There are so many different words and phrases that you could learn in Yoruba, but I am going to show you the top 30 most useful Yoruba phrases.
These words and phrases will help you to navigate the streets of Lagos and to leave a positive lasting impression on your Yoruba Aunties.
Even though English is widely used in Nigeria, it’s nice to know some Yoruba phrases to impress your family and some of the Yoruba locals.
So without further ado, I’m going to start off with the most important words…
Greetings such as good morning, good afternoon and good evening in Yoruba.
You should get these expressions on lock before you visit Nigeria, so your Aunties don’t go around saying you’re really rude or something like that.
1. Ẹ káàárọ̀ – good morning
Your first phrase in Yoruba is Ẹ káàárọ̀,
‘Ẹ káàárọ̀’ means ‘good morning’,
Don’t be alarmed by the accents and the dots, this article gives a clear explanation to how Yoruba accents work.
Phonetically you would pronounce ‘Ẹ káàárọ̀’ like ‘Eh-kah-ah-roh’ , and make your voice drop when you say ‘roh’.
‘Ẹ káàárọ̀’ is used in the same way that you would use ‘good morning’ in English, it is used from the early morning to just before 12pm.
Saying ‘good morning’ to friends or colleagues
Now you wouldn’t actually say Ẹ káàárọ̀ to your friends, colleagues or people younger than you, that’s way too formal!
With friends and colleagues you would drop the ‘Ẹ’ and just say ‘káàárọ̀’, but as you’re probably a Yoruba beginner I would recommend that you just say ‘Ẹ káàárọ̀’ at all times.
So that you don’t mistakenly drop the ‘Ẹ’ one day and offend all the older people around you, it can be really offensive to say ‘kaaaro’ to someone older than you in Yoruba, it’s basically like saying, ‘hey peasant’ to your Aunty (I exaggerate but you get what I mean).
People can even use it as a way to disrespect people, I remember when a kid dropped the ‘Ẹ’ when he was talking to my Mum one day and she was FUMING!
Anyhoo, swiftly moving on, the next word of our Yoruba phrases list is…
2. Ẹ káàsán – good afternoon
‘Ẹ káàsán’ means ‘good afternoon’ in Yoruba.
Phonetically you would pronounce Ẹ káàsán like ‘Eh-kah-son’, this time raise your voice when you say ‘son’.
‘Ẹ káàsán’ is used between 12pm and up to around 5pm.
Just as I said before, you can drop the ‘Ẹ’ when you’re talking to friends, colleagues and to people that are younger than you, but to be on the safe side you can just leave it.
And the third and final important greeting that I will go through today is…
3. Ẹ káalẹ́ – good evening/night
‘Ẹ káalẹ́’ means ‘good evening/night’.
Phonetically you would pronounce ‘Ẹ káalẹ́’ like ‘Eh-kah-leh’, raise your voice when you say ‘leh’.
You would use ‘Ẹ káalẹ́’ in the late evening or at night time.
And you already know what’s up with the ‘Ẹ’ in Yoruba so I won’t go on about it,
Add the word Ma after all these Yoruba greetings to be polite when talking to an older women, and say ‘sah’ when talking to to an older man.
‘Sah’ and ‘ma’ and just the Yoruba equivalent of, ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’ respectively, but they aren’t as formal in Yoruba as they are in English.
Now on to another really important part of Yoruba, asking how people are, I’ll start off with the really formal way of asking this.
4. Ṣé àlàáfíà lẹ wà? – How are you (formal)
‘Ṣé àlàáfíà lẹ wà?’ is a nice, formal and respectful way of asking an older person how they are, and if someone asks you, ‘Ṣé àlàáfíà lẹ wà?’ you should respond with ‘àlàáfíà ni’.
If you’re talking to a younger person or to someone your age, you can just ask ‘Ṣé àlàáfíà ni?’ instead.
Phonetically you would pronounce ‘Ṣé àlàáfíà lẹ wà?’ like ‘shay ah-lah-fee-yah lẹ wà?’ and you would pronounce, ‘Ṣé àlàáfíà ni?’ as ‘shay ah-lah-fee-yah knee’.
There’s actually a slightly more casual way of asking someone how they are in Yoruba, it is…
Yoruba asking how someone is
5. Ṣé dáadáa ni? – How are you
‘Ṣé dáadáa ni’ translated to English is so close to the English expression, ‘you alright yeah?’ (youu all good? you want food? come to…).
