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Kikuyu Language Online: Vocabulary and Conversation Practice

Kariuki is a Museum Exhibits Designer and author of several children's and young adults story books. He is also a gifted artist.

This article will introduce you to the Kikuyu language. By the end of this article, you should be able to express yourself satisfactorily in Kikuyu. This will take a few months so plan a weekly programme and read small bits of the lessons at a time.

The article starts with a brief background of the Kikuyu people before progressing to the language, its structure, and vocabulary. Finally, there are dialogues to aid you in conversation practice. You may request additional help by posting a comment at the bottom of this article.

The correct name for the language is Gĩgĩkũyũ, and the speakers are Gĩkũyũ. Kikuyu is the Anglicised form of both the language and the speakers. The word Kikuyu has gained currency and will be used in this article to refer to both the people and the language. Gĩkũyũ was also the name of a patriarchal ancestor.

Leakey (1959, p. Vii) says, “Kikuyu is probably one of the most archaic of the Bantu languages and in consequence has a grammatical structure with fewer exceptions than in most of the others.” This means that Kikuyu resembles the ancestor of the Bantu language (proto-Bantu), more than the other Bantu languages spoken today. At the time of the Bantu migration, all Bantu speakers probably spoke something similar to Kikuyu. I am of the same opinion, having identified archaic Kiswahili words that are no longer in use but are of everyday use in Kikuyu. This may imply that words used in both Kikuyu and Kiswahili, long became archaic in the latter but continue to be utilized by the former.

The Kikuyu are classified linguistically as Highland Bantus together with the Kamba, Kuria, Gusii, Embu, Kurya, Tharaka, and Meru of Kenya (Ogot ed. 1980, p. 82). The other Highland Bantus in East Africa are the Meru (Tanzanian), Segeju, Sonjo, Ikoma, Chagga, Gweno, Shashi, Zanaki and Nguruimi of Tanzania. They are all of the Benue-Congo language division of the Niger-Congo family (Ogot ed., 1974).

Standard Kikuyu has three main divisions. These are Gaki (Nyeri), Metumi (Muranga) and Kabete or Kiambu Kikuyu (Muriuki 1974). Gĩkũyũ was not only a language but also the name of a patriarchal ancestor.

The Mount Kenya peoples and the Kamba of the Eastern province are sometimes assumed to be Kikuyu because the languages are intelligible. However, some, like the Meru, are thought to be a separate tribe. Though I have found evidence to link them to the Kikuyu (in a sort of confederacy) in ancient times.

Defining the Kikuyu

Some experts were asked to rate the Kikuyuness of the Mount Kenya tribes, including the Akamba, on a scale with 'Most Kikuyu' and 'Least Kikuyu' on the extreme ends. All five (5) respondents felt that the Muranga, Kiambu, and Nyeri were “more Kikuyu” than the others. The Embu, Ndia, and Gichugu were closer to the Kikuyu than the Meru and subtribes. All the respondents were unanimous that the Kamba were not part of the Kikuyu but always in the periphery. Only one of the respondents insisted that the Nyeri, Muranga, and Kiambu were the only true Kikuyu.

On September 28, 2006, I interviewed Dr. Muriuki, a history professor. According to Muriuki, the Kikuyu are no more than 500 years old. Consequently, he considers the Tene and Agu generations to have started around 1400 AD, about one hundred years before Vasco Dagama landed at Mombasa (in 1497). This was not in agreement with my findings. If Akhenaten and Smenkhare correspond with tene (long ago) in Kikuyu and Kare in Meru, then the history of the Kikuyu can be traced to at least three thousand years ago.

Muriuki believes that the Kikuyu came from “Cameroon, near Lake Chad,” and moved into Kenya through Congo, Zambia, and South Africa, before veering northwards into present day Kenya where they faced hostile Somalis at the Shebele river, in (today’s) North Eastern Kenya, and stopped further movement. In their advance towards mount Kenya, they “pushed the Igembe and Tigania leaving some of their people behind.” They then moved East into Tigania, Embu, Mwea, Murang’a (Mukurwe wa Gathanga); North into Nyeri, Mukurweini, Kahuhia, Maragwa; and finally, they expanded into Kiambu.

Archaic Terms for the Months of the Year






Kĩhu (beginning of the 'Njahi season)












Mũgaa 2


Kĩhu 2 (Beginning of the 'Mwere season)





Kikuyu is similar to Arabic in its syllable structure. Arabic is a CV syllable language where “C” stands for a consonant and ‘V’ for a vowel (Cook 1997). Kikuyu however also allows for a VCV structure where a word can start with a vowel. The rule is that the word must end in a vowel. In Kikuyu a dog is called Ngui (CV), and Uga (VCV) means “say.” In phonemics, “NG” is a single phoneme rendered with two graphemes. The English CVC structure is not possible in Kikuyu but can work in Luo. An example of the word "dog" is given in two languages: English - Dog (CVC); Luo – Guok (CVC).

