Kalenjin Names for Boys and Girls

Updated on October 22, 2018
Emmanuel Kariuki profile image

Emmanuel loves researching Kenyan culture and history. He is fascinated by what he discovers and likes to share his findings with others.

The Kalenjin culture has a pretty unique way of naming their children.
The Kalenjin culture has a pretty unique way of naming their children.

Origins of the Kalenjin

Some elders claim they came from Misri. Other elders say the ancestors of not only the Sabaot but all the Kalenjin speaking peoples, came from a place called Senkwer in the Eastern direction from Mt Elgon.

There are nine communities that form the Kalenjin Group (Ogot, B.A., Kenya Before 1900, 1976).

  1. Kipsigis
  2. Nandi
  3. Nyangori (Terik)
  4. Elgeyo (Keiyu)
  5. Tugen
  6. Marakwet
  7. Pokot
  8. Kony (Sabaot)
  9. Sebei

The Kalenjin form of government was chiefless, functioning through age-set institutions, just like the Kikuyu. The cycle lasted a full century, if not a century and a half, to revolve. There were only eight names in the cycle, although Kikuyu cycles had nine.

Naming Among the Kalenjin

The Kalenjin name their children according to the time of birth with a few variations. Most people, however, have inherited their names from former relatives and ancestors. Male names often start with letter ‘K’ but may be abbreviated by omitting the prefix, 'Kip.' Most girl’s names start with letter ‘C’ but may also be abbreviated by omitting the prefix Chep. Among the Arror from Kabartonjo in Kabarnet, male names start with ‘Che,’ (e.g., Cherono), while female names start with ‘J,’ (e.g., Jerono). A few male names start now start with the ‘Che’ female derivative.

After initiation, the initiates were given a new name. The list below may contain both pre-initiation and post-initiation names.

A Selection of Kalenjin Names

Below is a selection of Kalenjin names and their meanings. Female equivalents have been placed in parentheses, e.g., Kibichii (Chebichii), where Kibichii is male while Chebichii is female.

  1. Barabara: Born after the older sibling died. To ensure that the child survives, it is taken to the road (barabara) to be picked up by someone and given back to the mother.
  2. Boisio: Unknown.
  3. Bosek: Unknown.
  4. Chemesunde: Born in deep darkness due to the absence of the moon. No male equivalent.
  5. Chemiron: This is a male name among the Nandi and Kipsigis. The name has no female equivalent.
  6. Chepkeitany: Mainly a Keiyo name meaning born during the milking of the cattle. No female equivalent
  7. Chepkwony: This name is an oddity as it belongs to men among the Nandi and Kipsigis.
  8. Cheruyot: Has to do with spending the night in the same hut with the mother. No male equivalent.
  9. Chumo: This is an age-set name, which is also represented among the Kikuyu by the ‘Cuma’ ruling generation.
  10. Elgeyo (Keiyu): Unknown.
  11. Kenduiyo: Unknown.
  12. Kibichii (Chebichii): One of the parents or other relatives was very harsh.
  13. Kibiwot (Chebiwot): Dry weather or famine.
  14. Kibor (Chebor): Born after an older sibling had died. To ensure that the child survives, it is taken to the road to be picked up by someone and given back to the mother.
  15. Kibuigut (Chebuigut): Stammerer.
  16. Kimaiyo (Chamaiyo): Born when there was a lot of beer.
  17. Kimaru: Either the mother was not sleeping well before the birth of the child, or the child was not a good sleeper after birth.
  18. Kimenjo (Chemenjo): Born during an initiation ceremony.
  19. Kimurgor (Chepmurgor): Named after the wandering nature of the mother when she was pregnant.
  20. Kimutai (Chemutai): Labour was delayed for more than twelve hours.
  21. Kipchirchir (Chepchirchir): Short labour pains.
  22. Kipchoge (Chepchoge): Born in the granary.
  23. Kipchumba (Chepchumba): Born when the mother was away on a visit.
  24. Kipkeino (Chepkeino): Unknown.
  25. Kipkemboi (Chepkemboi): Night.
  26. Kipkemei (Chepkemei): Born when there was a famine.
  27. Kipkesio (Chepkesio): Born during the harvest.
  28. Kipketer (Chepketer): Born along the outer wall of the hut.
  29. Kipkirong, Kipkering (Chepkirong, Chepkering): Born after the older sibling had died.
  30. Kipkorir (Chepkorir): Born when the chicken is crowing, before sunrise.
  31. Kipkoskei (Chepkoskei): Born quickly without much labour.
  32. Kiplagat (Chelagat): After 7 pm, before midnight (Kiplangat for Kipsigis and Tugen).
  33. Kiplimo (Chelimo): Born when the cows had already been taken to pasture.
  34. Kipmagut (Chemagut): Born after the older sibling had died. To ensure that the child survives, it is taken to the anteater’s or aardvark’s hole to be picked up by someone and given back to the mother.
  35. Kipngeny: When cows had been taken to the salt lick.
  36. Kiprono (Cherono): Born when the sheep and goats are coming from pasture, 5 to 6 pm.
  37. Kiprop (Cherop): Born during heavy rains.
  38. Kiprotich (Cherotich): Born when the cows are coming from pasture, 5 to 6 pm.
  39. Kipruto (Cheruto): Born when either a visitor arrived, or someone in the homestead went on a visit (traveled).
  40. Kipsaina (Chepsaina): Born when someone went to the firewood storage rack slightly above the fireplace.
  41. Kipsang (Chesang): Born outside the hut in the open.
  42. Kipserem (Cheserem): Born along the outer wall of the hut among the Kipsigis and Tugen.
  43. Kipsigis: Unknown.
  44. Kiptabut (Cheptabut): Born when someone went to the firewood storage rack near the roof above the fireplace.
  45. Kiptalam (Cheptalam): Born during the locust invasion.
  46. Kiptanui (Cheptanui): Someone fainted when the child was born.
  47. Kiptarbei: The mother drank a lot of water and finished it all. No female equivalent.
  48. Kiptoo (Cheptoo): Born when a visitor arrived.
  49. Kiptum (Cheptum): Born during celebrations.
  50. Kiptuwei (Taptuwei): Unknown.
  51. Kipyator (Chebiyator): Opening the way, perhaps a firstborn.
  52. Kirungu: This is an age-set name, equivalent to the ‘Irungu’ ruling generation of the Kikuyu.
  53. Koech (Chepkoech): Born between 6 and 7 am.
  54. Koilegen: Unknown.
  55. Kony (Sabaot): Unknown
  56. Maina: This is a common age-set name among many communities in Kenya including the Kikuyu, Luhya, Kisii, and Mijikenda.
  57. Marakwet: Unknown.
  58. Nandi: Unknown.
  59. Ng’asura: Unknown.
  60. Nyangori (Terik): Unknown.
  61. Pokot: Unknown.
  62. Sawe: This is an age-set name.
  63. Tapkili: Female name is likely given as a second name after initiation among the Tugen and Kipsigis.
  64. Kimagut (Chemagut): From the word Kimagutiet (aardvark). The family of the man who gave me this name had lost three children. The fourth one was taken to an aardvark's hole and place there briefly, after which he was given the name Kimagut. He survived childhood, and six more siblings were raised successfully.

I'd like to give a special thanks to Ms. Chepkorir A. and Ms. Fatuma M. for their assistance in researching this article.

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