Kikuyu language

Kikuyu or Gikuyu (Gikuyu: Gĩkũyũ [ɣēkōjó]) is a language of the Bantu family spoken primarily by the Kikuyu people (Agĩkũyũ) of Kenya. Numbering about 7 million (22% of Kenya's population),[4] they are the largest ethnic group in Kenya.[5] Kikuyu is spoken in the area between Nyeri and Nairobi. Kikuyu is one of the five languages of the Thagichu subgroup of the Bantu languages, which stretches from Kenya to Tanzania. The Kikuyu people usually identify their lands by the surrounding mountain ranges in Central Kenya which they call Kĩrĩnyaga.

Native toKenya, Tanzania, and Uganda
RegionCentral Province
Native speakers
6.6 million (2009 census)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-1ki
ISO 639-2kik
ISO 639-3kik


Kikuyu has four main mutually intelligible dialects. The Central Province districts are divided along the traditional boundaries of these dialects, which are Kîrînyaga, Mûrang'a, Nyeri and Kiambu. The Kikuyu from Kîrînyaga are composed of two main sub-dialects – the Ndia and Gichugu who speak the dialects Kĩndia and Gĩgĩcũgũ. The Gicugus and the Ndias do not have the "ch" or "sh" sound, and will use the "s" sound instead, hence the pronunciation of "Gĩcũgũ" as opposed to "Gĩchũgũ". To hear Ndia being spoken, one needs to be in Kerugoya, the largest town in Kîrînyaga. Other home towns for the Ndia, where purer forms of the dialect are spoken, are located in the tea-growing areas of Kagumo, and the cool Kangaita hills. Lower down the slopes is Kutus, which is a bustling dusty town with so many influences from the other dialects that it is difficult to distinguish between them.The dialect is also prevalent in the rice growing area of Mwea .

The unmistakable tonal patterns of the Gichugu dialect (which sounds like Meru or Embu, a sister language to Kikuyu) can be heard in the coffee-growing areas of Kianyaga, Gĩthũre, Kathũngũri, Marigiti. The Gichugu switch easily to other Kikuyu dialects in conversation with the rest of the Kikuyu.


Symbols shown in parentheses are those used in the orthography.


Front Central Back
High i u
Mid-high e (ĩ) o (ũ)
Mid-low ɛ (e) ɔ (o)
Low a


Bilabial Dental/
Palatal Velar Glottal
Plosive voiceless t (t) k (k)
voiced prenasalised ᵐb (mb) ⁿd (nd) ᵑɡ (ng)
Affricate ᶮdʒ (nj)
Nasal m (m) n (n) ɲ (ny) ŋ (ng')
Fricative voiceless ʃ (c) h (h)
voiced β (b) ð (th) ɣ (g)
Liquid ɾ (r)
Approximant j (y) w (w)

The prenasalized consonants are often pronounced without prenasalization, and thus /ᵐb ⁿd ᶮdʒ ᵑɡ/ are often realized as [b d dʒ ɡ].


Kikuyu has two level tones (high and low), a low-high rising tone, and downstep.[6]


The canonical word order of Gĩkũyũ is SVO (subject–verb–object). It uses prepositions rather than postpostions, and adjectives follow nouns.[7]


Kikuyu is written in a Latin alphabet. It does not use the letters f l p q s v x z, and adds the letters ĩ and ũ. The Kikuyu alphabet is:

a b c d e g h i ĩ j k m n o r t u ũ w y[8]

Some sounds are represented by digraphs such as ng for the velar nasal /ŋ/.

Sample phrases

English Gĩkũyũ
How are you Ũhoro waku or kũhana atĩa?
Give me water He maĩ
How are you doing? Ũrĩ mwega? or Wi mwega
I am hungry Ndĩ mũhũtu
Help me Ndeithia
I am good Ndĩ mwega
Are you a friend? Wĩ mũrata?
Bye, be blessed Tigwo na wega/Tigwo na thaayũ
I love you Nĩngwendete.
Come here Ũka haha
I will phone you Nĩngũkũhũrĩra thimũ
Am blessed Ndĩmũrathime
God is good Ngai ni mwega
Give me money He mbeca
Stop nonsense Tiga wana


There is a notable literature written in the Kikuyu language. For instance, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o's Mũrogi wa Kagogo (Wizard of the Crow) is the longest known book written in Kikuyu. Other authors writing in Kikuyu are Gatua wa Mbũgwa and Waithĩra wa Mbuthia. Mbuthia has published various works in different genres—essays, poetry, children stories and translations—in Kikuyu. The late Wahome Mutahi also sometimes wrote in Kikuyu.