Some common male Kikuyu names

Karanja, Kamau, Kariũki, Mwangi, Kĩmani, Njoroge, Mũngai, Ndũn'gũ, Mũchoki, Mũngai, Kamande, Gĩtaũ, Kĩhara, Macharia, Mũirũrĩ, Wanjaũ, Wahome, Gĩthĩnji, Cege (Chege), Kĩragũ, Ngigĩ, Ng'ang'a, Wanderi, Gĩtonga, Wambũgũ, Watene, Mũkundi, Kĩnyua, Mũrĩu, Gathu, Mũgo, Mwanĩki, Gĩthaiga, Mũraguri, Chomba, Njũki, Gĩchũki, Mũnene, Gĩchũrũ

Some common female Kikuyu names

Wanjirũ, Njeri, Wanjikũ, Wangarĩ, Wambũi, Nyambura,Njoki, Wambũi, Wairimũ, Waithĩra, Nyagũthiĩ, Nyokabi, Wangũ, Kanyi (is a male name in Nyeri), Ngendo, Nyawĩra

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Kikuyu vowels

Gĩkũyũ is written with seven vowels (Leakey 1959, p. vii). Leakey compares the pronunciation of these vowels with the English language as summarized below:

a – like the vowel in “hut”

e – like the e in “hen”

ĩ – as the i in “it”. I suggest that a in “ate” is closer to the real pronunciation.

i – like the e in “he”

o – like the au in author. I suggest the o in “only”

ũ – like the oo in “good.” I suggest the ‘o’ in “oh dear.”

u – like the u in “who”

Leakey (1959) notes that l, f, p, v, x and z consonants are missing in Gĩkũyũ and that the Gĩkũyũ r is something between r and l. Leakey also states that that c is pronounced ch and b “has a touch of f, v and p”. I suggest that b is like the sound bh in the Indian word “mahabharat.”

Gĩkũyũ is a tonal language and the orthography in current usage is inadequate. For example the word iria can mean ‘a lake (The Kikuyu language does not differentiate between a pool of water, a lake or even the sea. They are all 'Iria', or 'Maria' in plural, the plural being mainly for stagnant pools.)’ ‘those’ or ‘milk’ depending on the tone. When the stress is on the last syllable – ‘a’, with a higher tone than at the beginning, the word means milk. When the word is said with a monotone with no stress on any syllable, the word means a lake. The units that define tones in a morpheme have been termed “tonemes” by linguists (Martinet 1964). Martinet describes “melodic tones” as another characteristic of some languages. While tones manifest themselves in individual morphemes, melodic tones manifest themselves in sentences. It appears to I that Gĩkũyũ is both “tonal” and “melodic tonal”.

The Kikuyu alphabet made simple

Gĩkũyũ nouns.

Leakey has identified ten classes of nouns.

The first three classes of nouns in Gĩkũyũ represent things which are considered to have a spirit. Leakey divided them according to the importance of the category of spirit, which they are deemed, to possess.

1. Class I - these are nouns denoting human beings. Humans may be removed from this class to another class (but still retain a spirit) due to scorn or hatred, or otherwise for having “some special connection with religion, or magic…” Examples of class one nouns are:

Mũndũ – Person, kamũndũ - small person, Kĩmũndũ - big person (derogatory and should be avoided.), Andũ- many people, imũndũ - many large persons (derogatory and should be avoided.).

Mũndũ ũyũ mũraihu ni mwega– this tall person is good. (Note that the prefixes in the adjectives have to agree with the noun.

Mũtumia – married woman, Gatumia - small woman (derogatory and should be avoided.), Gĩtumia - big woman (derogatory and should be avoided.), Atumia - many women, Ndumia - many large women (derogatory and should be avoided.)

Gatumia gaka karaihu ni kegathis smallish tall woman is good (note that Gatumia is diminutive. The adjectives again have to agree with the noun. However, the prefixes that agree with Ga are Ka and Ga. One has to learn through usage which one to use appropriately.

Mũirĩtu – initiated girl, Kairĩtu - small girl.

Kairĩtu gaka karaihu nĩ kegaThis smallish tall girl is good.

Mũanake – Unmarried initiated man

Mũanake ũyũ mũraihu nĩ mwegathis tall (young) man is good

2. Class II nouns have second class spirits, lower than that of humans. Most large trees and plants. Epidemic diseases which are viewed as being spirit borne would According to Leakey (1959) normally go to class III, but for some reason may find themselves in class II. Below are four examples.

Mũrimũ - spirit-borne disease

Mũrimũ ũyũ nĩ mũru- this disease is bad (note again that the adjective has to agree with the noun).

Mũkũyũ - another kind of fig tree besides the mũgumo

Mũkũyũ ũyũ nĩ mũkũrũ – this fig tree is old

Mũtamaiyũ - wild Olive

Mũrũthi - lion

3. Class III - nearly all birds, reptiles, insects, mammals, and many lesser plants, are in this class. Below are some examples. Humans in this class have received quite a demotion.

Njangiri - an outcast

Njangiri ĩno nĩ ndwaruthis outcast is sick

Ngĩa - pauper

Ngombo - serf or slave

Njamba – brave warrior

Njamba ĩno ndungu nĩ nguhĩ- this brave is fat and short

4. Class IV Nouns are mainly lifeless objects: some are man-made, others are natural. Some pitiable humans held in disrespect, “scorn or hatred” find themselves in this class. Some examples are given below:

Kĩrĩgũ - big uninitiated girl (derisive)

Kĩhĩĩ - big uninitiated boy (derisive)

Kĩhĩĩ gĩkĩ kĩa maina nĩ gĩkĩguthis maina’s boy is foolish

Kĩhembe - drum

Gĩtonga - a miser (derisive). I is of the opinion that in current usage, the word means a rich person and is not derisive.

5. Class V has items of “ceremonial, religious and magical significance.” Leakey explains that the eye, riitho, is in this class because of its potential for magic and as the “evil eye.” Humans who play a very special religious part in family life find themselves in this class, such as:

Ithe, (plural) ma-ithe – father

This is an interesting word because it translates as ‘their father.’ You use it when you are referring to other peoples’ father. You never use it when you are referring to your own father, in which case you will say ‘Baba.’

