Check out these popular Kenyan surnames and their rich cultural meanings

Photo: Mothers at Risk

African names are mostly a means of identification. With so many ethnic groups and languages, the continent has its own ways of selecting names for its children.

These names do not only show the origin of an individual or the tribe in which they are from, but are also given based on one’s place of birth, events surrounding the birth, the time of birth, the mother’s condition at birth, among others.

In Kenya, its names, particularly its last names, do also give details about the country’s rich history, culture, and tradition.

Recently, a report revealed that the common Kikuyu name, ‘Mwangi’, is the most popular surname in Kenya, appearing at a frequency of 1 in every 72 people. Meaning ‘seizes the nation victor’, over 6,000 people in the East African country bear the name.

Here are some other popular Kenyan last names and their meanings:

Maina – a Kikuyu name meaning “a father of the Agikuyu.”

Kamau –  a Kikuyu name meaning “quiet warrior.”

Otieno – from the Luo tribe meaning “born at night.”

Kariuki – a Kikuyu name meaning “born again.”

Kimani – It is of Swahili origin and it means “child of a warrior.”

Ochieng – from the Luo meaning ‘born with the sun shining.”

Odhiambo/Adhiambo – from the Luo meaning “born in the afternoon.”

Omondi/Amondi – a Luo name meaning “born around dawn.”

Onyango/Anyango  – a Luo name meaning “born in the early morning.”

Karanja  – it means “he who inspires with awe.”

Wanjiru – a Kikuyu name meaning “one of the nine founders.”

Waweru –  a Kikuyu name meaning “born of the plains.”

Njeri – from Kikuyu meaning “daughter of a warrior.”

Wambui – a Kikuyu name meaning “singer of songs.”

Wamugunda – a Kikuyu name meaning “of the land.”

Wamuiru – a Kikuyu name meaning “dark-skinned beauty.”

Wamweru –  a Kikuyu name meaning “light skinned”

Wangai – a Kikuyu name meaning “born of God.”

Wangari – from Kikuyu meaning “leopard.”

Wangera – a Kikuyu name meaning “traveler.”

Nduta – from Kikuyu meaning “to teach or help someone.”

Koinet  – a Maasai name meaning “the tall one.”

Leboo – a Maasai name meaning “born in the bush, outside the homestead.”

Legishon – from Maasai meaning “the polite one.”

Lolkerra – from Maasai meaning “owner of many sheep.”

Naengop – a Maasai name meaning “from a large place.”

Omwancha – from Kisii meaning “he loves people.”

Onkwani – from Kisii meaning “he talks a lot.”

Nyathera – from Kisii meaning “she survived.”

Nyanjera – from Kisii meaning “born on the way.”

Nyachae – from Kisii meaning “generous.”


Last Edited by:Ama Nunoo Updated: February 4, 2021


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