In popular culture

In the 1983 movie Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, the character Nien Nunb speaks in the Kikuyu language.[9]


  1. ^ Kikuyu at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Kikuyu". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online
  4. ^ CIA Factbook, retrieved on 16 October 2007.
  5. ^ "East Africa Living Encyclopedia". Retrieved 8 May 2016.
  6. ^ Kevin C. Ford, 1975. "The tones of nouns in Kikuyu," Studies in African Linguistics 6, 49–64; G.N. Clements & Kevin C. Ford, 1979, "Kikuyu Tone Shift and its Synchronic Consequences", Linguistic Inquiry 10.2, 179–210.
  7. ^
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ Feldmann, Compiled From Wire Service Dispatches With Analysis From Monitor Correspondents Around The World,Edited By Linda (28 July 1983). "In Kenya, audiences roar at language in 'Jedi' film". Christian Science Monitor. ISSN 0882-7729. Retrieved 24 June 2017.


  • Armstrong, Lilias E. 1967. The Phonetic and Tonal Structure of Kikuyu. London: Published for the International African Institute by Dawsons of Pall Mall.
  • Barlow, A. Ruffell and T. G. Benson. 1975. English-Kikuyu Dictionary. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • Barlow, A. Ruffell. 1951. Studies in Kikuyu Grammar and Idiom. Edinburgh: William Blackwood & Sons,
  • Benson, T. G. 1964. Kikuyu–English Dictionary. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • Gecaga B. M. and Kirkaldy-Willis W.H. 1953. English–Kikuyu, Kikuyu–English Vocabulary. Nairobi: The Eagle Press.
  • Leakey L. S. B. 1989. First Lessons in Kikuyu. Nairobi: Kenya Literature Bureau.
  • Mugane John 1997. A Paradigmatic Grammar of Gikuyu. Stanford, California: CSLI publications.

External links

1977 in literature

This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1977.

Gakaara wa Wanjaũ

Gakaara wa Wanjaũ (1921–30 March 2001) was a prolific Gĩkũyu author, historian, editor and publisher from Kenya.

Kenya Broadcasting Corporation

Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) is the state-run media organisation of Kenya. It broadcasts in English and Swahili, as well as in most local languages of Kenya. The corporation started its life in 1928 when Kenya was a British colony. In 1964, when Kenya became an independent country, the corporation's name was changed to Voice of Kenya. In 1989, the Kenyan parliament reverted the corporation's name from Voice of Kenya to Kenya Broadcasting Corporation.

During the rule of president Daniel arap Moi, KBC became the mouthpiece of the government. Each broadcast opened with a piece on what the president had been doing that day. Under the then president, Mwai Kibaki KBC took a more objective approach. The corporation helped mould most of Kenya's notable journalists especially before the liberalisation of the airwaves in Kenya. One such journalist is Leonard Baraka Mbotela whose name has for a long time been synonymous with KBC radio's Idhaa ya Kiswahili (Swahili Service). Others before him included Job Isaac Mwamto, Amina Fakhii, Ishmail Mohammed,Jacob William Maunda, Khadija Ali, and Stephen Kikumu, was one of the pioneer broadcasters. In the English service broadcasters who pioneered the service were Hassan Mazoa, Sammy Lui, followed later by Peter Njoroge, Elizabeth Omolo and in the prime hey days of the service in the 1970s were Abdulhaq, George Opiyo and Kazungu Katana.

In the 80s and better part of 90s names such as Khamisi Themor, Ali Salim Manga, Daniel Gatei, Billy Omala, Ngulamu Mwaviro, Enacled Araba, Martin Nyongesa King`asia were also heard.