Nyina, (Plural) Manyina – mother

Like ‘Ithe’ this word translates as ‘their mother’. When you are referring to your own mother you use the word ‘Maitũ.’

Guka, (plural) Maguka - grandfather

The word in brackets can be ignored without changing the meaning.

1. Monday – (Mũthenya) wa mbere - the first day (not in common usage) , Jumatatũ- from Kiswahili (in common usage)

2. Tuesday - (Mũthenya) wa kerĩ - the second day

3. Wednesday – (Mũthenya) wa gatatũ – the third day

4. Thursday – (Mũthenya) Wa kana - the fourth day

5. Friday – (Mũthenya) wa gatano – the fifth day, (Mũthenya) Juma – from Kiswahili.

6. Saturday – (Mũthenya) wa Jumamothi – from Kiswahili.

The logical (Mũthenya) wa gatandatũ, is not used today.

7. Sunday - (Mũthenya) wa Kiumia – literally the day of coming out/stopping what you are doing. The logical (Mũthenya) wa mũgwanja – the seventh day -is not used.

The Kikuyu did not perform a duty for more than seven days continuously without a break for fear of a bad omen.


Months of the year – Requested by Bosko

The Kikuyu had a year with two seasons and twelve moons (months). These names are not in use today except by anthropologists. I have put them in the introduction text for those interested in archaic language. The following terms are what the Kikuyu use on a daily basis.

January – (Mweri) wa mbere, the first month, Njanwarĩ,

February – (Mweri) wa kerĩ, the second month, Beburwarĩ

March – (Mweri) wa, gatatũ, the third month, Maci

April – (Mweri) wa kana, the fourth month, Ĩburũ

May – (Mweri) wa gatano, the fith month, Mĩĩ

June – (Mweri) wa gatandatũ, the sixth month, Njuni

July – (Mweri) wa mũgwanja, the seventh month, Njuraĩ

August, - (Mweri) wa ĩnana, the eighth month, Ogathiti – being a borrowed word, the ‘s’ is forcefully pronounced.

September – (Mweri) wa kenda, the nineth month, Thebutemba

October - (Mweri) wa ikũmi, the tenth month, Ogitomba

November – (Mweri) wa ikũmi na ũmwe, the eleventh month, Nobemba

December - (Mweri) wa Dithemba - the logical (Mweri) wa ikumi na ĩrĩ, the twelfth month,is not commonly used.

A. Parts of the body

mũtwe - head

Njuĩrĩ - hair

Iniũrũ - nose

Kanua - mouth

Igego- tooth, magego – teeth,

Ikamburu – molar, makamburu - molars

Kĩreru - chin

nderu – beard, materu - beards

riitho – eye. maitho – eyes, mbutu - eyelashes

ngingo - neck

kĩande – shoulder, ciande - shoulders

guoko – hand, moko - hands

Kaara – finger, tũara fingers (Tuara, with a change of tone,also means deliver something somewhere)

igokora - elbow

Nda - stomach

Gĩthũri - chest

Mũkonyo - Belly button

Njohero - Waist

Kĩero – thigh, ciero - thighs

Kũgũrũ – leg, magũrũ - legs

ikinya – foot, makinya - feet ( also foot steps)

Clothing and related items

Nguo - clothes, Nguo cia mwĩrĩ - clothes for the body - mwĩrĩ body

Cati - shirt, Thuruarĩ - Shorts/pants, Mũbuto - Trousers

Thogithi - socks, Ngobia - hat/cap, tai - necktie,

Mĩwani - spectacles, kiratũ - shoe, Iratũ- shoes, Taritari - slippers,

Nginyĩra - (traditional) leather sandals

Gĩtambaya - cloth, Gĩtambaya kĩa mũtwe - Head scarf

Mindira - ear rings, Bangiri - bangle(s), Mbete - ring, Mũgathi - necklace

B. the Kikuyu Sentence – Prefixes, nouns and adjectives

The noun forms the subject of the sentence. Kikuyu nouns have a stem attached to a prefix. For example the noun for house is nyũmba. In this case the same word applies for plural. To this stem, several prefixes can be attached to change to another meaning associated with ‘house.’

Kanyũmba – small house, Kĩnyũmba – big house, tũnyũmba – small houses, Manyũmba – big houses

The word for person is Mundũ. In this case the stem is –ndũ, with the - signifying a living thing.

Kamũndũ – small person, Kĩmũndũ – big person, Tũmũndũ – small persons, Andũ - many People,

Adjectives and verbs have to agree with the noun in a sentence by having the same prefix as the noun, except in a few cases. A house – Nyũmba, is one exception only in its singular. When we say a big house or small house, the agreement has to take place. You will notice that the translation into English is forced because what makes perfect sense in Kikuyu may be awkward in a non Bantu language. Note specifically the transformation of the word for ‘one, two and three etc.’

Nyũmba ĩmwe nene - One big house

Kanyũmba kamwe kanene – One smallish big house.

Kĩnyũmba kĩmwe kinene – One bigish big house

Ngari ĩmwe nene - One big car, Ngari ĩgĩrĩ nene - two big cars

Mũtĩ ũmwe mũnene – one big tree, Mĩtĩ ĩrĩ mĩnene – two big trees

Mbaathi ĩmwe nene – One big bus. The word is borrowed from English ‘bus.’ ‘S’ becomes ‘th’ in borrowed words.

