The Yoruba Linguistic structure is one filled with alot of rich words in its lexicon. This means that there are so many words that can be used interchangeably having the same meaning. One of these situation can be noticed in reference to the Yoruba words for Wife.
The original Yorùbá word for wife is ‘Aya’. However, the commonly used Yorùbá for wife is Iyawo. Unknown to a lot the language speakers is the fact that there were some events which occured before the word Iyawo came into existence.
Long ago in Yorùbá land, a beautiful princess and daughter of the first king of Iwó town named Wúràọlá was in the quest of getting herself a patient, tolerant and well mannered husband.
Strong and good looking men, the likes of Sàngó, Ògún and others, had already traveled to Iwó town to seek the hand of Wúràọlá in marriage but left not with a wife but uncontrollable anger. Wúràọlá had been rude to everyone of them. In fact, she hurled insults and curses at her suitors which made them all leave on the same day they arrived the town of Iwo because they couldn’t tolerate her bad behaviors.
Ọ̀rúnmìlà, a good looking man, also journeyed to Iwó in the bid to win the hand of Wúràọlá in marriage. But before he set out, he had already consulted Olódùmarè , the supreme being, through Ifá . Olódùmarè revealed to Òrúnmìlà that he must be patient with Wúràọlá and endure her behaviors no matter how bad they are in order to succeed in the quest of marrying Wúràọlá .
When Òrúnmìlà got to the palace of the king of Iwó, he was greeted with a hiss and scornful look by Wúràọlá. The unperturbed Òrúnmìlà smiled and returned her greetings with kind and sweet words and also presented gifts to the king.
Òrúnmìlà stayed in Iwó for seven days which can be described as nothing but a hell on earth. Wúràọlá didn’t serve Òrúnmìlà water let alone food. She insulted the goodness out of Òrúnmìlà but he stayed calm and smiled at her. He even smiled when she used his opon ifa (divination board) as firewood and when she took his pouch (àpò ominijekun) from him. Though, Òrúnmìlà boiled with rage, still, he didn’t show it or leave Iwo according to the instructions of Olódùmarè .
On the sixth day of Òrúnmìlà’s stay in Iwó town, the king of Iwó gave Wúràọlá in marriage to him after concluding that he is a patient, kind and tolerant man suitable to marry his daughter. Meanwhile, Wúràọlá’s bad behaviors were planned to test her suitors so as to get her a husband with good manners and temper. She was a lovely, caring and well behaved lady. Òrúnmìlà was glad that he heeded to the instructions of Olódùmarè and on the seventh day, he and Wúràọlá journey back to his town.
Òrúnmìlà was welcomed and praised by his townspeople for his achievement. When they asked him about Wuraola, his wife, he responded, “Ìyà tí mo jẹ ní Iwó” (my sufferings in Iwó town ) That was how wives became known as Ìyà-Iwó (sufferings in Iwó ) and now Ìyàwó.
Sources; Proudly Yoruba
History of Yoruba