Kikuyu or Gikuyu (Gĩkũyũ) may refer to:

Kikuyu people

Kikuyu language

Kikuyu, Kenya, a town in the Central Province

Kikuyu Central Association, a political organisation

Kikuyu Constituency, an electoral division in Kenya

Kikuyu grass, Pennisetum clandestinum

A fictional corporation in Walter Jon Williams' novel Hardwired

Kikuyu Central Association

The Kikuyu Central Association (KCA), led by James Beauttah and Joseph Kang'ethe, was a political organisation in colonial Kenya formed in 1924 to act on behalf of the Gĩkũyũ community by presenting their concerns to the British government. One of its greatest grievances was the expropriation of the most productive land by British settlers from African farmers. Most members of the organisation were from the Gĩkũyũ tribe.

KCA was formed after the colonial government banned the earlier Young Kikuyu Association founded by Harry Thuku and the East African Association.In either 1925 or early 1926, Beauttah moved to Uganda, although remained in contact with Kenyatta. When the KCA wrote to Beauttah and asked him to travel to London as their representative, he declined, but recommended that Kenyatta who had a good command of the English language go in his place. Kenyatta accepted, probably on the condition that the Association matched his pre-existing wage. He thus became the group's secretary. Jomo Kenyatta, later the first president of Kenya, joined it to become its General Secretary in 1927.

The Kikuyu Central Association was banned in 1940 when World War II reached East Africa. Some fighters of the later Mau-Mau still understood their struggle as continuation of KCA and even called themselves KCA.

The end of World War II, however, saw the new type of African organisation that went beyond tribal boundaries with the rise of the Kenya African Union that later was to become KANU.

KCA published the Muiguithania ("the reconciler"), a Kikuyu language newspaper. It was banned alongside KCA in 1940.

Kikuyu people

The Kikuyu (also Agĩkuyu/Gikuyu) is the largest ethnic group in Kenya. They speak the Bantu Kikuyu language. At a population of 6.6 million as of 2009, they account for close to 17% of the total population of

Kenya.The term Kikuyu is derived from the Swahili form of the word Gĩkũyũ. Gĩkũyũ means "large sycamore (mũkũyũ) tree".Hence Agĩkũyũ in the Kikuyu language translates to "children of the huge sycamore".The alternative name Nyũmba ya Mũmbi translates to House Of The Potter or Creator.Agĩkũyũ can also be a shortened form of Mũũgĩ (wise) kũrĩ (than) ũyũ (him/her),hence "one who is wise to others".

Mai Mahiu

Maai Mahiu is a settlement in Kenya's Rift Valley Province that means "hot water" in native Kikuyu language.

Marion Stevenson

Marion Scott Stevenson (18 May 1871–1930) was a Scottish missionary with the Church of Scotland Mission in British East Africa (Kenya) from 1907 until 1929.Stevenson worked at first for the church's Kikuyu mission at Thogoto, then from 1912 for its mission at Tumutumu in Karatina, set up by Rev. Henry Scott and Dr. John Arthur in 1908. She established and ran a girls' school, which became Tumutumu Girls' High School, taught sewing, knitting and hygiene, worked in the hospital, trained teachers, and helped to translate the Bible.According to theologian James Karanja, citing a Church of Scotland memorandum, in 1929 Stevenson coined the term "sexual mutilation of women" to describe what was then known as female circumcision, a practice of great importance to the Kikuyu people, Kenya's largest tribe. The Kenya Missionary Council followed suit and began referring to it that year as sexual mutilation, rather than as circumcision or initiation. The practice is now widely known as female genital mutilation (FGM).


In Kenya matatu (known as mathree in Sheng) or matatus are privately owned minibuses, although pick-up trucks and estate cars were in the past pressed into service as these kenyan share taxis. Often decorated, many matatu feature portraits of famous people or slogans and sayings. Likewise, the music they play is also aimed at quickly attracting riders.Although their origins can be traced back to the 1960s, matatu saw growth in Kenya in the 1980s and 1990s, and by the early 2000s the archetypal form was a (gaily decorated) Japanese microvan. C. 2015, larger, bus-sized vehicles also started to be pressed into service as matatu.

