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(yō`ro͞obä), people of SW Nigeria and Benin, numbering about 20 million. Today many of the large cities in Nigeria (including LagosLagos
, city (1991 est. pop. 1,274,000), SW Nigeria, on the Gulf of Guinea. It comprises the island of Lagos and three former neighboring islands (now connected by landfill to the mainland or Lagos).
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, IbadanIbadan
, city (1991 est. pop. 1,263,000), SW Nigeria. The second largest city in Nigeria, it is a major commercial center. Manufactures include metal products, furniture, soap, and handicrafts.
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, and AbeokutaAbeokuta
, city (1991 est. pop. 377,000), SW Nigeria. It is the trade center for an agricultural region producing rice, yams, cassava, cotton, fruit, vegetables, and palm products. Manufactures of the city include beer, cement, dyed textiles, and canned foods.
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) are in Yorubaland. The old Yoruba kingdom of Oyo was traditionally one of the largest states of W Africa, but after the mid-1700s its power slowly waned. At the beginning of the 19th cent., Fulani invasions, slave raids from Dahomey, and the growing contact with Europeans divided the Yoruba into a number of small states. In the second half of the 19th cent. the Yoruba gradually fell under British control, and they were under direct British administration from 1893 until 1960. Yoruba religion includes a variety of gods. Vestiges of Yoruba culture are also found in Brazil and Cuba, where Yoruba were imported as slaves.


See G. J. A. Ojo, Yoruba Culture (1967); E. Krapf-Askari, Yoruba Towns and Cities (1969); R. S. Smith, Kingdoms of the Yoruba (1969); H. Courlander, Tales of Yoruba Gods and Heroes (1973).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a people living in western and southwestern Nigeria (10 to 12 million persons in 1972, according to rough estimates); Dahomey (more than 200, 000 persons), where they are called the Nago or Anago; and Togo, where a small number lives.

The ethnic Yoruba groups include the 6yo, Ife, Ijesha, and Egba. They all consider themselves a single people and have a single culture. They speak the Yoruba language, which has a number of dialects. The Yoruba language has its own literature; newspapers are published in the language, and it is used for instruction in the schools. Islam and Christianity coexist among the Yoruba, along with a polytheism with a well-developed pantheon of gods. States existed among the Yoruba long before the arrival of Europeans in West Africa (in the 15th century). The Yoruba were the creators of remarkable bronze and terra-cotta sculptures that flourished from the 12th to the 14th century and that were possibly associated with the more ancient Nok culture (end of the first millennium b.c.). The Yoruba art of bronze-casting was taken up by the Benin peoples. The chief occupation of the Yoruba is farming (yams, cacao). Among the Yoruba, developing capitalist relations are closely intertwined with strong survivals of earlier social structures.


Ismagilova, R. N. Narody Nigerii. Moscow, 1963.
Forde, D. The Yoruba-speaking Peoples of Southwestern Nigeria. London, 1951.
Johnson, S. The History of the Yorubas: From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the British Protectorate. London, 1921.




the language of the Yoruba people. Yoruba is related to the Kwa subgroup of the Guinean language group. Yoruba is spoken mainly in the western and southwestern regions of Nigeria, in some areas of Dahomey, and in the eastern regions of Togo. The number of Yoruba speakers is approximately 10 to 12 million (1972, estimate). Yoruba is divided into a number of dialects. It has seven pure and seven nasal vowels. Elision and vowel harmony are common. Monosyllabic and dissyllabic words predominate. High, low, and mid tones are clearly distinguished, although there are also sliding tones (rising and falling). The tones have semantic significance (for example, fo, “to break”; fo, “to wash”; fo, “to speak”). Yoruba is an isolating language. Grammatical gender and nominal declensions are absent. The verb is not marked for person, number, and voice. Syntactic relations are expressed by rigid word order and auxiliary words. The Yoruba writing system is based on the Roman alphabet.


Iakovleva, V. K. Iazyk ioruba. Moscow, 1963.
Gaye, J. A., and W. S. Beecroft. Yoruba Grammar, 3rd ed. London, 1951.
Abraham, R. C. Dictionary of Modern Yoruba. London 1958.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.



