Many Yoruba speakers are unaware that the traditional word for wife in Yoruba is “aya” and not the more frequently used “Iyawo.”
The word “Iyawo” was not used or coined in the Yoruba language in the early years of the Yoruba people; instead, an incident led to its eventual coinage and widespread usage.
* Iyawo’s ancestry in Yoruba
A lovely princess named Wuraola, the daughter of the first monarch of Iwo Town in Yoruba territory, was looking for a patient, understanding, and well-behaved husband.
Powerful and attractive men like Sango, Ogun, and others had already made the trip to Iwo town to ask Wuraola’s hand in marriage, but instead, they returned with overwhelming rage.
A handsome man named Orunmila also traveled to Iwo in an effort to gain Wuraola’s hand in marriage. Nevertheless, he had previously consulted Olodumare, the All-Powerful Being, through Ifa before leaving.
Olodumare told Orunmila that in order for him to be successful in his quest to wed Wuraola, he must be patient with her and put up with whatever undesirable habits she exhibits.
Wuraola hissed at Orunmila and gave him a mocking glance when he arrived at the court of the king of Iwo. Orunmila responded to her pleasantries with a grin and calm demeanor. She also gave the king gifts while doing so.
Orunmila spent seven days at Iwo, which is best described as hell on earth. Orunmila received neither food nor water from Wuraola. Orunmila was insulted to the core, yet he maintained his composure and grinned at her.
He even grinned when she seized his pouch (apo ominijekun) and used his opon ifa (divination board) as firewood. Even though Orunmila was boiling over with wrath, he didn’t show it and followed Olodumare’s instructions to depart Iwo.
The monarch of Iwo town gave Wuraola in marriage to Orunmila on the sixth day of his stay there after deciding that he is a patient, gentle, and tolerant man appropriate to marry his daughter.
The aim was for Wuraola’s terrible actions to put her suitors to the test in order to find her a husband with decent manners and a temper. She was a wonderful, considerate, and polite person.
Orunmila was relieved that he had followed Olodumare’s advice, and on the seventh day, he and Wuraola returned to his hometown.
Orunmila’s accomplishment was applauded and appreciated by the residents of his community. Iya ti mo je ni Iwo (my sorrows in Iwo) was his response when they questioned him about his wife Wuraola. This is how wives came to be known as Iya-Iwo (sufferings in Iwo) and later “Iyawo”