Does “Chioma” Really Mean Good God?

Does “Chioma” Really Mean Good God?

By Azuka Onwuka

Chioma Ajunwa had the good fortune of winning Nigeria's first Olympic gold medal
Chioma Ajunwa had the good fortune of winning Nigeria’s first Olympic gold medal

The Igbo name “Chioma” does not mean “good God”. Chi oma means “good luck” or “good fortune”. Its opposite is chi ojoo (bad luck/bad fortune).

If “chi oma” meant “good God,” the implication is that “chi ojoo” would mean “bad God” – that is blasphemy in Christianity. In Igbo cosmology, nothing stands alone: when one thing stands, another stands beside it. If there is good, then there must be bad, and if there is male, there must be female. There is no absolutism.

Chioma literally means “good personal god.” The Igbos believe that each person has a personal god (like a guardian angel) that creates each person and determines whatever happens to that individual. It is called “chi”. So when good things happen to an individual, the individual is said to have a good chi: ie the person is lucky. If bad things happen to an individual, the person is said to have a bad chi: ie the person is unfortunate.

If one million people conspire to kill a person but the person’s chi is against it, that conspiracy will not succeed. It is one’s chi that can decide if an individual can die or survive at any point. That is why the Igbos say: Onye chi ya egbughi, o dighi onye ga-egbuni ya (If a person is not killed by his/her chi, nobody can kill that person).

It is believed that before birth, an individual sits down with his/her chi to discuss the person’s fate. So when calamities and untimely death befall a person, the Igbos say: O bu otu ya na chi ya siri kpaa.

Chioma Chukwuka-Apotha, one of Nigeria's top actresses
Chioma Chukwuka-Akpotha, one of Nigeria’s top actresses

Chi also means “day”. So when someone says “Chi m efola”, it means literally “my day has broken” but figuratively “my time of good fortune has come”.

Of all the deities in the Igbo pantheon, the chi is the only one that has refused to be abandoned by the Igbos, even though it is not in conformity with Christianity. It is part and parcel of the Igbo thought and worldview. What has been done is that chi has been forced to also mean “God” so as not to look as if Igbo Christians still associate themselves with idolatory.

But God’s name is Chukwu (the big Chi), Chineke, Olisa, Osebuluwa, Eke, etc. That is why even before Christianity arrived, the Igbos bore names like Onuchukwu, Unachukwu, Afiachukwu, Nwolisa, Osadebe/Olisadebe, Ekeyekwu, etc.

Furthermore, chi does not centrally mean “other gods” as is shown in the Igbo Bible. The translators chose chi to mean “gods”. In most Igbo communities, the gods of the land are called “mmuo” or “arusi” or “agbara”. “Mmuo” also means “spirit”.

But in spite of the modern attempt to make chi to mean God, the only name for “good luck/good fortune” in Igbo remains “chi oma”. “Iru oma” or “ihu oma” means favour. If two women take some goods to the market for sale, and one sells hers fast, she is said to have “iru oma”. But if five people are in a house and it collapses with only one person surviving, that person is said to have chi oma.

Finally, most names that have chi in them have Chukwu versions eg Chika – Chukwuka, Chima – Chukwuma, Oluchi – Oluchukwu, etc. But it is rare to hear of someone with the name Chukwuoma as a version of Chioma. Why? God as identified in Christianity is associated with goodness and purity. Therefore, talking about a “good God” implies that there is a bad God. That is blasphemous. Nobody would want to think of that.

So what do you think?


  1. nnaneme February 9, 2017 Reply
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