These minibuses ply set routes, run from termini, and are used for both inter- and intra-city travel. In addition to a driver, matatu may be staffed by a conductor, locally known as a makanga or manamba.

As of 1999, they were the only form of public transport available in Nairobi, Kenya, although in 2006 and 2008 this was no longer the case.

The name may also be used in parts of Nigeria.


Mungiki is a banned ethnic organisation in Kenya. The name (mũngĩkĩ, [mo.ᵑɡ]) means "a united people" or "multitude" in the Kikuyu language. The religion, which apparently originated in the late 1980s, is secretive and bears some similarity to mystery religions. Specifics of their origin and doctrines are unclear. What is clear is that they favour a return to indigenous African traditions.They reject Westernisation and all things that they believe to be trappings of colonialism, including Christianity. The ideology of the group is characterised by revolutionary rhetoric, Kikuyu traditions, and a disdain for Kenyan modernisation, which is seen as immoral corruption. Mungiki is often referred to as Kenya’s Cosa Nostra, Yakuza, or Kenyan Mafia due to its organization. They have been newsworthy for associations with ethnic violence and anti-government resistance.

Mwangi wa Iria

Francis Mwangi wa Iria is the 1st and current Governor of Murang'a County in Kenya. He is also the current vice chairman of the Council of Governors of Kenya, having been elected in January 2019. He was elected on the 4 March 2013 and subsequently in August 2017 for his second term. His famous campaign slogan is "Hapa kazi tu" (translated from the native kikuyu language, nu wira tu). He won the 2013 Kenyan gubernatorial elections under The National Alliance ticket. The politician has been caught in numerous scandals ranging from assault to corruption.


Ndia or NDIA may refer to:

Ndia Constituency, Kirinyaga District, Central Province, Kenya

Alternative name for the Southern Kirinyaga dialect of the Kikuyu language

National Defense Industrial Association, an American trade association

National Digital Inclusion Alliance, an American non-profit organization

Hamad International Airport, an airport in Qatar, formerly known as New Doha International Airport

N.D.Ia., an abbreviation used for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa

Ngugi wa Mirii

Ngugi wa Mirii (1951 – 3 May 2008) was a Kenyan-Zimbabwean playwright, social worked, and teacher most renown for his play, Ngaahika Ndeenda (I Will Marry When I Want), which he co-authored with fellow Gikuyu writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o. The play depicts the injustices and excesses of post-colonial Kenya, and was staged by non-intellectuals in an open-air theatre at the Kamirithu Educational and Cultural Center in Limuru.

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o (Gikuyu pronunciation: [ᵑɡoɣe wá ðiɔŋɔ]; originally James Thiong'o Ngugi, born 5 January 1938) is an award-winning, world-renowned Kenyan writer and academic who writes primarily in Gikuyu. His work includes novels, plays, short stories, and essays, ranging from literary and social criticism to children's literature. He is the founder and editor of the Gikuyu-language journal Mũtĩiri.

In 1977, Ngũgĩ embarked upon a novel form of theatre in his native Kenya that sought to liberate the theatrical process from what he held to be "the general bourgeois education system", by encouraging spontaneity and audience participation in the performances. His project sought to "demystify" the theatrical process, and to avoid the "process of alienation [that] produces a gallery of active stars and an undifferentiated mass of grateful admirers" which, according to Ngũgĩ, encourages passivity in "ordinary people". Although his landmark play, Ngaahika Ndeenda, co-written with Ngugi wa Mirii, was a commercial success, it was shut down by the authoritarian Kenyan regime six weeks after its opening.Ngũgĩ was subsequently imprisoned for over a year. Adopted as an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, the artist was released from prison, and fled Kenya. In the United States, he taught at Yale University for some years, and has since also taught at New York University, with a dual professorship in Comparative Literature and Performance Studies, and at the University of California, Irvine. Ngũgĩ has frequently been regarded as a likely candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Among his children is the author Mũkoma wa Ngũgĩ.