Cũcũ ũmwe mũnene – One big grandmother

Ngigĩ ĩmwe nene - One big locust

Ngamĩra ĩmwe nene – One big camel

Igogo rĩmwe inene – One big crow (bird)

Nati ĩmwe nene – One big nut (the one that locks into a bolt)

Njogoo ĩmwe nene – One big rooster

Karamu kamwe kanene – one big pen. The Ka in Karamu is not a prefix as the word is borrowed from Kiswahili – Kalamu. However, it behaves just as though it was a prefix.

Machini ĩgĩrĩ nene – Two big machine.

Noti ithatũ nene – three big notes (money)

Rangi ũmwe mũnene – one big paint

Taũni inya nini – four big town

Umbuthĩ mũingĩ – a lot of powdery stuff

Waru ithano ndungu - Five fat potatoes

Pronouns – Niĩ – me, Wee- you, Inyuĩ – you (plural), Ithuĩ – we, O – them, We – him/her, yo – it, or Yo, Guo, Kĩo, Ko, - depending on the Noun class.

The pronoun ‘guo’ will not apply to all non human objects. It will depend on the class of object. Guo – mũbira – it - ball; Yo – ngombe – it - cow, Yo – nyoka – it - snake, Yo – metha – it - table; kĩo – kĩũra – it – frog, Ko – koora – it – small frog; etc.

The ‘wee’ for ‘you’ plural is said with a long vowel to differentiate from the one for‘him/her.’

The ‘we’ for him or her is said with a short vowel to differentiate from the one for‘you.’

Kikuyu does not differentiate gender, so it would not matter if the sentence was ‘she is a student or he is a student.’

Positive, Negative and interrogative statements –To be

1. Positive

It is not necessary to start with the pronouns eg. Niĩ – me but people often do. We shall put the Kikuyu pronouns in brackets to indicate that they can be ignored.

· (Niĩ) Ndĩ mũndũ - I am a human.

· (Wee) mũabirika - You are an African.

· (Ithuĩ) Turĩ akenya - We are Kenyans.

· (Inyuĩ) mũrĩega – you (plural) are good

· (O) arutwo - They are students -

· (We) mũarimũ – He/She is a teacher.

· (We) mũrutwo – He/She is a student.

· (Guo) mũbira - It is a ball.

2. Negative

To negate a sentence one uses the terms ‘not’ and ‘have not.’ Ti – is not, Ndĩrĩ – I have not, ndũrĩ – You have not, etc.

  • (Niĩ) Ndĩrĩ mũndũ - I am not a human
  • (Wee) ndũrĩ mũabirika - You are not an African
  • (Ithuĩ) Tũtirĩakenya - We are not Kenyans.

· (Inyuĩ) mũtiumĩte rũraya you (plural) are not from Europe

  • (O) ti arutwo - They are not students
  • (We) ti mũarimũ – He/She is not a teacher
  • (We) ti mũrutwo – He/She is not a student
  • (Guo) ti mũbira - It is not a ball

3. Question

In a question, the statement is similar to the positive. The difference is in intonation. You start on a high note and end on a low note.

  • (Niĩ) Ndĩ mũndũ? - Am I a human?
  • (Wee) mũabirika? - Are you an African?
  • (Ithuĩ) Tũrĩ akenya? - Are we Kenyans?
  • (O) nĩ arutwo - Are they students?
  • (We) mũarimũ - Is he a teacher?
  • (We)mũrutwo - Is she a student?
  • (Guo) mũbira - Is it a ball?

To have

The Kikuyu words in brackets can be ignored without changing the meaning of the sentence

1. To Have – Positive

  • (Niĩ) Ndĩ na ibuku - I have a book.
  • (Wee) na thani - You have a plate
  • (Ithuĩ) Tũrĩ na ikombe - We have cups
  • (O) mari na itĩ - They have chairs
  • (Inyuĩ) mũri na tũramuYou (plural) have pens
  • (We) e na mũkwanjũ - He has a walking stick
  • (We) e na kĩondo - She has a bag
  • Burana ĩna ihoro (irima) – the sweta has a hole

2. to Have – Negative

  • (Niĩ) Ndirĩ na ibuku - I do not have a book
  • (Wee) Ndũrĩ na thani- You do not have a plate
  • (Ithuĩ) Tũtirĩ na ikombe- We do not have cups
  • (O) matirĩ na itĩ - They do not have chairs
  • (Inyuĩ) mũtirĩ na tũramu - You (plural) do not havepens
  • (We)Ndarĩ na mũkwanjũ- He does not have a walking stick
  • (We)Ndarĩ na mũkwanjũ- She does not have a bag
  • Burana Ndĩrĩ na ihoro (irima)- the sweta does not have a hole

3. to Have – Question

  • (Niĩ) Ndĩna ibuku?- Do I have a book?
  • (Wee nĩ) ũrina thani?- Do you have plates?
  • (Ithuĩ nĩ) Tũrĩ na ikombe?- Do we have cups?
  • (O nĩ) marina itĩ? - Do they have chairs?
  • (Inyuĩ nĩ) mũrĩ na tũramu ?- (plural) do you have pens
  • (We) e na mũkwanjũ ? – Does he/she have a walking stick?
  • (We) e na mũkwanjũ?- Does he/she have a bag?
  • (Burana) ĩ na ihoro (irima)? - Does it have a hole?

