How Was Lagos Named? – Meaning & History

This article is focused on the name of a state in Nigeria, ‘Lagos’.

Lagos is a well-known State in Nigeria and one of Africa’s prestigious cities. It houses most of the nation’s strategic business empires and conglomerates; from entertainment outfits to tech companies.

Others include headquarters of banking and financial institutions, as well as federal government-owned institutions.

Lagos: Name Meaning And Origin

However, how many people are not aware of how the name Lagos came to be? Or how this area of islands, creeks, and lagoons came to be named Lagos.

What is the story behind the naming and who named it Lagos.

If you belong to the category that doesn’t know how the name Lagos originates, then this post is for you. Relax and enjoy the ride as we drive you back to time-past and history.

How Lagos Was Named?

So many Nigerians believed the name Lagos was born out of baptism by a certain local Yoruba extraction.

Their views are not far from the truth. Even though It only represents a fiction of their imagination and distorted sense of history.

There are two different accounts of the story behind the naming of Lagos. The first is indigenous. While the second is foreign

The Indigenous Account On Naming Lagos

The indigenous account of the naming of what is today known as Lagos is the traditional version. It is more of an oral account of what transpired in the years before the city was birthed.

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The facts presented are subject to scrutiny; however, this story has been passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth or through written text.

It is pertinent to note that Nigerians and Africans have a strong belief system for stories regarding their past. So if you are a lover of traditional stories especially the ones that concern the origins of your locality, read this.

In reality, the expanse that is identified today as Lagos was initially inhabited by the Awori ethnic group, which is a smaller group of the Yoruba people. The group has a leader in the person of Oloye Olofin.

With his guidance, the Awori relocated to a small island called Iddo.

Very much later, they moved again but this time around to a much bigger Island known today as Lagos Island. A war broke out In the 15th century, and the Aworis were defeated in the battle.

The Bini people of the Benin Kingdom took over the Island and named it ‘Eko‘.

At the time, Eko was presided over by Oba Orhogba, the Oba of Benin. To this day, Yoruba people still refer to Lagos as Eko.  Notably, Lagos became a strategic region for the booming slave trade of the 18th century.

From the short account given above, it is interesting to note that the naming of the city as Lagos is credited to the indigenous people of that period.

The Foreign Account Of Lagos As A Name

Different variations to the naming of Lagos have been provided by various historians. First, it was linked to the Portuguese. Others linked it to the then Governor-General, Lord Lugard.

  • Portuguese Meaning

It will interest you to know that the word ‘Lagos’ is a Portuguese word that means lakes.

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It is on record that the Portuguese were the first set of European immigrants to visit the area initially occupied by the Awori and Bini people, known as Oko.

Later in the earliest part of the 20th, the Portuguese adopted Onim and used it interchangeably with Lagos.

But it was later abandoned for Lagos. Though Lagos means “lakes” in Portuguese, it also means “Lagoon”, or a saltwater body of water linked to the ocean by waterways that flow dependent on the wave.

You can see that Lagos is a Portuguese word that has an English meaning. It would be bad to say that the Portuguese named the city based on its natural characteristics.

As you can see Lagos is surrounded by a massive body of water that flows directly into the Atlantic, so the name Lagos fits it.

  • Historical Variation

A good number of historians from the country have written different accounts of what lead to the naming of the city. We are going to dwell on the details of the different historians here.

Some claimed that Rui De Sequeira, a Portuguese explorer gave Lagos its name following his visitation to the area in the year 1472. He named the area surrounding the city ‘Lago de Curamo’ meaning Lake of Healing in English.

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This historical account links the famous traveler with the naming of Lagos. Though his baptism of the name gives a strange meaning. Could it be that he had an epiphany during his visit? Well, that is mere speculation on our part.

Maybe the beauty of the natural body of water wows him to the extent that he could only compare it to a healing lake. No wonder, today people from all over Africa and the world come to Lagos for business and leisure. They are tapping from the richness of the city.

While other historians think that the area was named after the city of Lagos in Portugal. The city is a maritime town and it remains the focal point of Portuguese excursions down the coast of Africa.

Its name was derived from the Latin word Lacobriga which is translated as “warm water.”

Isn’t it exciting that there is a city in Portugal that shares similar features with that of Nigeria’s megacity? It wasn’t difficult for the Portuguese to give the name since they have one just like it.

Furthermore, there is also another theory that suggests Lord Lugard named the city Lagos. He was the Governor-General Of Nigeria. He presides over the territories that make up Nigeria on behalf of Queen Elizabeth 1 of England.

Being in charge means he can name and rename any area in the country that deems fit to him. So, it is possible that he named the area Lagos.

In conclusion, we can say that Lagos was a name given by foreigners rather than by its indigenous inhabitants. But still, the indigenous account cannot be thrown out. It is what Lagosians hold to their hearts.

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