Nyeri is a town situated in the Central Highlands of Kenya. It is the county headquarters of Nyeri County. It is one of the oldest towns in Kenya having been established in the British colonial era. The town was the central administrative headquarters of the country's former Central Province. Following the dissolution of the former provinces by Kenya's new constitution on 26 August 2010, Nyeri town is now the largest city in the newly created Nyeri County.[2]

Nyeri hosts the tomb of the founder Lord Baden Powel, the founder of the Scout movement. It is also the home town the late Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai.

Nyeri's Roman Catholic Cathedral also hosts the tomb of Blessed Irene Stefani "Nyaatha" who was beatified on 23 May 2015 in Nyeri. Half her remains preserved in the Cathedral, and the other half at Gikondi.

The town is also the home of the Dedan Kimathi University of Technology (DeKUT) founded by the local community in the early 1970s as an institute of technology and converted into a fully fledged university in 2012.

The city is situated about 150 km (a two-hour drive) north of Kenya's capital Nairobi, in the country's densely populated and fertile Central Highlands, lying between the eastern base of the Aberdare (Nyandarua) Range, which forms part of the eastern end of the Great Rift Valley, and the western slopes of Mount Kenya.

The city population, according to the 2009 Kenya Population and Housing Census, was estimated at 325,357.However, the number is rapidly growing. There is, however, a significant population of primarily Government and corporate workers who ordinarily reside in Nyeri but who, during the census, choose to be counted in their areas of origin or the areas where their families are residents.Nyeri town's central business district is relatively small as compared to other cities in, for instance Mombasa and Kisumu. While small business activities are vibrant, Nyeri is essentially a government administration city.

The town has a relatively low cost of living in comparison to Nairobi and other major urban centers in Kenya. Located in Kenya's fertile highlands, food and water are plentiful and relatively cheap.

Peter Kenneth

Peter Kenneth (born 27 November 1965) is a Kenyan politician. He hails from Kirwara Sub-location of Gatanga Constituency in Murang'a County, Kenya.

Queen Jane (musician)

Jane Nyambura (1964/1965, Kangema – June 29, 2010, Nairobi), better known for her stage name Queen Jane was a Kenyan benga musician performing in Kikuyu language.

Queen Jane was from Murang'a County. She started her musical career in 1984 as a back up vocalist for Mbiri Young Stars under the band leader Musaimo (Simon Kihara). She formed her own band Queenja Les Les and released her debut album Ndorogonye in 1991, produced by Lemanco Productions Her career reached prominence a year later upon the release of her hit song Mwendwa KK. Her other hits include Ndutige Kwiyaba, Muici Wa Itura, Muthuri Teenager and Arume Ni Nyamu. Many of her songs handled social issues.Her last album Gikuyu Giitu (Our Gikuyu (Language/tribe)) was released in early 2010. Maina David Mithu of Leemax Studio has been one of her producers.She won awards from the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) and Music Composers Association. Her song Nduraga Ngwetereire (I've been Waiting for You) was released on The Rough Guide to the Music of Kenya compilation CD.Queen Jane died of meningitis June 29, 2010 at St Mary's Hospital in Nairobi after a spell of illness. Her funeral was postponed as her relatives disputed over the place of her burial.She is survived by husband Kariuki Mburu. Her siblings Ejidiah Wanja (aka Lady Wanja) and Agnes Wangui (Princess Aggie) are also musicians. Kenyan politician John Michuki, who deceased in 2012 was her uncle.

Thika River

The Thika River flows through Kiambu County in central Kenya and is a tributary of Tana River. The River forms a psychological boundary between the counties of Murang'a and Kiambu. The Thika River is a significant source of hydroelectric power in Kenya and provides most of the water supply for Nairobi, Kenya's capital and largest city.

The name Thika originates either from the Kikuyu language or from the Maasai language. It may relate to the Kikuyu word guthika, which means to bury. It also resembles the Maasai word sika, which means to rub something away from an edge.

Wahome Mutahi

Wahome Mutahi (24 October 1954 – 22 July 2003) was a beloved humourist from Kenya. He was popularly known as Whispers after the name of the column he wrote for The Daily Nation from 1982 to 2003, offering a satirical view of the trials and tribulations of Kenyan life.

Official languages
Sign languages
Urban languages


This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.