Again you would just respond to this question with ‘dáadáa ni’ or Adúpẹ́.
Phonetically you pronounce ‘ṣé dáadáa ni’ like ‘shay daah-daah knee’ make sure to draw out the ‘ah’ sounds, and you pronounce adúpẹ́ like ‘ah-doo-peh’.
Fun fact: Daadaa is actually a short form of the longer Yoruba word ‘dáradára’, but who’s got time to be saying ‘dáradára’ all the time, when you can keep it short and simple with ‘daadaa’.
Finally, the most informal and chill way of asking someone how are you in Yoruba,
6. Báwo ni? – How are you (informal)
‘Báwo ni’ means how are you in Yoruba, some people even shorten this Yoruba phrase even more to just ‘Báwo’, (meh to each their own).
If someone asks you, ‘Báwo ni?” and you’re feeling good just say, ‘dáadáa ni’,
Now on to pronunciation, phonetically you would pronounce ‘Báwo ni’ like ‘BAH-woah knee’, make sure to raise your voice when you say ‘BAH’.
I hope you’re noticing a pattern here, whenever you see an upwards facing accent on a Yoruba letter, you pronounce that letter (or syllable) in a high pitch.
Great! That’s all the important Yoruba greetings done, let’s move on to introductions in Yoruba.
7. Orúkọ mi ni – My name is
‘Orúkọ mi ni’ means ‘my name is’ in Yoruba, (more literally translated it would be, name my is).
To say your name just say ‘Orúkọ mi ni’ and tack your name on to the end of this Yoruba phrase.
Phonetically, ‘orúkọ mi ni’ would be pronounced as, ‘oh-roo-koh me knee’, make sure to raise your voice when you say ‘roo’ (I’m just trying to help you blend in in these Lagos streets).
Now obviously you might want to ask someone what their name is in Yoruba, and to do that you would say,
8. Kí l’orúkọ ẹ? – What is your name
‘Kí l’orúkọ ẹ’ means ‘what is your name?’ in Yoruba.
This Yoruba phrase has a special place in my heart, because in secondary we used to sing Rhianna’s song, ‘Oh Na Na what’s my name’ but replace it with, ‘Oh Na Na Kí l’orúkọ mi’ for bants. As you can see we were hilarious children…
Anyways, something special about this phrase is that it contains so many Yoruba contractions. The full version of this phrase would actually be, ‘kí ni orúkọ rẹ’, but one thing that you should know about Yoruba people is that they love to contract their words.
So the the ‘ni’ and ‘o’ mush together to form ‘l’o’ and the ‘r’ is dropped from the ‘rẹ’.
Next we will move on to short Yoruba phrases, such as please, thank you e.t.c.
Yoruba Responses and Requests
9. Ẹ Jọ̀ọ́ – Please
‘Ẹ jọ̀ọ́’ means ‘please’ in Yoruba, if you’re from a Nigerian household you’ve probably heard this phrase many times before,
Phonetically you pronounce Ẹ jọ̀ọ́ like ‘Eh-joh’.
Ẹ jọ̀ọ́ is actually the short form of a longer word (just like dáradára) it is short for the word ‘Ẹ jọ̀wọ́’.
As I said before Yoruba people like to contract their words and there are so many ways to contract Yoruba phrases.
You’ve already seen a lot of words with different Yoruba accents and dots, and each of them have a particular way that they should be pronounced. You can learn how to pronounce Yoruba words with audio here.
10. Ẹ má bínú
‘Ẹ má bínú’ means ‘sorry’ in Yoruba (or more like, don’t be angry with me).
You say ‘Ẹ má bínú’ when you want to apologise to somebody for something that you’ve done.
Phonetically you would pronounce ‘Ẹ má bínú’ like ‘Eh MAH BEE-NEW’
11. Ẹ ṣé – Thank you
‘Ẹ ṣé’ means ‘thank you’ in Yoruba, you might actually hear people say the Yoruba phrase ‘Ẹ ṣé gan an’ which literally just means ‘thank you very much’.
So if someone brings you a nice steaming hot plate of Jollof rice, with a large piece of chicken leg and fried plantain on the side…you know what to say.
Phonetically, you pronounce ‘Ẹ ṣé’ as ‘Eh shay’, raise your voice when you say ‘shay’. And you pronounce ‘Ẹ ṣé gan an’ as ‘Eh shay gone’.
