Kikuyu Names for Boys and Their Meaning

Updated on June 9, 2016

The Kikuyu people of Kenya have a very specific way of naming children. The firstborn son is always given the same name as his paternal grandfather. The old man is usually very eager to be named and may start insinuating that 'he wants to be born' if the couple lingers too long.

The child may, however, have a different baptism name. The second son is always given the name of the maternal grandfather. If the mother of the child came from a single-parent home, this might present a problem and she may name him after her own grandfather.

In the same vein, the first daughter is given the name of her paternal grandmother and the second daughter is named after her maternal grandmother. Subsequent boys are named after their paternal and maternal uncles alternately.

The next girls are named after their paternal and maternal aunties alternately. What happens when a couple has more children that there are living immediate relatives? In such a case, some research is done to determine who would have been next in line if he had lived. If it happens that a person was never named after a grandchild, the line can still be traced to a great or even great-great-grandchild.

No one really dies among the Kikuyu since he or she is likely to be reincarnated in his grandchildren or brother's children.

It should be noted that some names like 'gathua' - the limping one, may have started as nicknames. A nickname was passed on into the mainstream with the approval of the old man who owned it.

Below is a list of some boy's names.

1. Chege

2. Chomba - The Arabs who traded with the Kikuyu around present-day Kikuyu town on the caravan route from the coast were called 'chomba' by the Kikuyu. Today the term is used to refer to the Europeans.

3. Ciugũ – Relating to cow-pens (where the cows sleep)

4. G ĩchere – A shard, or a piece of something like a gourd or pot

5. Gachagua

6. Gachanja

7. Gachara

8. Gachii

9. Gachũhĩ – A small finger ring, or earring

10. Gakure

11. Gathaiya

12. Gathanja

13. Gathenya

14. Gathigira

15. Gathogo

16. Gathongo

17. Gathu

18. Gathua - The one who limps (diminutive)

19. Gathuuri - The old man (diminutive)

20. Gatimũ - A spear (diminutive)

21. Gĩcheha

22. Gĩchikũ

23. Gĩchohi – The big beer. This was probably first given to a person who made a lot of beer or drank a lot of it.

24. Gĩchuhĩ - A finger ring, e.g. wedding ring

25. Gĩchũki - A big bee

26. Gĩchũrũ - A big ‘porridge’

27. Gĩkonyo - A big belly button

28. Gĩtahi - The big one who gets a liquid (water, beer etc.) — In Kikuyu, to get a liquid from a container cannot translate to emptying. It is more like taking or getting.

29. Gĩtari

30. Gĩtaũ - There was a Gĩtaũ riika initiated in 1847

31. Gĩthaiga - The big medicine or herb

32. Githendũ

33. Gĩthĩnji - The slaughterer (of goats or cows)

34. Gĩthire

35. Gĩtonga - The rich one

36. Gĩtukũ The big darkness (big night)

37. Gĩtũma - The big arrowroot (tuber)

38. Gĩtũra

39. Goko - The small hand

40. Hinga - The hypocrite. The name was also given to a person who could speak more than one language.

41. Ireri

42. Irũngũ

43. Kabirũ

44. Kabutha

45. Kago

46. Kagoci

47. Kagwa

48. Kahara – A bold head is called a 'Kĩhara.' It may have started as a nickname. The prefix 'Ka' is diminutive. The grandchild was then called by this namesake’s nickname with approval from the old man.

49. Kahiĩ

50. Kahũthia

51. Kairu – The small black one

52. Kamande - There was a Kamande riika (initiation age set) in 1902

53. Kamangĩ

54. Kamau - There was a Kamau riika initiated in 1845

55. Kamotho

56. Kamotho - 'Kimotho' means left hand. A child may have been jokingly called 'kamotho' by his peers, and the name stuck. When he became a grandfather, he authorised the name to be used formally. Of course, not all 'Kamothos' are left-handed as the name entered the mainstream ages ago.

57. Kaniũ

58. Kanja

59. Karanja - I was informed that this name was first given to an age set that had been afflicted by a strange disease. The sufferers spent inordinately long periods out in the sun, warming themselves. Kwara means to lay out, nja means outside. The Karanja riika was initiated in 1852. Cagnolo records that there was a famine 'of the small bones' at the time.

60. Karĩmi - Kurima is to dig (or to farm). Karĩmi is the small farmer.

61. Kariũki - When a child died soon after birth, the family may decide to give the next child an alternative name like Kariuki, or Muchoki - the reincarnated one. Kariuki is among the most common Kikuyu names.