4. more negatives

K ĩndũ/ti kĩndũ - Something/Nothing,

O na rĩ - never,

Nĩ kũrĩ/gũtirĩ - There is/there isn’t

Nĩ kũrĩ mũndũ/gũtĩrĩ mũndũ – there is someone/there is no one, nobody

Tu - only

Ndiũĩ nĩkĩ - I do not know why

Gũtirĩ kĩndũ kĩega ta iria - There is nothing as good as milk

Ndinyuaga thigara - I do not smoke, ndanyuaga – he/she does not drink

Ndinyuaga njohi - I do not take alcohol, matinyuaga – they do not drink,

Ndĩrĩ mĩnoga - It is not tiring

Ndũkũona mũndũ - You will not see anyone, matikũona – they will not see, tũtikũona – we will not see

Gũtirĩ kĩndũ gĩtigarite - There is nothing remaining, matigari – remains (of something), gũtigara, to remain, gũtigwo –to be left behind

C. Indo cia nyũmba – Riikoinĩ - Household objects – in the kitchen

  1. Rĩrĩ ni riiko rĩa mahiga - This is a stone hearth
  2. Rĩrĩ rĩngĩ nĩ rĩa thitima - this other one is an electric cooker
  3. Ĩno nĩ jiko ya makara - this is a charcoal cooker (Jiko is borrowed from Swahili and only refers to a charcoal cooker).
  4. Ĩno nĩ nyũngũ ya kũruga gĩtheri - this pot is for cooking githeri
  5. Wĩna thani cigana? - how many plates do you have?
  1. Rehe thani ĩmwe na gĩkombe kĩmwe - Bring one plate and one cup
  2. Rehe iciko igĩrĩ - Bring two spoons
  3. Akia mwaki wa kũruga irio - Light a fire for cooking food
  1. Wĩna mũiko wa gũkima ngima? - Do you have a wooden ladle for making ugali?
  1. Kĩĩha kĩbiriti kĩa gwakia mwaki? - Where is the matchbox to light the fire?
  2. Rĩkia gwakia mwaki ũkime ngima - Finish lighting the fire and make ugali
  3. Thambia indo icio - Clean those utensils
  1. Indo irĩkũ? - Which utensils?
  1. Thaani, ikombe na thaburia - plates, cups and na metal pots
  2. Nĩtwarĩa twahũna - We have eaten and are now full

D. Some Kikuyu riddles (Adopted from a std. IV reader by Catholic Mission Press, Nyeri 1935)

1. Mwanake wakwa arĩ itimũ nda - Njũki (my son has his spear in his stomach – a bee)

2. Mbũri ciathiĩ mbere ciatiga gĩtune thutha – rukungu (the goats have gone ahead leaving redness behind – dust)

3. Warĩmĩrwo mũgũnda ũtatũmanĩte – kiguũ ( your farm has been ploughed without your consent - flash flood)

4. Mwathiĩ na mũndũ ũtegũkwĩra hurũka – kĩruru ( you have walked with a person who does not ask to rest – shadow)

5. Ndaikia mũgwĩ mũraya – ritho (I have thrown a long spear – eye).

E. Conjugation in Kikuyu

1st person

In this section, the sentences have been translated in the the order – Word; Literal translation (in brackets); Actual meaning; Verb

Niĩ -Me

Nĩ ndĩroka Nĩ-ndĩ-r-oka - (I have come) I am coming

ũka - come

Nĩ ndĩrarĩra Nĩ-ndĩ-r-a- rĩra - (I have cry) I am crying

rĩra - cry

Nĩndĩrarĩa Nĩ-ndĩ -r- a -rĩa - (I have eat) I am eating

rĩa - eat

Nĩndĩraria Nĩ-ndĩ - r- aria - (I ave speak) I am speaking

aria - speak

Nĩ ndĩrakena Nĩ-ndĩ-r-a-kena - ( I have happy) I am happy

kena -be happy

Nĩ ndĩratheka Nĩ-ndĩ-r-a-theka - (I have laugh) I am laughing

theka- laugh

Nĩndĩrathiĩ Nĩ-ndĩ-r-a-thiĩ - (I have go) I am going

thiĩ - go

Nĩndĩrathoma Nĩ-ndĩ-r-a-thoma - (I have read) I am reading

thoma- read

Nĩndĩrandĩka Nĩ-ndĩ-r-andĩka - ( I have write) I am writing

andĩka – write

2nd person Singular

Wee – you

Nĩ ũroka - You are coming

Nĩ ũrarĩra - You are crying

Nĩ ũraria - You are talking

Nĩ ũrakena - (You are being happy) You are happy

3rd person singular

We - him/her

Nĩ aroka - he/she is coming

Nĩ ararĩra - he/she is crying

Nĩ araria - he/she is talking

Nĩ arakena - he/she is happy

F. Colours in Kikuyu language

1. Purple - Gakarakũ

2. Blue - Mbirũirũ

3. Red - Mũtune

4. Orange - Ngoikoni

5. Yellow - Ngoikoni

6. Green - Nyeni

7. Black - Mũirũ

8. Grey - Kĩbuu, kĩmũhũ

9. White – Mwerũ

Rangi mũtũneRed colour (Red paint)

As can be seen above, the Kikuyu did not differentiate between yellow and orange but I stand to be corrected.

G. Nyamũ cia kũrĩithia - Domestic animals

Ngombe – cow, njaũ – calf, Ndegwa - bull

Mbũri – goat, thenge – billy goat, harika – female goat

Ng’ondu – sheep, Koori – kid, Mũgoma – female sheep, ndũrũme – Male sheep.