The Yoruba, considered the most urbane group in Nigeria, with the longest history of Westernization, Christianity, and education, live in southwestern Nigeria and the adjacent sections of Dahomey. They include the patrician families of Lagos and have an ancient tradition of kingship. Yoruba paganism is characterized by a variety of theological elements, such as a supreme being, subordinate deities, ancestors, sacred kings, all sorts of local spirits, and an elaborate system of divination.

According to Yoruba thought, the human being possesses multiple souls, each representing a significant dimension of social experience. Among these is the life-breath, given by Olorun at birth, containing one’s personal vitality and strength. The life-breath is nourished by food and may be trapped by witches when it leaves the body in sleep during dreams, causing death.

Peter McKenzie’s study of dreams and visions among the Yoruba in the middle of the nineteenth century reports the accounts of dreams told by the Yoruba to the catechists of Christian missions. These dreams can be classified according to four significant themes. First of all is the traditional Yoruba use of dreams in dealing with the contingencies attributed to the gods. The second of them concerns dreams associated with crises of religious identity. Third is a series of explicit accounts of conversion in which dreams are featured. The fourth theme deals with visions of sick and dying early Christian converts.

According to McKenzie’s study, traditional Yoruba recollections of dreams contain the themes of neglect of social obligations, estrangement from the gods, and the threatening isolation of sickness, captivity, or a journey. Dreams are used by the Yoruba to achieve both social and personal integration. They can also be adapted to the needs of deep religious change, generally experienced as a crisis of identity or as spiritual conversion.

The Dream Encyclopedia, Second Edition © 2009 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
As scholar Erik Davis writes of Eshu,Legba's Yoruban counterpart, "[Eshu] knows that the powerof ambiguity and the multiplicity of perspectives can change the fixedinto the free."
She calls Osundare, "Osun's precious gift." Part of the Yoruban pantheon, Osun is associated with fertility and life-giving waters:
Like Melling, Nakjavani recalls Hemingway's long-time interest in religion, including Santeria, a hybrid religion combining Catholic and Yoruban traditions which Nakjavani takes as a particularly fitting model for Hemingway's spiritual quest in Africa.
Each play of the trilogy is framed within different elements of ancient "folklore, myth, and magic," much of it Yoruban, almost all of it womanist, and each play is grounded in a different element.
Du Bois's sense of double consciousness alongside Wole Soyinka's Yoruban notion of the underworld, evoking both Western and African aesthetics in his examination of Butler's characters and their marginalized identities as survival instruments.
Most of them were from the Yoruban ethnic group in a part of West Africa that now comprises Nigeria and Benin.
Clarke identifies four categories of practitioners: 1) those in Nigeria, Benin and surrounding West African countries, who embrace orisa as a continuing but declining tradition; 2) those across the Americas, who form the largest group and who accept to varying degrees the hybridization of orisa; 3) post-1960s revivalists, mostly Yoruban, who seek to return to a more orthodox practice which often includes purging whiteness from the religion; and 4) post-1980s modernists, led primarily by white Americans and Europeans who seek to transcend racial membership emphasized by ancestral lineage in the religion.
El Monte (1954)(The Bush) is her noted study of the "Santeria" religion; it discusses Santeria's merging of Yoruban deities with Roman Catholic saints and its herbal pharmacopoeia.
Baker, Jr.'s "crossroads" trope, the Yoruban concept of ashe, Wilson Harris's "limbo imagination," and the "single History" of Edouard Glissant, among others) that undergird the book's interpretive practice.
The complex layering of the Afrobeat sound is broken down and then reassembled in the opening stretch as Fela traces the multifold influences he absorbed at home and during his time in London and the U.S.: Yoruban chants, Highlife horns, James Brown-style funk, freeform American jazz, Cuban big bands, primal bass and a touch of Sinatra smoothness.
Max Roach's Freedom Now Suite (Candid CJM 8002 [1960], LP), an explicitly political concept album by the Max Roach Quintet, with vocalist Abbey Lincoln, and Yoruban drummer, Babatunde Olatunji.