62. Karũgũ

63. Karungu

64. Kenyatta - The first president of the Republic of Kenya was known as Njomo Kenyatta. Both were nick-names. His real names were Johnstone Kamau wa Muigai

65. Kĩbachia

66. Kĩbakĩ – The big tobacco leaf (The third president of the Republic of Kenya is Mwai Kĩbakĩ)

67. Kibe

68. Kĩbunja

69. Kĩhara - Baldness

70. Kĩhĩa

71. Kĩhiũ

72. Kĩhoro

73. Kĩhuna

74. Kĩmani - Cagnolo has given the name to mean 'eating beans'. There were two riikas initiated in 1849 and 1850

75. Kimaru

76. Kĩmotho - The left handed one

77. Kĩmunya - The one who uproots plants

78. Kĩng’ori

79. Kĩnuthia

80. Kinũthia - A Kinuthia riika was initiated in 1851

81. Kĩnyanjui

82. Kĩnyua - The one who drinks

83. Kĩoi - The one who lifts

84. Kĩongo - The head

85. Kĩragũ

86. Kĩrĩka

87. Kĩrĩma - The mountain

88. Kogĩ - The small sharp one (sharp brain)

89. Koinange - There was a Koinange riika in 1879

90. Kũngũ

91. Kuria

92. Macharia - The one who looks for, searches (in a big way)

93. Mahĩhu

94. Maina - Maina was a 'ruling generation' name among the Kikuyu and an age set name (riika) among many Bantu communities in Kenya. This name is common to almost all the communities in Kenya, including the Kalenjin and Luo who are Nilotic. Mwangi and Irungu are also ruling generation names. Dr. Muriuki (A history of the Kikuyu- 1500 to 1900) gives the meaning of “Maina”, a generation set, as being derived from “kuina”, to sing or dance. “Mwangi”, another generation set is derived from “kwanga”, which he states is “rapid expansion."

95. Maitho - Eyes

96. Mathenge – Thenge (he goat)

97. Matu - Clouds

98. Mbĩra

99. Mbũgua

100. Mbũrũ

101. Mĩchuki

102. Mũchene

103. Mũchoki - The one who returns (initially a child who replaced a departed one but it is often a name handed down from a grandfather to a grandchild like other Kikuyu names.)

104. Mũciri - The one who participates in a judicial hearing

105. Mũgane

106. Mũgo - The diviner priest. The Kikuyu have a saying - gũtirĩ kĩrĩra gĩtarĩ mũndũ mũgo wakĩo- Every religion has its priest. A Catholic priest was just another 'mugo' according to the ancient Kikuyu.

107. Mũhĩa

108. Mũhoho

109. Mũhoro

110. Mũhũri

111. Mũirũrĩ

112. Mũite

113. Mũkundi

114. Mũnene

115. Mũngai

116. Mũngania

117. Mũragũri

118. Mũrakaru

119. Mũraya – The tall one

120. Mũrĩgĩ

121. Murigo – The burden (luggage)

122. Mũrĩithi – The herdsman

123. Mũrĩmi – The farmer

124. Mũrira – The one who protects

125. Mũrĩranja – The one who protects the courtyard

126. Mũrĩu – The drunkard

127. Muriũki – The one who resurrected

128. Mũrũngarũ – The upright one

129. Mũtegi – The trapper (of animals)

130. Mũthĩnji The slaughter (of animals)

131. Mũthũi – The honey tapper

132. Mũthũngũ – The white man

133. Mũtiga – The one who abandons

134. Mũtugi – The generous one

135. Mũtũng’ũ

136. Mũya

137. Mwagĩru – The good one

138. Mwai

139. Mwangi - This is another generation derived from “kwanga," which Dr. Muriuki states means “rapid expansion”.

140. Mwanĩki - Beekeeper, one who hangs bee burrels on trees

141. Mwathi – The hunter-gatherer

142. Ndegwa – The bull

143. Nderitũ

144. Ndiangui

145. Ndirangũ - Prohibiting war. A Ndirangũ riika was initiated in 1862

146. Ndũn'gũ

147. Ng'ang'a - Two Ng'ang'a riikas were initiated in 1856 and 1857

148. Ngarĩ The leopard

149. Ngechũ

150. Ngengi

151. Ngichũ

152. Ngigĩ – Locust (there were several Ngigĩ riikas in the past to commemorate locust invasions).

153. Ngina

154. Nginyo

155. Ngũgĩ - There was a Ngũgĩ riika in 1876

156. Ngũnjiri

157. Ngure

158. Njagĩ

159. Njaramba

160. Njaũ Calf (baby of a cow)

161. Njenga - Broken bits of maize. Maize was foreign to the Kikuyu before the coming of the Portuguese at the coast. When the Kikuyu first saw maize, it looked quite like the hailstones that came with heavy rain - mbura ya bebe. And so they called maize, bebe. When they crashed maize in a pestle and mortar, the result was sand like grains - Njenga. The word has the same roots as the Swahili 'chenga chenga' for many grains or bits of something.

