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Yoruboid is a 'megagroup' of 14 related dialect/language clades, composed of the Igala group, of related dialects spoken in central Nigeria, and the Edekiri group, the members of which are spoken in a band across Togo, Ghana, Benin and southwestern Nigeria. The name Yoruboid derives from its most widely spoken member, Yoruba, which has more than 35 million speakers. Another well-known Yoruboid language is Itsekiri (Nigeria, 600,000–800,000 speakers). The Yoruboid group is a branch of Defoid, Defoid being a short form of "Ede" the word for Language in most languages within the grouping and - "Foid"). The Defoid group itself is a branch of the Benue–Congo subfamily of the Niger–Congo language family.

Central Togo, Southern and Central Benin, Western, Southern and Central Nigeria
Linguistic classificationNiger–Congo

Igala is a key Yoruboid language, spoken by 1.8 million people in the Niger-Benue confluence of central Nigeria; it is excised from the main body of Yoruboid languages to the west by Ebirra and the Edo languages. Igala is closely related to both Yoruba and Itsekiri languages.

The Itsekiri's are a riverine Yoruboid people who live in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. They maintain a distinct identity separate from other Yoruboid people but speak a very closely related language. Their neighbouring languages are the Urhobo the Edo, the Ijo, and the Mahin / Ilaje, a Yoruba Dialect spoken in neighbouring Ondo State.

All Yoruboid languages are tonal, with most of them having three level tones. Grammatically, they are isolating with a subject–object–verb basic word order.


Ede (Yoruba Proper)*
Western Ede
Eastern Ede
N. Nago & Kura
Southwestern Ede
Ede Shabe
Southeastern Ede
Isha & Manigri
Ede Idaasha
Nuclear Yoruba
Ede Ije, South Nago
Yoruba - Lucumi
Central Yoruba

  • All dialects in the Ede cluster share between 85-95% lexical similarity and are thus all mutually intelligible without needing different specialized literature to achieve universal understanding.
  • Itsekiri is actually most closely related to SEY (South-Eastern Yoruba), and is a divergent branch thereof, but has a different standard writing orthography.
  • Some standards classify Olukumi as separate variant of Nuclear Yoruba, Others as a dialect of SEY.


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Yoruboid". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.