word for marriage in Yoruba is “ìgbéyàwó”. To get married in Yoruba is “ṣe ìgbéyàwó” the word “ṣe” in Yoruba means “to do”, so more literally “ṣe ìgbéyàwó” means to “do marriage”.
There is a strong culture around weddings and marriage in Nigeria, you can see this in how eager some people can be for marriage, the age at which people get married, the wedding traditions, the parties and so on and so forth. Weddings are big things in Nigeria, so you can expect a lot of music, particularly a talking drum (type of drum) if you’re at a Yoruba wedding, lots of food and lots of dancing.
How to say “party” in Yoruba
Parte after parte…After the wedding of course the reception follows, which we refer to as “ówàńbẹ̀” in Yoruba, any party, celebration or gathering is referred to as an “ówàńbẹ̀”. Parties, like weddings, are also very big things in Nigeria, particularly in the city of Lagos (Lasgidi), which is actually frequently referred to as a party city (???? ain’t no party like a Lagos party ????). You can expect to see lots of food (you don’t want to be the person that plans a party, but doesn’t provide enough food for the guests and their many plus ones), lots of music usually by some of the top artists such as Burna Boy, Wizkid & Davido, and lots of dancing.
Interestingly enough in Nigeria when a dance is popular at a particular time, it’s extremely popular and you can find everybody and their grandma doing the dance. Then when a new dance trend pops up, everyone forgets the last dance style and it’s almost as if it never existed, “azonto anyone?”, “shoki?”, I didn’t think so.
And that’s it, you now know how to say “I love you” in Yoruba, and have a whole host of words to choose from to show your affection, appreciation or love for a family member, friend or a love interest. These different phrases should probably help you to take a love interest all the way up to a spouse hehe.