162. Njerũ – White one

163. Njogu – The elephant

164. Njoka

165. Njomo – The first president of the Republic of Kenya was known as Njomo Kenyatta. Both were nicknames. His real names were Johnstone Kamau wa Muigai

166. Njonjo

167. Njoroge - A Njoroge riika was initiated in 1858

168. Njuguna - A Njuguna riika was initiated in 1853, soon after the Karanja famine.

169. Njũki - The bee

170. Nyamu - Animal

171. Nyoike

172. Nyoro

173. Thairu

174. Theuri

175. Thuku

176. Thuũ

177. Wachira,

178. Wachiuri

179. Wachiuru

180. Wahome

181. Waigwa

182. Wainaina - Courageous. A Wainaina riika was initiated in 1861

183. Waita – Of war

184. Waititũ

185. Wakaritũ

186. Wamahiũ

187. Wambũgũ

188. Wamiti - Of the trees (herbs)

189. Wamũgũnda – Of the farmland

190. Wanderi

191. Wang’ombe

192. Wang’ondu – Of the sheep

193. Wanyoike

194. Warari

195. Warũĩ – Of the river

196. Warũirũ

197. Watene – Of long ago

198. Wawerũ

Questions & Answers


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    • Emmanuel Kariuki profile image

      Emmanuel Kariuki 9 days ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Mwai wa Nderi,

      Hi. Am really sorry for not keeping tabs with my page. I do not have information on your questions. Below is my contribution, which is definitely inadequate.

      Takinya - just arrive. That is the literal meaning.

      Mwai is common in Nyeri and not Murang'a or Kiambu. That is all I know about the name.

    • Emmanuel Kariuki profile image

      Emmanuel Kariuki 9 days ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Mine Kane,

      Forgive me for responding late. I never saw the notification.

      But it seems you managed to contact me elsewhere and I answered you. However, for the sake of others, I answer.

      A woman does not name her father twice just because she has married several men, or has had children by several men. She merely names the man's father when it is his turn. When it is her turn, she names the next relative in the queue.

    • Emmanuel Kariuki profile image

      Emmanuel Kariuki 9 days ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Wanjiru 40 -

      Hi. sorry for responding six months late. I did not see the notification.

      Ofcourse you can give you child her Kikuyu name. If you husband is not Kikuyu and you still want to give all your children kikuyu names, you can act as though they were all born by a single parent and give them your relatives name. If I were you, I would pretend that my husband is Kikuyu. Let say your first born is a boy and your father's name was Joseph. Give that Joseph a Kikuyu name eg. Kamau, then name your son Kamau. The next boy will be named after your own father.

      The first girl should be named after the father's mother, so again you can give the mother an African name eg. Njeri, then call your daughter Njeri.

      I hope my answer is satisfactory.

    • profile image

      Mwai wa Nderi 3 months ago

      @kariuki Thanks for the article its very helpful.

      my great great grandpa name was Nderi meaning eagle, his riika was Mwaura 1830. I am trying to find out the origin of the name.

      What I would like to know is the meaning of the name Mwai being the name of my great grandpa of whom am named after, his riika wa Kienjeku am not sure when..

      Also the meaning of the name Takinya.

    • profile image

      Minneh Kane 6 months ago

      Hello Emmanuel,

      Thanks or all the very useful articles you have on this site. I have a question about the Kikuyu naming system. I see you wrote this article some time ago, but I hope you still look at comments/questions and will find time to consider this one which my friends and I are debating. In the polygamous system, if a man has more than one wife, then the first born son of each wife is named after the man's father. What would be the situation if a woman had more than one husband (due to death for example). Suppose she was married and had two sons. She would name the first son after her husband's father and the second son after her own father. Suppose that her husband dies and she re-marries. Would she name her second son by the second husband after her own father again (thus having two sons with the same name)? Also, what if a woman has several children "at home" (or while being unmarried)? Would she keep naming the first son from each man after her father? Many thanks for your thoughts on this issue.

    • profile image

      wanjiru40 7 months ago

      Hi i have a question : i am half Kikuyu , named after my paternal grandmother. So when i have a child , can i give him / her a kikuyu name eventhough i am girl ? This would mean that my first born would not be named after paternal grandmother , but maybe maternal grandfather /aunt/uncle or cousin ? it would be sad to end the heritage ...

    • Emmanuel Kariuki profile image

      Emmanuel Kariuki 8 months ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Hi Wangui Kaguanyu. Unfortunately even elders have forgotten the origins of some Kikuyu names like your husbands name. Perhaps for you there is still hope if you can seek out the oldest members of your husband's family. It may have been a nickname that stack to be handed down. Some nicknames remain family secrets.

    • profile image

      Wangui Kaguanyu 8 months ago

      My husband's second name is Kaguanyu. This name is not only rare on the web but i also can't seem to find the meaning. What does it mean?