To talk to a friend or someone Younger than you, this time you don’t just drop the ‘Ẹ’, you also put an ‘o’ before the ṣé, so it becomes o ṣé.
12. Bẹ́ẹ̀ ni – Yes
‘Bẹ́ẹ̀ ni’ means ‘yes’ in Yoruba, and you use it exactly the same way that you would use yes in English.
Phonetically you pronounce ‘Bẹ́ẹ̀ ni’ like ‘Beh-eh knee’, really try to make the ‘eh’s of ‘Bẹ́ẹ̀ ni’ roll into each other. If you want to learn Yoruba words with audio for free, make sure to check out our Yoruba games.
Add the word Ma after bẹ́ẹ̀ ni to be polite when talking to an older lady, and say ‘sah’ after the word ‘bẹ́ẹ̀ ni’ when talking to to an older gentleman.
13. Rárá – No
‘Rárá’ means ‘no’ or ‘not at all’ in Yoruba.
Phonetically you pronounce ‘Rárá’ like ‘rah-rah’, make sure to say it quickly.
So if someone asks you something and the answer is no, just say rárá.
14. Bóyá – Maybe
‘Bóyá’ means ‘maybe’ in Yoruba. You can use it as a standalone response to a question, or you can form statements with it, just as you can do in English.
“Can you help me get it?”
“Bóyá I will have time to help you get it”
Phonetically, you pronounce ‘Bóyá’ as ‘boy-yah’ , make sure to raise your voice when you say the word.
15. Ó dàbọ̀ – goodbye
‘Ó dàbọ̀’ means ‘goodbye’ in Yoruba, and you use it in exactly the same way that you would use goodbye in English.
Phonetically, you pronounce ‘Ó dàbọ̀’ as ‘Oh dah-boh’, raise your voice when you say ‘Oh’and drop it when you say ‘dah-boh’.
16. Ó dáàrọ̀ – goodnight
‘Ó dáàrọ̀’ means ‘goodnight’ in Yoruba. It’s very similar to goodbye in Yoruba ‘Ó dàbọ̀’. So in the evening when you’re ready to go to bed, you can say a quick Ó dáàrọ̀ to whoever is around.
Phonetically, you pronounce ‘Ó dáàrọ̀’ as ‘Oh dah-roh’, raise your voice when you say ‘Oh’and drop it when you say ‘roh’.
17. Jare – Yoruba slang (anyways)
Here’s a fun little new word which is Yoruba slang. It can be used to express many things, so it’s something that you would probably learn after spending a bit of time with some Nigerian friends.
The best English equivalent that I can find for the word ‘Járè’ is ‘anyways’ or ‘leave it’, but it really depends on the context.
“Have you not found your bag yet?”
“Uh Járè, I’ve not had time,”
Phonetically, you pronounce ‘Járè’ as ‘Jah-ray’, raise your voice on the ‘Jah’ and drop it on the ‘ray’.
Back to the regular words…
Yoruba describing what you want/have
18. Mo fẹ́ – I want
‘Mo fẹ́’ means ‘I want’ in Yoruba. Whatever you want, just tack it on to the end of the phrase ‘Mo fẹ́’,
“Mo fẹ́ bread”
“Mo fẹ́ sleep”
“Mo fẹ́ bag”
You can make it more respectful by adding ‘Ẹ Jọ̀ọ́’ before the Yoruba phrase ‘Mo fẹ́’.
Phonetically, you pronounce ‘Mo fẹ́’ as ‘Mow feh’, raise your voice when you say ‘fẹ́’.
19. Mo ní láti – I have to
It’s not always nice when we have to do something.
‘Mo ní láti’ means ‘I have to’ in Yoruba. Just like with ‘Mo fẹ́’ you just need to tack the thing that you have to do after this Yoruba phrase.
“Mo ní láti eat”
“Mo ní láti sleep”
“Mo ní láti go”
Phonetically, you pronounce ‘Mo ní láti’ as ‘Mow knee lah-tea’. Raise your voice when you say ‘knee’ and ‘lah’.
Yoruba asking where things are
20. Níbo ni…wà? – Where is the…?
‘Níbo ni (object) wà’, means ‘where is the (object)’. On to the pronunciations…
Phonetically, you pronounce ‘Níbo ni…wà? ’ as ‘Knee-bow knee…wah’, make sure to pronounce the bow like the ‘bow’ you put on your head not like ‘bow’ when someone is greeting royalty.
