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How to Say ‘I Love You’ in a Dozen Nigerian Languages

We know how to say “I love you” in many of the world’s languages; Ti amo, Je t’aime, Ich liebe dich, Te amo…and that’s all good, but what about languages spoken here in Nigeria?

Here’s how to say “I love you” in just 12 of the languages spoken across Nigeria, which has over 250 ethnic groups:

  1. “Mo ni fe re” is Yoruba for “I love you” and literally translates to “I have your love.” Yoruba language needs little introduction as it is one of the 4 official languages of Nigeria. Yoruba is spoken principally in Nigeria and Benin Republic, but there are communities in other countries where Yoruba is spoken as a native language, including Brazil.
  2. “Na fedo we” is simply “I love you” in Igala language, spoken by the Igalas of Kogi State, where Lord Lugard had his first residence and office in Nigeria. A bathtub belonging to him is still in Kogi State to this day.
  3. “Me vwe eguono kpa ho we”: This is “I love you” in Urhobo, the mother tongue of the Urhobo people including our beloved thespian Richard Mofe-Damijo, Rev. Chris Okotie, poet and novelist Ben Okri, late statesman Gamaliel Onosode, and late gospel singer Kefee. Literal translation? “I have love for you.” Alternatively, some say “Wo jevwe” for “I love you”, which literally means “You please/delight me”.
  4. “I like your trouble” is the literal translation of “Me hue ebhon e”, “I love you” in Esan, the language of the Esan people in Edo State. Esanland is home to Ambrose Alli University (AAU), which used to be Edo State University (EDSU) and was originally created by Esan son Ambrose Alli when he was Governor of Edo State, as Bendel State University. Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, Sir Victor Uwaifo, Anthony Enahoro, Charles Inojie, Anthony Anenih, late musician Sunny Okosun and former first lady Stella Obasanjo of blessed memory, are just a few of the many notable Esan people.
  5. “A fuulu m gi n’anya”/“Ahuru m gi n’anya”: This is how to say “I love you” in Igbo. Literal translation: “I see you in my eye.” Igbo is also one of Nigeria’s 4 official languages, and it is the language in which the first Nollywood movies (Living in Bondage, Evil Passion, Taboo, etc) were made.
  6. “Ina son ka”: These were the first words I learnt to say in Hausa. If you’re saying “I love you” to a female, it’s “Ina son ki. Literal translation: “I want you”. Sexy, no? Hausa is one of Nigeria’s official languages, and it is the mother tongue of our current president, Muhammadu Buhari.
  7. “Ye tare me/Eh tari mi” is how you say “I love you” in Ijaw language, which has about 9 dialects. Ijaws are found in Bayelsa, Rivers and Delta States. There are also Arugbo Ijaws (Yoruba Ijaws) and Edo Ijaws who speak Ijaw mixed with Yoruba and Edo (Bini) respectively. Immediate past president, Goodluck Jonathan, renowned poet and playwright John Pepper Clark, founder/president of Silverbird Group Senator Ben Murray-Bruce, and Miss World 2001 (first black African to win the title) Agbani Darego, are native speakers of Ijaw.
  8. “Ami mme uma fien” is I love you in Ibibio, spoken in Akwa Ibom State. Contrary to what a lot of people think, they’re not “Calabar” even though both are neighbours and their languages are very similar. Star actress Nse Ikpe-Etim, and sister-filmmakers Emem Isong and Uduak Isong-Oguamanam, are Ibibio.
  9. “Mmema fi” is “I love you” in Efik, spoken in Cross River State whose capital is Calabar. The state is host to Mo Abudu’s Ebony Life TV, as well as the popular Obudu Cattle Ranch. Efik is the mother tongue of the amiable actress, Kate Henshaw.
  10. “Ma nyi-oyi si awu” is “I love you” in Ebira, spoken by the Ebira people of Kogi State (the Ebiras can also be found in neighbouring Kwara State, as well as Nasarawa State). Not sure you know any Ebira person? You do, if you know screen darling Mercy Johnson-Okojie.
  11. “Ndoka’o ga ga” literally means “I like you very much” but that’s how to say “I love you” in Idoma, the language of the Idoma people of Benue State, the food basket of the nation. Former Senate President, David Mark, is Idoma.
  12. In the ancient city of Benin in Edo State, “Iru emwen rue” is how you say “I love you” and it simply means “I love you!” The University of Benin, which produced Nigeria’s first female Vice-Chancellor, is located in Benin.

How do you say “I love you” in your own language? Do leave a comment!

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Joy Ehonwa

Joy Ehonwa is an editor and a writer who is passionate about relationships and personal development. She runs Pinpoint Creatives, a proofreading, editing, transcription and ghostwriting service. Email: pinpointcreatives [at] yahoo.com

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. ngozika

    ngozika

    7th July 2016 at 7:47 pm

    The igbo translation is mine and I simply love it. However I still find the hausa translation quite sexy.:)

    • Avatar

      Shivam Sharma

      1st October 2017 at 5:49 pm

      How can we say you are so bueatiful in igbo.
      I found the translation good.

  2. Avatar

    Jeanette Rodriguez

    28th October 2018 at 11:04 am

    In zpanish te amo

  3. Avatar

    Mogwan Muzik

    12th December 2018 at 7:00 pm

    in luganda in Uganda we say “nkwagala”

  4. Avatar

    Charles Okokon

    22nd March 2019 at 9:25 pm

    The nigerian languages are very interesting, especially ibibio language in akwa ibom state, i love it.

  5. Avatar

    Veronica

    27th May 2019 at 7:19 pm

    Kea u rata is I love you in South Sesotho…
    After reading this I just descovered the meaning of one of my old favourite songs by a South African group called Malika “Mo ni fe re”. I’m just in love with Nigerian culture… Learning more about it is just humbling…

  6. Avatar

    Abubakar Sadeeq

    20th July 2019 at 7:52 am

    Amie yidie ma. that’s the best way to say I love you in fulfulde

  7. Avatar

    Mike

    22nd July 2019 at 1:52 pm

    i enjoyed your post

  8. Avatar

    Thabi Mhlongo

    3rd September 2019 at 8:49 am

    Ngiyakutsandza is I love you in my “swati” language (south African)

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