    • Emmanuel Kariuki profile image

      Emmanuel Kariuki 8 months ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      I worked in a broadcasting house with a man named Njonjo who used to come from an area between Kinoo and Kikuyu but he is now deceased. Perhaps you are related with him and the Kenyatta era Atorney General. Charles Njonjo.

    • profile image

      Njubi muiruri 10 months ago

      @kariuki, thank you for your quick response. Am told my great great grandfather named Njubi Njonjo migrated from muranga and settled in lower kabete. Those are the hints I have so far

    • profile image

      Njubi muiruri 10 months ago

      @kariuki, thank you for your reply. My great great grandfather named Njubi Njonjo migrated from muranga then settled in lower kabete. Those are the hints I have so far.

    • Emmanuel Kariuki profile image

      Emmanuel Kariuki 10 months ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Hi, Njubi Muiruri. I have not heard of your name but I will ask some elders and respond later.

    • profile image

      Njubi muiruri 10 months ago

      @Emmanuel Kariuki would you help me understand the meaning of my name Njubi and where it originated?

    • Emmanuel Kariuki profile image

      Emmanuel Kariuki 2 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      @ Marira-ikihia

      Thanks for this question and sory for taking time to answer.

      Mūkono - If a man stretched out his hands (to the left and to the right), the length from one outstretched hand to the other was one “mukono,” a form of measurement no longer in use.

      The remnants of banana flower after the formation of a bunch of bananas is called ‘a banana “mukono” which is used as stopper or lid

      for water containers

      Njagī - Rhinocerous

      Mūkuria – meaning not clear

      Gīoce – any contraption to help lift heavy objects the way a modern crane functions

      Mūirūrī – boys name from ancient times - meaning not clear

      I hope that helps

    • profile image

      Marira-ikihia 2 years ago

      What do the following names mean- Mūkono, Njagī, Mūkuria,Gīoce, Mūirūrī.

    • Emmanuel Kariuki profile image

      Emmanuel Kariuki 2 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Hello Mugo Mutungi.

      Thanks for that insight. I would also have guessed that the name Mutungi has something to do with a water container. Your information will be of great help to others.

    • Mugo Mutungi profile image

      Mugo Mutungi 2 years ago

      The origin of my first name is no mystery. My second name 'Mutungi' is rare in Gikuyu but very common among the Meru and the Kamba. Friends sometimes call me' Jerrycan' insinuating that my name originated from the Gikuyu word: mutungi wa maii. However, I was able to know from grandmother the source of the name. My great great grandfather was always in the battlefront during Maasai / Gikuyu skirmishes and so my second name is derived from Gikuyu 'gutunga njamba cia ita'- confronting the enemy forces.

    • Emmanuel Kariuki profile image

      Emmanuel Kariuki 3 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Hello Wamaitha K.

      Thanks for visiting my page and finding it useful. My sources are old books like the Akikuyu by Cagnolo and old knowledgeable Kikuyus. For example I have just asked about Gitau. Though this may not be the real origin of the name, Kikuyus used to roast unripe bananas then hold two or three and press them in the palm to form a sort of bread. This lump was taken with tea or porridge and was called "Gitau kia marigu".

      Kiambuthi is from Mbuthi - the seeds and small stones that were thrown to the ground by a diviner so Kiambuthi would mean "of the diviner pebbles." It was probably given to a diviner or diviner's son as a nick name before it joined mainstream names. Sometimes conjecture is all we have to rely on so I cannot speak authoritatively about a name such as Kariri and Keguro unless of I an elder who is certain or I find a document by early writers like Leakey, Cagnolo and Jomo.

    • profile image

      WamaithaK 3 years ago

      Thank you for your article, Kariuki. I am curious about some of the names which originated from riikas, like Gitau. Where do you find your sources for riika names, and can I access them in the states? Also, what about Kariri, Kiambuthi, and Kiguro (often spelled phonetically, like Keguro)?

    • profile image

      Mware Wa Mbatia 3 years ago

      Ne thegio, I appreciate. You suspicion are as mine.

      Do ask, if i.e my grandfather who I never met was called Mbatia n my dad's sisters had such names relating to maasai i e nyokabi ( of maasai).

      My dad keeps ditching the my wanting to duscuss who my grandpa was.

    • Emmanuel Kariuki profile image

      Emmanuel Kariuki 3 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Mware Wa Mbatia - I highly suspect it is originally Maasai. I will try to ask around and see if there is another explanation.

    • profile image

      Mware Wa Mbatia 3 years ago

      Thumbs up for the info found here.

      I ended up here after a long search of kikuyu naming system.

      Curious about my grandfather by name Mbatia.

      So little is known about this name and the little leads to Mbatian.