Note the word Mbũri also means sheep and goats collectively.

Ngamĩra – camel (not kept by the Kikuyu)

Mbata – duck, gacui – duckling,

Ngũkũ – chicken, gacui – chick, Mwera – hen, njamba – cock (these were not domesticated in pre-colonial times and were seen as mere birds - food for the uninitiated).

Mbũkũ (thungura) – rabbit (were not domesticated in pre-colonial times and were seen as food for the uninitiated).

Mbata – duck, gacui – duckling, Mwera – female, njamba – male.

Nyamũ cia gĩthaka – wild animals

Mũrũthi - lion

Ndũiga - giraffe

Wambũi micore - zebra

Thwariga – antelope (not clear which one)

Thiia – antelope (not clear which one)

Ngatata – wildebeest

Njogu – Elephant

Mbwe – jackal

Hiti – hyena

Huria – Rhinocerous

Nyoto – Cheatah

Nguuo – Hippo

Kĩng’ang’i – Crocodile

Mbogo – buffalo

Ngarĩ – Leopard


Imperatives are orders, requests or suggestions.

In Kikuyu Imperatives, the pronouns are represented by one or two syllables as indicated in capital letters below.

In the case of warnings, the pronouns are prefixes ahead of the verb. For emphasis, the pronoun in brackets may be used. However, even if it is ignored, the meaning is retained because the prefixes in Capital letters below will still identify the pronoun.

The following verbs have been used as examples: Gũtheka -to laugh, Kũrĩa – to eat, Gũthiĩ – to go, Gũkoma – to sleep.

(Niĩ) NDIgatheke – I will/should not laugh (NDI – this prefix stands for the pronoun, I); NDikarĩe , NDIgathiĩ, NDigakome

(Ithuĩ) TŨTIgatheke – we should not laugh (TŨ- this prefix stands for the pronoun, we); TŨTIkarĩe , TŨTIgathiĩ, TŨTIgakome

(We) NDŨgatheke – do not laugh (NDŨ prefix represents You, singular): NDŨkarĩe , NDŨgathiĩ, NDŨgakome

(This WE like the WE in WEATHER is said in a monotone to differentiate it from the ‘you’plural).

(Inyuĩ) MŨTIgatheke – do not laugh (MŨ – You, plural): MŨTIkarĩe , MŨTIgathiĩ, MŨTIgakome

(We) NDAgatheke – he.she should not laugh (NDA – him/her, singular): NDAkarĩe , NDAgathiĩ, NDAgakome

(O) MATIgatheke – They should not laugh (MA – them): MATIkarĩe , MATIgathiĩ, MATIgakome

In orders of requests, the pronoun is followed by the prefix NI at the beginning of the verb, except for YOU plural which is represented by the ‘I’ at the end of the verb. The pronouns in brackets can be ignored without changing the meaning since there is another version of the pronoun in the verb.

(Niĩ) ThekE? – May I laugh? NDĩe , thiĩ, NGOkome

(Ithuĩ) NĩTŨtheke – let us laugh, NĩTŨrĩe , NĩTŨthiĩ, NĩTŨkome

(We) ThekA – Laugh (a - You singular), rĩa , thiĩ, koma (note that in you singular, prefixes are not present)

(We) Atheke – He/she should laugh. (This ‘We’ is said with a rising tone to differentiate it from the ‘you’singular). Arĩe , Athiĩ, Akome

(Inyuĩ) Thekai - laugh (i - you, plural), MŨrĩe , MŨthiĩ, MŨkome

(O) MAtheke – they should laugh, MArĩe , MAthiĩ, MAkome

H. Dialogues

Dialogue 1.

Wĩ mwega, Njoroge?How are you Njoroge?

Nĩ kwega mũrutani. Fine, teacher

Ũreeka atĩa? What are you doing?

Ndaathiĩ thukuru I am going to school

Ũthoomaga thukuru ĩrĩkũ? Which school do go to?

Thoomaga thukuru ya andũ agima. I go to an Adult Education School

Nĩ ũũi kwandĩka? Do you know how to write?

Niĩ njũũĩ kwandĩka o na gũthooma Gĩkũyũ I know how to write and to read Kikuyu

Dialogue 2

Good morning = Wĩ mwega rũciinĩ / kĩroko
Good afternoon = Wĩ mwega umũthĩ (today)

umũthĩ - today

Good evening = Wĩ mwega hwaĩinĩ

All right = nĩwega

I am happy to know you = Nĩndakena nĩ gũkũmenya

Where do your parents live? = Aciari aku maikaraga kũ

My parents live in Nairobi = Aciari akwa maikaraga nairobi

I am doing a degree in languages = Ndĩrathomera ndigirii ya thiomi (rũthiomi - language)

Dialogue 3 - Plural

Plural is represented by the words after the hyphen

How are you? = Wĩ mwega? - Murĩega

I am fine = Ndĩmwega (ndirĩ ũhoro) - Turĩega

How was your safari? = ũhoro wa rũgendo

What is your name? = Wĩtagwo atĩa - Mwĩtagwo atĩa

My name is Mwangi = Njĩtagwo Mwangi - Twĩtagwo Mwangi

How is work? = ũhoro wa wĩra nĩatĩa?

What work do you do? = ũrutaga wĩra ũrĩkũ ? - Mũrutaga wĩra ũrĩkũ ?

