What is the Meaning of Akata


As a Nigerian living in Nigeria, you probably must have heard or come across the word “Akata”, particularly if you live in the Southwestern part of the country. If not, you probably must have come across the word in Nollywood Yoruba movies and more than ever, the word has gained prominence, with so many people wondering if the word in itself is derogatory, a slur or a compliment.

For the record, controversies have trailed the meaning of the word “Akata” that people tend to argue what its true intention is. There have been social media outcries in the past with a section of people claiming the word was used on them and they considered it derogatory. Despite the supposed slur, the word in itself is multifaceted in meaning, bringing about confusion about the true intention of anyone who uses it on another.

In this post, we shall discuss the meaning of the word “Akata”, its origin, meanings and every other thing associated with it, in hope that the word in itself become clear enough such that non-native speakers can understand its meaning and what it stands for.

Origin of Akata

It is not exactly know how long the word “Akata” has been around. A wild guess suggests over five decades, or fifty years. However, what is certain is that the word is of Yoruba origin. The Yoruba language is the language of the Southwestern people of Nigeria called the Yoruba people. Unfortunately, lack of documentation makes it hard to predict or guess the exact period when the word “Akata” was first used.

What is the Meaning of Akata?

Akátá is a Yoruba word used to refer to Nigerians born abroad, more particularly African-Americans of Nigerian origin. Akátá is a wildcat, a foreigner, or someone who grew up outside of their group or tribe and assimilated foreign values, which is often reflective in their accent. Akátá is another tall, face-covering umbrella hat style. In Yoruba tradition, it was forbidden to cover one’s face, and only a select few were permitted to don the Akátá hat. Ka denotes construction, accumulation, or growth. Ta denotes lengthening, rising up, or growing far. A distant person is thus described as an Akátá.

According to some, Akata also refer to a “cotton picker”; that is, someone who collects or gathers. This particular meaning dates back to when black slaves worked plantations and picked cottons for their white masters. Interestingly, of the several meanings alluded to the word “Akata”, this particular one is the most controversial being that most Yoruba speakers who use the word often do so as way of describing someone and since the Yoruba language is descriptive language, it is almost impossible to claim that people refer to others as Akata do so out of spite.

Akata, more recently is used to refer to cultureless Africans who have lived in the United States or those who were born in the United States and do not uphold the culture of respect for elders and older people.

Is Akata Derogatory?

In its original sense, Akátá is used to describe African-Americans of Nigerian origin who were born in the United States and assimilated foreign values such as orientation, culture, and accent. Akátá is mostly deployed to mean “this person is different as a result of where they are born”, which is not in any way derogatory. Thus, Akátá is not derogatory.

However, in recent times, Akátá has been used in a more derogatory manner. Some Nigerians born in the United States now conveniently use the word on African-Americans of no African origin who refer to themselves as “foundational black Americans”. In general, Akátá is not derogatory. If you have been referred to as one, the best way to consider whether or not it is derogatory based on context of use is to notice or study the context in which it is used.

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