      Any clue about this name? Is it originally maasai or kikuyu?

    • Emmanuel Kariuki profile image

      Emmanuel Kariuki 4 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Wainaina Njenga,

      I would go with "Courageous" for Wanaina as was handed down orally - If someone was to shiver during Circumcision, the matter would be so embarrassing that it would not be honoured with a name.

      Clans do not change - you and your sisters belong to your fathers clan, he to his father's, and your grandfather to his father's without change. Your sister's children will however belong to her husbands clan.

    • Wainaina Njenga profile image

      Wainaina Njenga 4 years ago

      Your research on Kikuyu culture and traditions is breathtaking, however I would like you to clarify whether the name Wainaina means courageous(as you have indicated) or the one who shivers(during circumcision) keeping in mind that "riitwa ni ria gukuria muana"

      In addition, there are other names such as Gachahi, Gathata, Kahihia, Kagiri , Wandeto...

      Do clans change from one generation to another or do I belong to the same clan as my father, grandfather, children and grandchildren?

    • Emmanuel Kariuki profile image

      Emmanuel Kariuki 4 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Deusdedit Munthal, thanks for your comment. Only some sections of Kikuyu use animals names and that may point to a certain direction in their migration.

    • profile image

      Deusdedit Shija Munthali 4 years ago from Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

      It was very interesting to me to get to know the meaning of the Kikuyu boys and girls nanes. Especially the names that reference animals. In the South of Tanzania, there is a Ngoni tribe that resembles the Kikuyu for these names that reference animals. They have mapunda - donkeys, Simba, nguruwe, nyoka, Tembo Mbawala - deer, komba - etc.

    • profile image

      Kamau 5 years ago

      I've also found Mugi, Kibuku, Nguyai and Munyari

    • Emmanuel Kariuki profile image

      Emmanuel Kariuki 5 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Thanks Kamau, Keep them coming.

      Ngureco, we differ only one point. I think the Murang'a Kikuyu were the same group spreading into Kiambu after the Embu became more distinct and ceased calling themselves the Kembu. However, It appears to me like the Nyeri Kikuyu came a bit late on the trail from Ethiopia by between 30 and 60 years. This is because they have a different name for the Muirungu and Chuma 'ituika' names which might imply that they held the ceremony separately from the Murang'a Kikuyu.

    • profile image

      Kamau 5 years ago

      You also don't have Gatuna

    • ngureco profile image

      ngureco 5 years ago

      Hello Kariuki,

      I hope you will have to excuse me for introducing migration of Kikuyu on this hub – a hub that is discussing the Kikuyu names for boys. We may have to do so in an attempt to try and understand why some areas are having some boys’ names referencing animals.

      Your speculation that people arrived/expanded to Nyeri and Kiambu latter after they had first settled in Muranga is most likely to be correct.

      My believe is that to migrate to upper Nyeri may not have been an easy task as it may look today – the families, including children and the elderly had to cross thagana, which 400 years ago may have carried twice as much volume of water as it does today. Crossing such a river required lots of preparations and in those days that was not a mean task if the naming of the senior clan of Aembu as thagana a.k.a nguua migogo is anything to go by.

      My supposition is that upon crossing into Mathira and Nyeri, they were joined by another group of Kikuyu who were late arrivals from Kirinyaga in search for better settlements. In the process there was a lot of integration of these two groups as mobility was now easier and the names referencing animals came into play. It is this second group that carried the names referencing animals.

      It’s my conjecture that the Kirinyaga group seems to have migrated along the right side of Thagana from Nyambene hills whilst the Muranga groups seems to have migrated on the right side of Athi river through Chania river and into Ithanga, Makuyu and Muranga.

    • Emmanuel Kariuki profile image

      Emmanuel Kariuki 5 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Hello Ngureco,

      Yours is a thought provoking question and I will throw in some speculation.

      1. Maina and Mwangi are commong because each ruling generation was either a Mwangi or a Maina (Leakey has called them generic names because there were actually nine known Ituika names). It was common for people to be called by their Riika names instead of their true names and the ruling generations cut across Kiambu (Karura), Muranga (Metumi) and Nyeri (Gaki)

      2. Animal related names are more common in Nyeri because (speculation) I believe the Nyeri group arrived last and in their wondering were influenced more by the naming methods of the communities they cam across than say the Muranga who had settled earlier.

      I believe that Muranga and Kiambu names do not differ much.

    • ngureco profile image

      ngureco 5 years ago

      Some names are more common in Kiambu and Muranga than they are in Nyeri and Kirinyaga. For example: Cege, Gitau, Kamau, Kangethe, Karanja, Kiarii, Kimani, Kinuthia, Kinyanjui, Mbugua, Mburu, Nganga, Njenga, Njiri, Njoroge, Njuguna and Wainaina are more common in Kiambu and Muranga.

      The names that reference animals are more common in Nyeri and Kirinyaga. Names such as: Mathenge, Nyamu, Njogu, Muruthi, Wangombe, Ngari, Njau, Mbogo, Kamunyi, Nguku, Ndegwa.

      The names Mwangi and Maina seem to be common in all the four districts.

      What happened especially when one considers that the 9-plus clans are uniformly distributed in all the four districts?

    • Emmanuel Kariuki profile image

      Emmanuel Kariuki 5 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Thanks Kamau. Kikuyu names are endless it seems, but we should strive to have as many as possible. Will update soon.

    • profile image

      Kamau 5 years ago

      You also don't have Githu, Githae, Njai and Mahihu

    • Emmanuel Kariuki profile image

      Emmanuel Kariuki 5 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Hi Muchugi,

      I believe Mucugi means the feather that one added to his or her head during a dance. Any one else with another idea?

      My own specualation about Kiambu is - Kia (of) mbu (distress call). The Embu people were once called Kembu before they detached from the main group so more Kikuyu from Central moved into the Peryphery to act as Distress callers when attacks were made. This would give the Kikuyu in the interior time to mobilise. Muriuki G. (Historian) does not agree with that and is categorical that a man called Mbuu started "Mbari ya Mbuu" - the clan of Mbuu, and then moved south into present day Kiambu which is named after him. I choose to go with my own speculation. Nyeri could have been a clan or people who are also represented in that area called Ntonyiri in Meru.

    • profile image

      Muchugi 5 years ago

      My name is very common in parts of Kiambu district (Mucugi) and I don't have a clue what it means. someone joked it's related to dancing or jumping?? Great job on this site and keep up. Anyone who knows what names of various places like Kiambu, Nyeri etc mean?

    • Emmanuel Kariuki profile image

      Emmanuel Kariuki 5 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      I had said that because the Kikuyu saw the owl as a harbinger of death, no one would have wanted to be associated with it, therefore, Ndundu as a person's name could not have been associated with the owl. Since then, an old Kikuyu saying came to mind - ita ritari ndundu rihuragwo na njuguma imwe - a warrior group that is not united is beaten with one club (knobkerie). Ndundu is therefore a united group or platoon and also connotes 'unity'

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      Kamau 5 years ago

      Google Kikuyu people and select the Wikipedia link. It might hold a clue as to the name Ndundu which isn't an owl as you said but has to do with the old Kikuyu judicial system.

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      Emmanuel Kariuki 5 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Thanks Kamau,

      Mbiyu will be promptly added in this 'work in progress.'

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      Kamau 5 years ago

      You don't have the name Mbiyu like Jomo Kenyatta's brother-in-law Mbiyu Koinange

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      Emmanuel Kariuki 5 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Grace Wanjiku, you are most welcome. We will continue updating.

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      Grace Wanjiku 5 years ago

      Did not know that Kibunja was a kikuyu name,am grateful for the kikuyu names knowledge provided by all of you.

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      Emmanuel Kariuki 5 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Hi Kamau,

      It is likely there was a Kamba ancestor. You could ask the oldest relative to confirm. Intermarriages are common in Muranga along the common border on the Kenol, Makuyu, sagana road. Saying Siro instead of Shiro may be just modernity since letter 'S' has entered Kikuyu through English and Swahili usage. Ndundu is an owl, but since it was feared to cause death, I doubt anyone would carry its name.

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      Kamau 5 years ago

      Thanks for the help. The name Muchembi is in my family, does that mean that we could have Kamba ancestors somewhere? I'm from Muranga where we say susu instead of the more common 'shosho'. Also, a lot of words are pronounced with the distinctive Kamba 's' instead of sh like in the example above. I have a cousin named Wanjiru but we pronounce it siru instead of the more common shiru. I know Ndundu is an owl

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      Emmanuel Kariuki 5 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Hello Thuo, I have still not found the meaning of Thuo, but I will keep the search.

      Kamau, you cannot use the 'special characters' in this comment capsules, they will appear as question marks.

      Githii, was the cloak that was worn by men. Rich men and chiefs would wear cloaks made from colobus monkey or other special animal. Gathee, an old small man; Muthee - and old man; Muchembi- from the Kamba Musembi; Kabata - a Kikuyu dance; Getei - ? Karabu - ? Kiambiroiro - the name of a mountain; Kamiti - of trees; Ndundu -? Huhu- a bat; Muhunyu -? Ruiru - a ruver by that name; Ruhiu - a big knife; Wakhungu- ? Wahiga - perhaps associated with a stone; Ng'arua -? Kahiga - small stone; Waikhenye-? Wakiihuri - of the calabash; Nderu - beard; Gachiengo-? Igeria - one who tries; Rie (i think Rie might be short of something but i can't figure out what)- ?, Gicicio - mirror; Gashamba - strong male; Makara - charcoal; Ikinya - step (footstep). I have put question marks where I have no idea.