I drive a taxi = Ndwarithagia tegithi - Tũtwarithagia tegithi

Welcome = nĩndakũnyita ũgeni - Nĩndamũnyita ũgeni

Thank you very much = Nĩwega mũno

I need a Taxi = Nĩndĩrenda (Nĩngwenda) tegithi - Nĩtũrenda (Nĩtũkwenda) tegithi

I am going to Hilton Hotel = Ndathie (Ndĩrathie) Hiritoni - Twathie (Turathie) mũkawa wa Hiritoni

Fine, you go = Haya, gĩthiĩ

Fine, let's go = Haya, nĩtũgĩthiĩ (nĩtũthiĩ


A dialogue in Kikuyu

A dialogue in Kikuyu

Below is a translation of the speech bubbles in the photo novel above

"Hĩ, ndahota kũona kamweke ga gũkorwo na Morris." - wow, I might get a chace to be with Morris.

"Angĩkorwo gũtirĩ ũndũ ungĩ, no njuge mũcemanio wa ũmũthĩ wa Vibandani Youth Club nĩ wathira." - If there isn't anything else, I can say that today's meeting of Vibandani Youth Club is over.

Hĩ - exclamation like 'Oh my.'

Ndahota - I might be able, nĩngũhota - I will be able. Nĩũkũhota - you will be able. Nĩekũhota - She/he will be able, Nĩmũkũhota - You (plural) will be able. Nĩmekũhota - they will be able, Nĩtũkũhota - we will be able

kũona- to see, ona - see, nĩ ndona - I have seen, nĩ wona? - have you seen?

kamweke - a small chance, Mweke - chance

gũkorwo na - to be with, no gũkorowo - maybe, To gũkorowo - Maybe (interogative, ending in a question).Angĩkorowo - If

gũtirĩ - there isn't, nĩ kũrĩ - there is.

ũndũ ungĩ - something else, kaũndũ - small something

no njuge - I can say, ũga - say, nĩ ndoiga - I have said,

mũcemanio - meeting, gũcemania - to meet

ũmũthĩ - today, ira - yesterday, iyo - the day before yesterday.

rũciũ - tomorrow, oke - day after tomorrow.

nĩ wathira - it is finished (note that the prefix 'wa' agrees with the noun 'mucemanio)

Mai nĩ mathira - the water is finished

Wira nĩ wathira - the work is finished

Andu nĩ mathira - the people are finished

Sukari – nĩ wathira - the sugar is finished

Nyeki nĩ yathira - the grass is finished. (Like in English, grass is singular).

Mbeca nĩ ciathira - the money is finished

Sample dialogues from a Kikuyu Photo Novel Nyumba ya Maithori

Sample dialogues from a Kikuyu Photo Novel Nyumba ya Maithori

Translation of the four pictures above

Morris: It is as if those people did not want to see us. I believe they have sent us away without a reason.

Susie: That home did not please me at all....


Morris: Also, I was not happy with the way they are treating that boy called Musa. How can they beat up a child in front of visitors?


Kiosk man: Are you talking about Musa from the House of Mercy?

Morris: Oh yes, do you know him?


Kiosk man: I know him very well. I go there to donate food often. Musa wants to talk to visitors all the time.

Susie: May be there is something he wants to say.

Hear the Lord's Prayer in Kikuyu

Dialogue 4

A passenger is looking for transport to Kariobangi – Pronounced Karũibang’i in Kikuyu.

1. Wathiĩ kũ mũthii? Where are you going?

2. Ndathiĩ Karũibang’i. I am going to Kariobangi

3. Haica ngari ĩĩrĩa. Ĩno nĩ ya mathare. Take that vehicle. This one goes to mathare.

4. Nĩ ngatho. Thanks.

5. ĩno nĩ ya karũibangi? Is this one to Kariobangi?

6. Ĩĩ nĩ yo ingĩra naihenya, mĩtũkĩ mĩtũkĩ mama. Yes it is, get in quickly quickly Mama.

7. Nyita guoko ndikagwe. Hold my hand so I don’t fall.

8. Ĩkarĩra gĩtĩ gĩkĩ na ũrehe mbeca. Sit on this seat and bring the money.

9. Ni cigana? How much?

10. Ciringi mĩrongo ĩtano. Fifty shillings.

11. Hĩ! Karĩ goro atĩa? My!How expensive?

12. Ti goro mama nĩguo tũrĩhagia. It is not expensive, that is what we charge.

13. Ke igana rĩmwe ũnjokerie mĩrongo ĩtano. Take this one-hundred shillings and give back fifty shillings.


Mũthii - traveller

Haica – climb, uma – get out

Ngatho - gratitude

Nyita - hold

Mĩtũkĩ, naihenya – quickly, with speed

Mbeca, mbia - money

Gwa – fall, Kũgwa to fall

Goro – Expensive, raithi – cheap

Cokia – return, Njokeria – return to me, Mucokerie

Dialogue 5 - Two strangers have just met

1. We - You

2. Nĩwaragia rũthiomi rwa Gĩkũyũ? Do you speak the Kikuyu language?

3. We wĩ Mugĩkũyũ? – Are you a Kikuyu?

4. We wĩ Mũndũ wanja? – Are you a female?

5. Kana wĩ mũndũrume? – Or are you a male?

6. We wĩ mũndũ mũru – You are a bad person.

7. Wĩtagwo atĩa – What is your name?

8. Kwanyu nĩ kũ? – Where is your home?

9. Kwanyu nĩ Thĩka – Is Thika your home?

10. We wĩ mũndũ mũkuhĩ mũno – You are a very short person.

11. Ũrutaga wĩra kũ – where do you work?

