Kikuyu names for Girls and their meaning

Pretty girls, Pretty names
Pretty girls, Pretty names | Source

The daughters of Mumbi

Updated on 15 November 2011

According to the Myth of Origin, God made Gĩkũyũ and placed him near Mount Kenya at a place called Mũkũrwe wa Gathanga God saw that he was lonely and gave him a wife, Mũmbi. Gĩkũyũ and Mũmbi were blessed with nine daughters, but no sons. The daughters’ names, arranged from the eldest to the youngest were as follows:

Wanjirũ, Wambũi, Njeri, Wanjikũ, Nyambũra, Wairimũ, Waithĩra, Wangarĩ, and the last one was Wangũi. These are the founders of the nine clans of the Kikuyu. The nine clans are listed below besides the name of the founder:

Wanjirũ -Anjirũ

Wambũi - Ambũi

Njeri - Aceera

Wanjikũ - Anjiku

Nyambura - Ambura or Ethaga

Wairimũ - Airimũ or Agathigia or Aicakamũyũ

Waithĩra - Athirandũ

Wangarĩ- Angarĩ or Aithe-Kahuno

Wangũi - Angũi or Aithiegeni

There was a tenth daughter who according to tradition was not counted due to an incestuous relationship. This tenth daughter is said to have been Wamũyũ and her clan is the Aicakamũyũ. The daughters were always said to be ‘nine and the fill’.

Women are collectively called 1. Aka, (this word is derived from the verb - gũaka - to build. 2. andu a nja (people from outside 3. Atumia (those who remain silent. It is interesting that the term Mũtumia (woman - literally the one who remains silent) is the title for a man among the closely related Kamba.

The first born daughter is given the name of her paternal Grandmother and the second Daughter after her Maternal Grandmother. Subsequent girls are named after their paternal and maternal aunties alternately. In case the couple has more children than can be named after relatives that had lived, a little investigation is done among the relatives to know whose turn it is even if he had lived several generations ago and somehow lost his lineage. No one really dies permanently among the Kikuyu since he or she is likely to be reincarnated in his grandchildren or brother's and sister's children.

Traditionally, the role of a woman was to produce food from her farming activities, feed the family and during the building of huts, get her age mates to help her with thatching the roof.

The Kikuyu were Matriarchal - power in the hands of women - before men finally overthrew them. Since the nine names are supposed to be perpetuated from Grandparents to grandchildren, the names should have remained NINE. But the Kikuyu absorbed other communities and nicknames also entered the mainstream. The other names are listed below.

Other Names

1. Gakuhĩ - the short one

2. Kanyi ( a male name in Nyeri)

3. Mũkami – the one who milks the cows

4. Mũkina

5. Mũmbi - The potter and mother of the Kikuyu nation

6. Mũrĩnga - a wire. Kikuyu blacksmiths were able to draw wire using traditional forging tecniques

7. Mũringo

8. Mũrugi - the cook

9. Mũthoni - the in-law

10. Mwara - the clever one

11. Nduta -

12. Ng’endo - the one who is always on the move, travelling.

13. Ngĩna

14. Njambi

15. Njeri - the one who is always on the move, travelling.

16. Njoki – the one who resurrected (males are Mũchoki or Kariũki)

17. Nũngari

18. Nyagũra – the one who buys (trader)

19. Nyagũthiĩ - The one who is always on the move, travelling

20. Nyambugi - the one with bells as anklets (the bejeweled one).

21. Nyambura - of the rain

22. Nyawĩra - the hard working one

23. Nyokabi - the one from the Maasai

24. Waceke - the slim one

Below is a recitation in Kikuyu by school girls

25. Wacũ - There was a woman called Wacũ who was not loved by her husband. The man had several wives. One day there was a feast at her home. She knew she would not be welcome to the feasting so she chose to go and work on her farm. A crow stole a juicy piece of meat from the feasting relatives of Wacũ but as it overflew the farm, it accidentally dropped. Wacũ picked it up and feasted on it, hence the Kikuyu saying, ciakorire Wacũ mũgunda - the goodies found Wacũ on her farms. Humans cannot deny you what is rightfully yours.

26. WaCuka – from the Cuka subgroup

27. Wacuka – the ‘cotton fabric’ one. The name probably gained currency when fabric was introduced. Ordinarily, Kikuyus wore leather garments. It should also be noted that Nairobi was initially called ‘Gĩcuka’ by Kikuyus. Perhaps a thouroughly urbanized girl was ‘Wacuka.’

28. WaGichugu – from the gichugu subgroup

29. Wahu

30. Wairimũ - of the ogre

31. Waitherero - of the 'down river', the direction of the flow

32. Waithĩra

33. Wamaitha – variant for Nyokabi – meaning the girl from Maasai country

34. WaMbeere - From Mbeere subgroup

35. Wambugua

36. Wambũi - of the Zebra

37. WaMeru(WaMiru) – from the meru subgroup

38. Wamũyũ -

39. WaNdia – from the Ndia subgroup

40. Wangarĩ - of the leopard

41. Wangeci

42. Wangũ - of the firewood

43. Wangũi - of the baby carrier, Ngoi

44. Wanja - the one from outside (the community ?)

45. Wanjikũ

46. Wanjĩra – of the road. In other communities, a child born by the roadside maybe associated with a road. Though Kikuyus name their children after a relative, this maybe the origin of the name.

47. Wanjirũ

48. Wanyiri - likely to be 'of Nyeri’ One of the three major areas of the Kikuyus. The other two areas are Mũrang’a and Kiambu.

49. Wanyora

50. Warigia - the last one

51. Warĩnga

52. Warũgũrũ- the one from the west

53. Wathira -

54. Wawĩra - the one that works

Sometimes a man married a woman from one of the neighbouring Mount Kenya communities. What started as a nickname was later inherited by grandchildren after which the name became just another common name. Below are a few examples:






Contributed by Ngureco in September 2011

Mukami – the milkmaid (the one who milks)

contributed by Malaika on 14th Nov 2011

Gacheri, Gathoni, Gathigia, Gathani, Gakenia, Gachanja, Gachaki, Haati, Kabura, Karimi, Kanini, Karunguri, Kirigo, Kibui, Mugure, Njuhi, Nyakinyua, Nyacomba, Nyakarura, Nyakiuru, Nyarua, Ruguru, Waigwe, Watiri, Waitiegeni, Wanjeri, Wanjugu, Wamucii, Wabuu, Wairu, Wahito, Warue, Wanene, Wakarima, Wacui, Wakabari, Wangithi, Wanjunu, Waruinge, Wamere

Contributed by Kamau on 27th April 2011

More by this Author

Comments 53 comments

Emmanuel Kariuki profile image

Emmanuel Kariuki 2 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya Author

You are most welcome.

Your husband is right. My own sister had twins girls and they had to be named on her husbands side, so my mother missed out. It's a rule that is followed as it is believed that going against it is like separating the twins and that may not end well for them.

Just to add to your previous question, one of my cousin has a unique name in the family. Her mother had a problem like yours so she asked her mother-in-law what to call the girl. the mother-in-law replied "whatever you call me, even Ngina, I will accept." At the time, Kenyatta's wife, Ngina, was the most famous woman. And so the girl (a woman now) was called Ngina. Now the name has entered our family through a dilemma such as yours.

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mercypeters 2 years ago

Thanks Emmanuel for your response, that is very helpful.

I have another question. My husband says that according to Kikuyu culture, twins are named after relatives from 1 side. For example, if we are expecting our first child, and we happen to get twin boys, they are both supposed to be named from the paternal side, i.e. the boys should be named after my father-in-law and my brother-in-law.

How true is this?

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Emmanuel Kariuki 2 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya Author


Good question Mercy. I can see your dilemma, especially if they insist they do not have alternative names.

Now they may think that they do not have alternative names but they should ask if the persons they are named after had alternative names. Alternative names may be clan names, "age set names," or nick names. If you you find your self not getting any alternative names, create your own and then go to them and get approval. For example if one of them comes from a western direction, call the girl Waruguru. If there is a major river and one of them comes from downstream, call the girl Waitherero. Wawira for hardworking - Warigia for last born etc. The truth is, the person being named must accept at least a nickname and give their blessings. They may even suggest the nickname themselves even if it has never been used before. The child has to be named on the date of birth so get cracking with some names with all of them and make it fun.

Hope that helps.

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mercypeters 2 years ago

Hi Emmanuel,

I have a question:

My name is Wangechi. My mother is called Wambui. My mother-in-law is also called Wangechi and my sister-in-law is called Wambui. I have only 1 sister-in-law.

If I happen to get 3 daughters (God Willing), following the Kikuyu culture, they are supposed to be named: Wangechi, Wambui and Wambui, yet I can't name both my daughters Wambui.

What should I name the 3 girls? Both my mother and mother-in-law said they don't own alternate names and supposing they did but I don't like their alternate names?



Emmanuel Kariuki profile image

Emmanuel Kariuki 2 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya Author

Hello Mugwe,

I believe your name is from the Meru variation of the word 'Mugo" to mean a traditional doctor.

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Felix Mugwe 2 years ago

wat does the name mugwe mean

Emmanuel Kariuki profile image

Emmanuel Kariuki 3 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya Author

njambi muigai, thanks for your question but unfortunately most people I ask, even the elderly do not know the meanings of all the names. I can only guess that Muigai is related to Mungai and the word for God - Ngai, which are all derived from "kugaya" - to devide, share out.

The "mu" denotes human or object with spirit and my guess is that the person that was given the duty of apportioning land to migrants was the "Muigai, or Mungai." Ngai was the supreme giver and not human hence the missing prefix "Mu."

When I get an insight into the meaning of the other names, I will post it. Thanks for visiting this hub.

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njambi muigai 3 years ago

Hi Emmanuel,

Thank you so much for doing this. I was wondering, would you happen to know the meanings and origins of the following names:

Njambi, Muigai, Chege, Ndung'u, Mburu, Thuku

Emmanuel Kariuki profile image

Emmanuel Kariuki 3 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya Author

Among the Kikuyu, you cannot marry from a home where the memory of a distant forefather or mother related to you is still current. I doubt if any one alive will remember a 20th great grand pa. However if the 20th great grand pa started a MBARI (sub-clan) to which you both belong, then you cannot marry. Having the same clan name does not mean that you are related but being from the same MBARI makes you a brother and a sister no matter the distance. The best thing will be to visit each others homes and let the oldest members of both families determine the risk. This of course depends on how much you value your traditions.

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Pius Muturi Riley 3 years ago from San Diego, California


Somebody make me understand how are we related even if we come from the same clan and s/he is not a relative. When you follow the family tree you may meet in the 20th grate grand pa and this is not a close relative. Is the bible against it? Am concerned coz my fiancée we are of the same clan.

Emmanuel Kariuki profile image

Emmanuel Kariuki 4 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya Author

Thanks for your comment Maalim. It is very enlightening.

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Mallim Isa Mbogo 4 years ago from Nakuru County

May Muruungu Mweene Nyaga have mercy on us. No one will emancipate us from mental slavery except Him. You are all learned. Which race is scientifically older than the other, the Gikuyu or Israelis? Nyaga means light that is beyond that produced by the sun. Muruung is defined as the only owner of this light while the Holy Mountain is referred to as the place where this light is found. It is true, anyone who looks at the Holy Mountain is mesmerized by a strong light that is not easily definable. The Holy Qur'aan defines it better in 24:35; "Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The example of His light is like a niche within which is a lamp, the lamp is within glass, the glass as if it were a pearly [white] star lit from [the oil of] a blessed olive tree, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil would almost glow even if untouched by fire. Light upon light. Allah guides to His light whom He wills. And Allah presents examples for the people, and Allah is Knowing of all things." No muhaananie gikuu na toro ni udu wa kwiinyarara na kwiiaaga?

Emmanuel Kariuki profile image

Emmanuel Kariuki 4 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya Author

Thanks for that detailed comment, Njeri Muiruri .

I also have my own theory which I have outlined in the article " Kikuyu People: Secrets of an ancient migration from Egypt to Mount Kenya." This is a controversial subject which needs more debate. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

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Njeri Muiruri 4 years ago

I learnt that "Mukurwe" means type of a tree and "Nyagathanga" is the Hinde's Babbler!

But there is one thing I am certain about-that the origin of the Bantus being west Africa/ Chad /Cameroon/ Congo forest is uncertain because this is the route Bantus migrating from North and in these places they found people who spoke in dialects similar to that of Bantus. The Bantus just like the other groups that migrated to Kenya, they have their origin in North, that is Egypt or Ethiopia.

Whereby they were fishermen, farmers and others livestock keepers. By interacting with the Israel in Egypt not less than 400 years, they interacted and learnt their various habits such as circumcision, Worshiping One True God, offering sacrifices to God, punishment of the thieves in the society and dowry.

I have always considered the way the Gikuyu built their hats and the doors faced Mt. Kenya "Kirinyaga", also they worshiped Ngai wa Gikuyu Whom they considered lived in Kirima Gia Kirinyaga and thus the name goes Ngai wa Kirinyaga. In the other hand, the Israelis built their tents in the wilderness and their doors faced Mt Sinai, and also they considered their God lived in Mt. Sinai because He Spoke to Moses and also one time to Israelis from there. there is a lot of similarities of the Gikuyu, and the Israelis, which is not found among the West African communities.

Emmanuel Kariuki profile image

Emmanuel Kariuki 4 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya Author

@ Lu-shiru , it is Okay for new names to come out of longer ones. That's the nature of language, always changing with times. The same thing happens with English names (indeed all languages) so no need to worry.

@ Wamai - Wamai is "of the water." Origin is not easy to tell as the reasons could be diverse; a child born during a river crossing; a child who survives from a drowning incidence etc. In any case, any person called Wamai is likely to have inherited the name several generations after the episode that caused the name to come into use.

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wamai maina 4 years ago

and what does wamai mean and were does it originate from.

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Lu-shiru 4 years ago

Thank-you Kariuki. This is very informative. Kikuyu parents have always been fond of shortening their baby girls names e.g Shiru for Wanjiru, Shiku for Wanjiku, Kabura for Nyabura etc. The strange thing is that these shortened names have started appearing in birth certificates, CVs and personal profiles. What's your take on this?

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Emmanuel Kariuki 4 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya Author

Thanks Gakinya.

In effort to retain only nine clans, some Kikuyu groups assigned the tenth girl to Wairimu. I believe the clans were ten.

gakinya 4 years ago

wamuyu was gikuyu's 10th daughter who never got married, making/founding the clan of aicakamuyu! They are distinct from the airimu!

Kamau 4 years ago

The prof. who co-wrote a play with Ngugi wa Thiong'o has an interesting name: Micere. Her full names are Micere Githae Mugo.

Emmanuel Kariuki profile image

Emmanuel Kariuki 4 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya Author

Gaciku is a small Wanjiku, so that will be added as a derivative.

Thanks Kamau and continue to put me on my toes.

Kamau 4 years ago

There's also Gaciku

Emmanuel Kariuki profile image

Emmanuel Kariuki 4 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya Author

Thanks a great deal Kamau. Your corrections and contribution are indispensable. I will update Very soon.

Kamau 4 years ago

It's Waithiegeni and not Waitiegeni

Kamau 4 years ago

Nyakio, Wamweru, Wangai, Wangera, Wamuhu, Wamuiru, Wokabi. I'm not too sure about these ones: Mukondi and Murigo.

Emmanuel Kariuki profile image

Emmanuel Kariuki 4 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya Author

Thanks Kamau,

I have included your contribution to be apdated soon.

Kamau 4 years ago

Gacheri, Gathoni, Gathigia, Gathani, Gakenia, Gachanja, Gachaki, Haati, Kabura, Karimi, Kanini, Karunguri, Kirigo, Kibui, Mugure, Njuhi, Nyakinyua, Nyacomba, Nyakarura, Nyakiuru, Nyarua, Ruguru, Waigwe, Watiri, Waitiegeni, Wanjeri, Wanjugu, Wamucii, Wabuu, Wairu, Wahito, Warue, Wanene, Wakarima, Wacui, Wakabari, Wangithi, Wanjunu, Waruinge, Wamere

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Mallim Isa Mbogo 5 years ago from Nakuru County

Brother, first and foremost please remember Mt Kiri Nyaga was shaped just as Kilima Njaro today before weathering gave it the current shaped. How long did that take? Many Ethnic groups in Kenya will give tales of where they came from as Nyuuba ya Muubi tell time and again they have been here ever since Muruungu Mweene Nyaga "molded" (please note the word and compare with common knowledge today) their parents. Scientific research, archaeological as well as genetic, proves them right. Some elders say "Mu Gikuyu" means "wise than Uyu", "Uyu" referring to a good spirit such as the visitors who visited Prophet Ibrarim (peace be on him) to announce the birth of his son and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Holy Qur'aan says the first man was wise than the Angels (2:31-33). He was placed in paradise (Gidhaka) flowing with rivers of pure clean water, milk, honey and wine (47:15), and ever since there is no way you will separate their descendants from acquiring a piece of gidhaka out of which all other goodness and riches will come. Their wine was made of honey, thus more medicinal than alcoholic, taken not by all. Gikuyu was black as he was molded out of black smelly clay (15:26-44). Satan became his arch-enemy due to his godliness, as well as the children of Cain, the whites, who will only use religion to serve their interests but not to worship God(5:27-31). The Aagikuyu know of the Adu Irimu ('Aad Iraam, 89:6-7), whose Prophet was Hud(peace be upon him)(11:50), a civilization that came after the floods of Prophet Nuh (peace be upon him)(11:89). Muruungu Mweene Nyaga gave them a holy land to which the monsoon winds used to blow Prophet Sulaiman (peace be upon him)'s fleet after he had subdued the kingdom of Saba (Sheba) in Yemen (21:81). The land was holy because on it stood the holy mountain, and the inhabitants worshiped the Only True God and kept His holy ways (Zephaniah 3:10-12, a prophecy on the Mau Mau rebellion and the ethnic clashes? Translators have not done justice to these verses as they are trying to hide something). Due to this the land was dished out to the Jews by the League of Nations after the First World War, but majority of the priests chose Palestine. It is not yet off the noose, this time destroying the natives through biological warfare as they laugh at the Palestinians. Do I sound fanatical? Please view the subject in a broader way, not as we have been programed by the enemies of the black man. What if it was we who took the message to them? Unfortunately God did not find us able (Qur'aan 20:115), but that does not justify all the injustices heaped on us. It is now our time to Shout to them, Gutiri Ngai tiga Muruungu Mweene Nyaga! Na ithui turi duungata shiaake kuna!

Emmanuel Kariuki profile image

Emmanuel Kariuki 5 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya Author

Thanks Issa,

Your comment makes startling suggetions. I have not yet done the comparisons you are alluding to. If your interpretation is correct, that would put our history much further (earlier) than I had theorised. See the Hub on 'Akhenaten and the Kikuyu.' I do not disagree that our history stretches further back than Akhenaten but that calls for more exploration into our our collective memmory to glean more of our history. Kindly give me the references in the Holy Quran. I have both an English and Swahili translation.

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Mallim Isa Mbogo 5 years ago from Nakuru County

Hallo. Am glad to have discovered you. Av been interested in the Kikuyu History that was grossly distorted by the colonialists and their cronies. Av been comparing the Kikuyu religion with the Old Testament of the Bible, but could not be proud of who I am till I studied the Holy Qur'aan. I can now authoritatively say Gikuyu was the first man (called Adam by the Arabs and the Jews due to his chocolate color), as also evidenced by scientific research that East Africa is the cradle for man, where Gikuyu was placed and has lived kuuma Demi na Madhaadhi. His wife was Muubi, Hawa according to the Arabs and the Jews, with the names having the same meaning. You may call the nine plus one daughters as clans, but with time and thorough study you may discover they are the world races, the blacks (Wa Jiru) having been the first race on Earth, giving birth to other races as black will give others but none can give black. Thus Wa Jiru was the first "girl". In the Holy Qur'aan we read that after human races were destroyed by rain at the time of Nuh (peace be upon him) there followed a human race that was like no other, the "Aad Iraam. The Kikuyu call them Adu Irimu (Marimu) and discribe them in the same way. Wa Irimu, a girl named after these people, is placed as the sixth daughter by some, most probably the 6th race to come up on earth from the first that was black. Am irritated when I hear people placing the Jews where they don't belong due to propaganda campaign in the Name of God. We must retrace and reclaim our position as there is no one like us, nor a land like ours. Ask those who have traveled on earth.

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Emmanuel Kariuki 5 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya Author

@ ruguru

Thanks. I see the name Mwihaki as coming from 'Kuhaka' to paint. Mwi - is a prefix implying to 'on one-self.' The one who paints oneself (or applys a substance on oneself). Perhaps it came about as a nickname to a girl who would refuse to ba adorned by her friends and would insist on doing it hersef. This is conjecture and when I find another meaning I will get back to you.

ruguru 5 years ago

Very informative,thanks. Would you know the meaning of the name Mwihaki,girl's name?

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Emmanuel Kariuki 5 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya Author

Happy new Year Ngugi.

Unfortunately, or fortunately whatever the case, your father-in-law is still your father even if he is younger than you. The 60 year old will have to call the father of his wife 'father' regardless of age. It is like the situation where your mother has sisters younger than you. You will still have to respect them as 'tata' even if they are in nursery school.

Michael Ngugi 5 years ago

Kimani was my great grandfather and his wife was called Wambui. My grandfather's name is Kiriga(Quite a rare name to indeed). I have an interesting question here, its off topic but withing Kikuyu culture. If a man aged 55 has a daughter aged 23.Our culture clearly states that any person who marries the daughter will automatically call the daughters father as 'Father'. What happens if the husband of the daughter is older than the father e.g aged 60. What will the to refer to each other.

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Emmanuel Kariuki 5 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya Author

Congratulations. Now do not stop there. Who was that Kimani? Who were his brothers? How far down the line from you is he?

I found out only last month that our Mbari is named after my great-great-Grandfather. Not too far back really. When descendants of a single identifiable man decide that that particular old man needs to be rewarded with a title they just start telling their children that they are of that old man's Mbari. Usually he will have been deemed to have contributed enourmously to their well being either as a great fighter, businessman, landowner, chief or even by laying a foundation for their education and prosperity. Often cousins start refering to themselves as Mbari of someone rather spontaneously. My cousins are already doing that.

Michael Ngugi 5 years ago

After several non stop inquiries I have come to learn that I belong to the Ambui clan. My aging aunt told me that when she was a small girl, she used to hear people greeting them like,"Mureiga Ambui mbari ya Kimani" so I guess I will have to settle on this. Non of my grand parents are alive. Thank a lot I owe you one. So how does one know which sub clan he belongs i.e mbari

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Emmanuel Kariuki 5 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya Author

If your Grandfather is alive, he should know. Your grandfather had brothers and cousins. Someone in that line knows. The oldest man or woman in your family should be a great asset. I belong to the Anjiru a mbari ya Thuku ( Anjiru of the house of Thuku)- Best of luck.

Michael Ngugi 5 years ago

Wao, thanks a lot. Then am sad to say that I don't know which clan I belong to. I asked my father who said he is not aware as well. His brothers and sisters are also not aware. I will do research here and there hope to know this soon.

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Emmanuel Kariuki 5 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya Author

The clans are not determined like that. If Wanjiru's mother is Wangui, who is Wangui's husband. This man is the one whose clan we need to know. While clans are named after the nine daughters of Gikuyu and Mumbi, the descent is patrilineal - kinship, or derivation through the father and not the mother. If say the husband is Mr. Kamau from the Aceera (Njeri's) clan, all of Wangui's children will be Aceera . If Wanjiru later marries a man of the Ambui clan, the children from this marriage will be Ambui. So Wangui's children are Aceera, and her Grandchildren by Wanjiru are Ambui. The other daughters may marry into other clans. Wangui's sons are the only ones who will carry over the Aceera clan to their sons and grandsons and great-grandsons into perpetuity.

So the second question has been answered. There is no way of knowing ones clan from the given name. A girl called Wanjiru is not necessarily from the Anjiru clan. If it happens it is by coincidence. You can have a Njeeri who is of the Ambui; A Wanjiku who is of the Anjiru and so on...

Michael Ngugi 5 years ago

Thanks a lot. Another question regarding the clan and I will put it in two scenarios. If wanjiru's mother is called wangui, to what clan do her 2 daughters belong and what will be the clans of wangui's grandchildren.

How do you identify the clan of a girl was name is Muthoni, Mukami i.e a name which doesn't belong to the original nine clans.

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Emmanuel Kariuki 5 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya Author

Hello Michael,

Mumbi was the name of Gikuyu's wife - the initiators of the tribe.

In Kikuyu customs, we name children after relatives that are living, have lived, or were expected such as what happens when a long dead relative was not named by an immediate relative due to barrenness or early death. Such a person would still be named among the children of her/his brothers and sisters in a certain order.

So now Ngugi,you must have a woman called Mumbi in your family in order to give your daughter that name. Let's say you love the name Mumbi and it's the turn of your auntie (lets call her Njeeri) to be named. You simply go to Njeeri and tell her, look. My daughter should be called Njeeri because it is your turn to be named in my family. Can I also call her Mumbi? Chances are that she will agree and your daughter will carry both names.She will obviously be known by the name you use most of the time.

I have a cousin who should have been called Wanjiru, but her mother wasn't sure if the the old lady whose turn it was would rather have Wanjiru or Wairimu, since she happened to own both names, maybe by the circumstance I have described above. The old lady (actually my grandmother) said jokingly - "you can call me anything even Ngina (the name of President Kenyatta's wife)." The child's mother rather liked Ngina, so today, the lady is both Wanjiru and Ngina. With permision from the person you are naming, you can call your child Mumbi or any other name.

It is not true that Mumbi is for first borns only. for instance if your Auntie is called Mumbi, but your own mother is Wangare, there is no way Mumbi can be named before Wangare in your own family so you get blessed with many girls, Wangare will be older than mumbi

Michael Ngugi 5 years ago

Thanks a lot for the enlightening information especially about the originality of the name Muthoni. Now my question is, under which circumstance do you name a child Mumbi and which clan does she belong to. And is true the name Mumbi belong only to firstborns

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Emmanuel Kariuki 5 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya Author

Hello Wangeci. The answer is in the previous comment. I was asked the same question by Malaika and could not find a specific meaning. Maybe we can work together in further research.

