Uganda: Toro “pet names”

An interesting Toro custom is the granting of “pet names” to everyone (Empaako, in the Toro language). Given at birth, these names can change to reflect each person’s accomplishments or personality.

There are 12 Toro pet names and these are used among the Toro as soon as they have moved beyond the initial formality, after meeting each other. They can be used as terms of endearment or honorifics. So you would not greet Andre by his name but by his pet name, say, “Akiki”.

Interestingly, though everyone here has a pet name, no one I spoke to knows the meaning of all 12 names. After a week of extensive enquiries, I was only able to get the meaning of 11 of the names. The Toro are apparently the only tribe in Africa to use pet names with the Bunyoro.

The 12 Toro pet names:

Akiki: adventurer, explorer

Amoti: queen

Atoki: groom

Araali: someone respected, popular

Achaali: …took me a while to find out that one: someone who relates to others easily

Aboli: pussycat

Atenyi: a mythical river snake, with magical powers

Abaala: large, big sized

Apwoli: puppy dog

Adyeri: thunder

Abwoki: piglet

Okaali: reserved for the King