Raise your voice when you say the first ‘knee’ and drop your voice when you say ‘wah’.
Yoruba asking how someone is
21. Ìwọ ńkọ́? – How about you?
‘Ìwọ ńkọ́’ means ‘how about you’ in Yoruba and is used in the same way that it is used in English e.g.
“I’m want bread, ìwọ ńkọ́?”
“I want bread as well,”
Phonetically, you pronounce ‘ìwọ ńkọ́’ as ‘ee-woh nn-koh’ with the ‘nn’ just being a nasal sound. Make sure to raise your voice when you say ‘nn-koh’.
22. Ó wà – She/he is okay
‘Ó wà’ means ‘he/she is okay’ in Yoruba.
It’s used in response to when some is asking you how a sibling or friend is, you would just reply with Ó wà.
“How is your brother?”
NB – don’t use Ó wà when referring to an older person or to a parent.
Phonetically, you pronounce ‘Ó Wà’ as ‘oh-wah’, make sure to raise your voice on the ‘ó’ and to drop it on the ‘wah’.
Yoruba likes and dislikes
23. Mo fẹ́ràn – I like/love
‘Mo fẹ́ràn’ means ‘I like/love’ in Yoruba. Just add whatever it is that you like to the end of this Yoruba phrase,
“Mo fẹ́ràn the dresses”
“Mo fẹ́ràn the book”
“Mo fẹ́ràn my mum”
Phonetically, you pronounce ‘Mo fẹ́ràn’ as ‘mow feh-ran’, make sure to raise your voice on the ‘feh’ and to drop it on the ‘ran’.
24. Mi ò fẹ́ràn – I don’t like/love
‘Mi ò fẹ́ràn’ means ‘I don’t like’ in Yoruba. Just add whatever it is that you don’t like to the end of this phrase,
“Mi ò fẹ́ràn bread”
“Mi ò feran my friend”
“Mi ò feran chocolate”
Phonetically, you pronounce ‘Mi ò fẹ́ràn’ as ‘me oh feh-ran’, make sure to raise your voice on the ‘feh’ and to drop it on the ‘ran’.
25. Dúró – Wait/stop
‘Dúró’ means ‘wait’ or stop. If someone is leaving you can get them to hold on a second by saying dúró.
Phonetically, you pronounce ‘dúró’ as ‘do-row’, the ‘row’ is pronounced like the ‘row’ in row your boat, make sure to raise your voice when you say the word.
26. Wá – Come
‘Wá’ means ‘come’ in Yoruba. Funnily enough Yoruba speakers (particularly parents) like to repeat the word, so you might hear someone say “Wá wá wá” when they’re calling someone to come.
A popular expression is ‘Wá jẹun” which essentially means ‘come and eat’.
Now back to pronunciations.
Phonetically, you pronounce ‘Wá’ as ‘Wah’, raise your voice when you say ‘Wah’. And you pronounce ‘Wá jẹun’ as ‘Wah jeh-oon’.
27. Jókòó – sit down
‘Jókòó’ means ‘sit’ in Yoruba. You might hear someone say “Ẹ jókòó” to politely request an elder to sit down. But usually it’s more for an adult telling a child to sit.
Phonetically, you pronounce ‘Jókòó’ as ‘Joe-ko’. The way that you pronounce the ko should be in such a way that it rhymes with ‘Joe’.
28. Ṣo ti gbọ́? – Have you heard?
‘Ṣo ti gbọ́’ translated literally means ‘have you heard?’
Someone might be telling you something and then just to make sure that you have fully understood what they have said, they may finish it with a ‘Ṣo ti gbọ́?’
Phonetically, you pronounce ‘Ṣo ti gbọ́’ as ‘show tea gboh’ , make sure to raise your voice when you say the word ‘gboh’.
29. Mo ti gbọ́ – I have heard
‘Mo ti gbọ́’ translated literally means ‘I have heard’.
When someone says to you ‘Ṣo ti gbọ́?’ you can respond with ‘Mo ti gbọ́’
Phonetically, you pronounce ‘Mo ti gbọ́’ as ‘mow tea gboh’ , make sure to raise your voice when you say the word ‘gboh’.
And that’s it! You now know the 30 most essential Yoruba phrases.
We post new helpful Yoruba phrases every week so make sure to keep coming back, and if you would like to learn more about the Yoruba alphabet and on how to pronounce Yoruba words you can see our FREE online Yoruba lessons here.
Well that’s all for now,