12. Nĩũreruta kwaria gĩthweri? Are you learning to speak Kiswahili?

13. Thiĩ kwanyu na wega – Go home in peace (farewel)

14. Na ũgeithanie – and pass my greetings.

Dialogue 6

A shopkeeper and a customer

Mwendia wĩ mwega? How are you seller?

Ndĩmwega mũno Njeri. Uga. I am very fine Njeri. Say.

Nyenderia cukari kiro igĩrĩ na macani ma kiro ĩmwe. Sell to me two kilos of sugar, and one kilo of tea leaves

Ũyũ cukari; maya macani. Here is the sugar: here are the tea leaves.

Na matumbĩ matandatũ. And six eggs.

Kaĩ ũtarĩ wanina mũtu kuma rĩrĩa wagũrire. Haven’t you finished the flour since you bought it.

Wa ngano ndũthiraga naihenya. Wheat flour doesn’t get finished fast.

Ĩ mũtu wa mbembe? What about Maize flour?

Hĩ! Na ni weka wega nĩ kũndirikania. He wa kiro igĩrĩ. Wow! You have done a good thing to remind me. Give me two kilos.

Ũyũ mũtu. Nĩ ũguo ndare? Here is the flour. Is that all so I may add up?

Asha. Ndĩna ageni na ndirĩ na iria. Rehe mbagiti ithatũ. No . I have visitors but I don’t have milk. Give me three packets.

Nĩndatara. Rehe magana mana ma mirongo itatũ. I have added up. Give me four hundred and thirty.

Ke Magana maya matano. Take this five hundred.

Ke cĩnji – mĩrongo mũgwanja. Take your change – seventy shillings.

Nĩ ngatho. Nĩtũonane hĩndĩ ĩngĩ – Thanks. See you another time.

Dialogue 7

Mũici wa ũtukũ – the night thief

1. Ira ndiraire toro – I did not sleep last night.

2. Nĩkĩ? Kaĩ ũrarĩ na wĩra ũrĩkũ? – Why? What work did you have?

3. Atĩ wĩra. Ndũkire ngũhe ũhoro - Work? Keep quiet as I tell you

4. Thiĩ na mbere - continue

5. Ndĩrarugire ngima, ndĩrarĩa na tũnyeni – I made some ugali, and ate it with some greens

6. Ũrarĩa na tũnyeni? Ndũrarĩ na kanyama? - You ate with some greens? Did you not have some meat?

7. Tiga itherũ. Ũyu nĩ ũhoro wa kĩeha - Stop jokes. This is a grave matter.

8. Hĩ! He ũhoro - Wa! Tell me (give me the information)

9. Ndinathambia indo. Ndĩroi ngũcithambia rũciine - I did not was the dishes. I thought I would do that this morning.

10. Ũracitiga maĩini - So you left them in the water.

11. One ũguo. Ndirathiĩ gũkoma - Exactly. So I went to sleep

12. Urarĩ mũnogu mũno - You were very tired?

13. Ndĩrarĩ mũnogu reke ngwĩre – I was tired, I tell you.

14. Ndĩraigwire mũndũ arũgamĩte oharĩa ndĩ – I heard someone standing near me

15. Kaĩ ũrarotaga? - Were you dreaming?

16. Kũrota? Katarĩ mũici ũrarũgamĩte oharĩa ngomete – Dreaming? It was a thief, standing right where I was sleeping.

17. Kaĩ ũtanahinga mũrango? - Did you not lock the door?

18. Nĩũndũ wa mĩnoga rĩ, ndinahinga nyũmba – Due to tiredness, I did not secure the house.

19. Arendaga atĩa? - What did he want?

20. Thimũ, terebiceni, mũtũngi wa ngathi, na mbeca iria ciothe ndĩrarĩ nacio – Phone, television, gas cylinder, and all the money that I had.

21. Ũrarĩ na cigana? - How much did you have?

22. Ngiri ikũmi na ĩmwe na Magana mũgwanja – Eleven thousand, seven hundred.

23. Nĩũthiĩte borithi? - Have you been to the police?

24. Asha. Ndwara kuo oro rĩũ - Not yet. Take me there right now.

Vocabularly – Brackets indicate alternative meaning.

Ira – Yesterday (snow)

Kũrara – to spend the night. Ndiraire – I did not spend the night

Toro – sleep (as a noun), Thiĩ toro – go to sleep, E toro – he/she is sleeping

Koma – Sleep (as an adjective) - Thiĩ ũkome - go to sleep, Nĩ akomete - he/she is sleeping

Nĩkĩ?- why?, Nĩkĩĩ? - what is it?

Ũrarĩ – you were, kaĩ ũrarĩ – were you?

Wĩra ũrikũ – which work? Ngari ĩrĩkũ? - which car?

Nguo irĩkũ? - which clothes? Maĩ marĩkũ? – which water?

Mwaki ũrĩkũ? - which fire? Gĩthomo kĩrĩkũ? which lesson?

rĩu – now, oro rĩu - Just now (right now)

Dialogue 8

Andũ mwanya mwanya - Diferent persons

1. Niĩ – me; Niĩ mwene – I myself (emphatic); Niĩ ũyũ – here I am

2. Wee – You; wee mwene ; Wĩ kũ (Wĩ ha)? – where are you?

3. We (short vowel) – him/her; We mwene; eha? – where is he/she?

4. Inyũĩ – You (plural); Inyũĩ ene; Mwĩha? – where are you?

5. O (short vowel) – them; o ene; Meha – where are they?

6. