Kikuyu names for Girls and their meaning
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:
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.
1. Gakuhĩ - the short one
2. Kanyi ( a male name in Nyeri)
3. Mũkami – the one who milks the cows
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
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, traveling.
15. Njeri - the one who is always on the move, traveling.
16. Njoki – the one who resurrected (males are Mũchoki or Kariũki)
18. Nyagũra – the one who buys (trader)
19. Nyagũthiĩ - The one who is always on the move, traveling
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
A recitation in Kikuyu by school girls
25. Wacũ - There is a tale that revolves around this name
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 overflew the Wacũ's homestead and stole a juicy piece of meat from her feasting relatives. As the crow overflew the farm, it accidentally dropped the juicy meat. 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. God will ensure it gets to you.
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 thoroughly urbanized girl was ‘Wacuka.’
28. WaGĩchugu – from the Gĩchugu subgroup
30. Wairimũ - of the ogre
31. Waitherero - of the 'down river', the direction of the flow
33. Wamaitha – variant for Nyokabi – meaning the girl from Maasai country
34. WaMbeere - From Mbeere subgroup
36. Wambũi - of the Zebra
37. WaMeru (WaMĩru) – from the meru subgroup
38. Wamũyũ -
39. WaNdia – from the Ndia subgroup
40. Wangarĩ - of the leopard
42. Wangũ - of the firewood
43. Wangũi - of the baby carrier, Ngoi
44. Wanja - the one from outside (the community ?)
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 - of njirũ, the dark one
48. Wanyĩrĩ - likely to be 'of Nyeri’ One of the three major areas of the Kikuyus. The other two areas are Mũrang’a and Kiambu.
50. Warigia - the last one
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, Waithiegeni, Wanjeri, Wanjugu, Wamucii, Wambuu, Wairu, Wahito, Warue, Wanene, Wakarima, Wacui, Wakabari, Wangithi, Wanjunu, Waruinge, Wamere
Contributed by Kamau on 27th April 2011
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2011 Emmanuel Kariuki