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      Kamau 5 years ago

      It's a pity I can't write the names in proper Gikuyu alphabet

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      Kamau 5 years ago

      My brother is called Githii, I wonder if you know what that means. I've also heard Gathee, Muthee. There is Muchembi, Kabata, Getei, Karabu, Kiambiroiro, Kamiti, Ndundu, Huhu, Muhunyu, Ruiru, Ruhiu, Wakhungu, Wahiga, Ng'arua, Kahiga, Waikhenye, Wakiihuri, Nderu, Gachiengo, Igeria, Rie (i think Rie might be short of something but i can't figure out what), Gicicio, Gashamba, Makara, Ikinya.

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      Thuo 6 years ago

      Hi, I am trying to find the meaning of the name Thuo. I am half German-Half Kikuyu and I would be quite pleased if anyone assisted me to know the meaning and origin of my name

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      Emmanuel Kariuki 6 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      The average Kikuyu will tell you the 'shyness' interpretation because the word 'thoni' is use everyday to mean shy. A week will not pass before someone says "I felt thoni, Why are feeling thoni before your own cousin etc. The word also means shame. A child will be told 'nd nduri na thoni! literaly 'you have no shame.' It is not surprising then that Muthoni is associated more with Shyness than with 'in-law'

      About 'gakuo'. This comment box will not allow me to use Kikuyu characters so where the u should have a sign above it I will bracket it.

      Gakuo - (o like in always):a small piece of cloth

      Gaku(u) - o like in own) with a strees on the middle 'u':small hippo from the word 'ngu(u)

      Gaku(u)- with a quick transition from the middle 'u' to the last one: small dead one.

      I have given you the three above because Kikuyu is tonal and the meaning could lie anywhere.

      Now about unfortunate names - People seem to love whatever name they were given regardless of its meaning. The Kikuyu have a proverb: ritwa ni ria gukuria mwana (a name is for the child to grow): Don't attach too much to a name.

      Ponder about these names:

      Murage - the killed one

      Wamuku(u) - belonging to the dead one

      Muite - the strangled one

      Muriu - the drunkard

      Ngondu - Sheep (the Kikuyu believed that sheep were among the most stupid animals, and I suspect people with this name suffered excessive bullying)

      So, a name is for the child to grow.

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      malaika 6 years ago

      Thanks for the explanation on Muthoni! That's so interesting! I wonder if that tradition/origin is common knowledge among the average Kikuyu since even a child could tell me it had to do with shyness.

      Thanks for your quick reply! I wasn't expecting that so fast but its great.

      Another suggestion: Gakuo (I believe this means small dead thing--an unfortunate name)

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      Emmanuel Kariuki 6 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Hello Malaika, thanks for the compliments. That will give me some fuel for a few more years.

      As you say, this is a work in progress. For some names, there aren't any Kikuyu people alive who know the meaning so I am still researching. For example, my Clan name is 'Anjiru a Mbari ya Thuku - Anjiru of the House of Thuku. Thuku is common boys name. But I have not found an elderly person yet who knows the meaning.

      I have checked the site with meanings of Kikuyu names. For the self explanatory names to a Kikuyu speaker it is Okay. For those that have hidden meanings, the site gives the literal one. For example, Jomo is given as 'burning spear.' That cannot be true. I read a book (I forget which) that associated the word with 'guchomora' to unsheath a sword. That to me is more credible. It was also the name of a beaded belt that kenyatta wore.

      Your are right about Mungai (mu-Ngai) - of God. Another variant is Muigai - of the Devider, because God devided the land among his people so he was also the Great Devider.

      I am impressed by your knowldge of Gikuyu. You are right about all the names you have mentioned. About the following names, I wish to get back to you later so that I am factual - (Chege, Gichege, Mwaniki, Ndung'u, and Wangeci).

      Muthoni means 'in-law'. Athoni is the plural. Uthoni is the 'state of being an Inlaw' or the place where the in-laws stay. The Kikuyu have a proverb that says - Uthoni ndurangarangagwo. This means that one does not fool around with in-laws; one does not spend too much time with in-laws; in-laws should be given maximum respect. In other words, you should be shy when you are among your in-laws. If my mother-in-law is called Njeri, my second daughter should be called Njeri according to tradition. Now if I happen to live very near My mother-in-law, I will find it very difficult to shout 'NJERI' when I am calling my daughter. Should my Mother-in-law answer thinking that I was calling her only to find out that I was calling a child, that would be very mannerless on my part. In such a case, I would have named my daughter 'Muthoni', because of that poroximity with my Mother-in-law. In short, the name Muthoni is about shyness, but it really means in-law.

