Want study tips sent straight to your inbox? Sign up for our weekly newsletter!

Things Fall Apart

Main Ideas

Igbo Words & Phrases

Main Ideas Igbo Words & Phrases

A list of Igbo words and phrases that appear in Things Fall Apart, as found in the glossary of the 1994 Doubleday/First Anchor Books edition.

agadi-nwayi: old woman

agbala: woman; also used of a man who has taken no title

chi: personal god

efulefu: worthless man

egwugwu: a masquerader who impersonates one of the ancestral spirits of the village

ekwe: a musical instrument; a type of drum made from wood

eneke-nti-oba: A kind of bird

eze-agadi-nwayi: the teeth of an old woman

iba: fever

ilo: the village green, where assemblies for sports, discussions, etc., take place

inyanga: showing off, bragging

isa-ifi: a ceremony. If a wife had been separated from her husband for some time and were then to be re-united with him, this ceremony would be held to ascertain that she had not been unfaithful to him during the time of their separation

iyi-uwa: a special kind of stone which forms the link between an ogbanje and the spirit world. Only if the iyi-uwa were discovered and destroyed would the child not die.

jigida: a string of waist beads

kotma: court messenger. The word is not of Ibo origin but is a corruption of “court messenger.”

kwenu: a shout of approval and greeting

ndichie: elders

nna ayi: our father

nno: welcome

nso-ani: a religious offence of a kind abhorred by everyone, literally earth’s taboo

nza: a very small bird

obi: the large living quarters of the head of the family

obodo dike: the land of the brave

ochu: murder or manslaughter

ogbanje: a changeling; a child who repeatedly dies and returns to its mother to be reborn. It is almost impossible to bring up an ogbanje child without it dying, unless its iyi-uwa is first found and destroyed.

ogene: a musical instrument; a kind of gong

oji odu achu-ijiji-o: (cow i.e., the one that uses that uses its tail to drive flies away.)

osu: outcast. Having been dedicated to a god, the osu was taboo and was not allowed to mix with the freeborn in any way.

Oye: the name of one of the four market days

ozo: the name of one of the titles or ranks

tufia: a curse or oath

udu:  a musical instrument; a type of drum made from pottery

uli: a dye used by women for drawing patterns on the skin

umuada: a family gathering of daughters, for which the female kinsfolk return to their village of origin

umunna: a wide group of kinsman (the masculine form of the word umanda)

uri: part of the betrothal ceremony when the dowry is paid