Wangeci Wanyiri 5 years ago

wonder what my name Wangeci means.

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Emmanuel Kariuki 5 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya Author


Wangeci is an alternative name for Waithira, the initiator of the 'Aitherandu' clan. Beyond that, I have not found a specific meaning.

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Emmanuel Kariuki 5 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya Author


It is true that Thumbi was a sort of crown to show authority. I am unable to confirm about the Nyaga and the centre of power. Give me more pointers.

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Emmanuel Kariuki 5 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya Author

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 (Uthoni nduteremagwo). 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.

The names here are few but will grow as I add more.

You are right about Mukami. I will add the name Mukami and credit you. Please help with such reminders. I always welcome suggestions. Keep the comments coming.

I have sent word around my Kikuyu thinktanks for the meaning of Wangeci. Stay with me.

malaika 5 years ago

Emmanuel, I have read here and elsewhere that Muthoni means an in-law but I have been told by native speakers of Kikuyu that it means "shy one." Thoughts?

Also, you could add Mukami to the list, meaning "one who milks" or something like that. (gu-kama=to milk)

Do you have any idea about the meaning of the name Wangeci? I really like that name. I wish there were more girls' names in Kikuyu...there are so many more boys' names!

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ngureco 5 years ago

Thank you for your answer.

We kikuyu people seem to have lost some of our history faster. I was just trying to look at the meaning of the word kidhumbiri from Giriama people (thumbi in kikuyu). Kidhumbiri in Giriama is a crown/head-dress of WHITE OSTRICH TAIL FEATHERS given to an elder chosen for wisdom and uprightness. The chosen elder to wear such a crown has to be the leader of the maximal age-set. It’s very possible the Kikuyu may also have retained a very similar meaning for a crown. I would therefore suggest the word ‘nyaga’ in this case is coming from that head-dress/crown made of white ostrich tail feathers and that it’s a blind folded code for the real centre of power for the Gikuyu people.

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Emmanuel Kariuki 5 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya Author

My theory of 'Thanga' is out of the box. It is related to Tanga (several towns at the coast by that name); Kutia-nanga (to dock, arrive at a port):Tanga tanga (roam about); Tanga-nyika (Roam in the wilderness); Tanga (to touch in Kikuyu); Tanga (to disturb in Kikuyu- those you find settled already); Gatunganga (a settlement where ancient Kikuyu pottery was found, probably the first point of 'touch down' on arrival); Mukuru wa Nya -gathanga (elder of the Tanga tanga people).

Note also that many places in Kikuyu country are called Gatanga.

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ngureco 5 years ago

Thank you.

They say Nyagathanga is a bird. ‘Nyaga’ is perhaps from a bird and ‘Thanga’ is perhaps from sand. I do not know that bird. Perhaps it could be a species of the Hinde’s Babblers of Mukurwe-ini, or any of the other birds with white head covering (thumbi) found in Muranga and Nyeri. Readers from Mukurweini should help us identify this bird.

I believe that root word ‘nyaga’ is the same as found in ‘kirima kiri nyaga’ and ‘ngai mwene nyaga’.

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Emmanuel Kariuki 5 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya Author

Thanks. I will add them to the main hub with credits to you later. Now about Nyagathanga - I heard the bible being quoted in Kikuyu and apparently there was a bird by that name. Any idea which one? It would be interesting to know why it would be called Nyagathanga.

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ngureco 5 years ago

You have said, “Kikuyu absorbed other communities and nicknames also entered the mainstream”. From the strength of that statement, I will suggest the following girls’ names:

1. WaMbeere

2. WaCuka

3. WaNdia

4. WaMeru(WaMiru)

5. WaGichugu

And in passing, “Mukurwe wa Gathanga” is referred to as “Mukurwe wa Nyagathanga” by some people. It is from the name "Nyagathanga" that they extracts the Embu names of Nyaga and Nthanga.

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