      I will add the name Kairu to the hub. I always welcome suggestions. Keep the comments coming.

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      malaika 6 years ago

      I just saw your other page about Kikuyu names for girls. I overlooked the fact that this page is just for boy names! Disregard my comments/questions about girl names (Mukami, Wangeci, etc.); I will repost them on the appropriate page :)

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      Emmanuel Kariuki 6 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      To ynw - My Mbari is Thuku but I have not found someone who can tell me the meaning. Perhaps it was a riika (cirmcusion age set) whos meaning has been forgotten.

      to kiarie - I can only guess that the Kamanya is derived from 'menya - know' and that it has something to do with knowing, or knowledge.

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      KIARIE 6 years ago

      what does kamanya mean

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      ynw 6 years ago

      emmanuel - wow, that's really interesting..thank you for your help. i forgot to add the name "thuku" to the list, do you happen to know the meaning of this name?

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      Emmanuel Kariuki 6 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Waweru means from the dry lands. Open grasslands on flat ground are called 'weru'. the word also gives the impression of dry lands, as Kamba country was known to be. It is even used for deserts. A person from Kambaland adopted by the Kikuyu would be called Waweru. The name has of course lost that original meaning.

      I am not sure about Mwaura but I guess it comes from 'kwaura' - to remove a covering. Kwara - to place a cover. Mwaura was probably a person working in hides and skins to make leather goods who would be seen to 'kwaura' the skins after a given time of being stretched out in the sun to dry. This is pure conjecture. Kibutu - I have no idea. But mbutu means eyelashes. Kibutu would a big eyelash. Help from the others please.

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      ynw 6 years ago

      does anyone know the meanings of the names 'mwaura', 'waweru', and 'kibutu'?

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      Emmanuel Kariuki 6 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      You are right - Wambugu was derived from 'deviner.' Will update with more 'animal' names soon.

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      nderitu 6 years ago

      There are other names that are shared by both girls and boys in Nyeri like Wagura , in othaya it's girls name but in Tetu it's boys names .I would also like to more names like Wambugu Ihope it was derived from mbugu of a diviner,Nderi (vulture ),Wanyagia Muruuthi ,Ngatia (Lion )Kibiru

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      Emmanuel Kariuki 6 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Njenga, your name is interesting. First of all, maize was foreign to the Kikuyu before the coming of the Portuguese at the coast. When the Kikuyu first saw maize, it looked quite like the hailstones that came with heavy rain - mbura ya mbembe. And so they called Maize, mbembe. Now when they crashed maize in a pestle and mortar, the result was sand like grains - Njenga. The word has the same roots as the Swahili 'chenga chenga' for bits of something. Isn't that interesting? I will update this information besides your name. Thanks for the inciteful query.

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      Njenga 6 years ago

      what does my name mean? I hope there's some deeper meaning other than maize..ha ha

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      Emmanuel Kariuki 6 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Thanks for the additions. In MS word you get the special vowels from 'symbols' and then you 'copy paste' each time you need them. There is probably an easier way but that's the way I do it.

      When updating, I will order the names alphabetically. I intend to credit readers directly in the hub when they contribute the meanings of the names. Initially I will give a literal meaning e.g. Wangombe - of cattle; followed by the origins where it is known... Work in progress.

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      ngureco 6 years ago

      Thank you. For Wachiuru, I intended to man Wachiuri.

      You can also check if you have the following names: Mukundi, Munene, Muraguri, Maitho, Gathongo, Gachii, Muraya, Murigo, Ngina, Gachagua, Kimaru, Njaramba, Muchoki, Murigi, Ndiangui.

      You may need excel spreadsheet to sort out the names. Where can one get Kikuyu keyboard/fonts?

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      Emmanuel Kariuki 6 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Thanks for your contribution. Consider this to be a work in progress where readers' input is highly welcome so that we can have a complete database of Mt. Kenya region names.

      I have included the additional names.

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      ngureco 6 years ago

      The information you have here is going to be very helpful to people. People would be interested to know the meaning of Kikuyu names for boys and girls. Perhaps you can call for your readers to suggest more names which you may have omitted (a small table with three columns can hold 300 names).

      People would also be interested to know the place where each name is most common – Kiambu, Nyeri, Muranga, Kirinyaga, etc. This really is an important component of history that is getting mixed up and the sooner the various names are documented, the better.

      It would also be interesting to get a similar listing of Embu and Meru names. For example, if you look at your list of names for names starting with “N” - Ndegwa, Ngare, Ngigi, Njagi, Njau, Njeru, Njogu, and Njoka, they are names that are more common in Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Embu and Meru than they are in Muranga and Kiambu. Why?

      May I add some more names - Wamiti, Wachiuru, Nyamu, Wachira, Mwai, and Thairu?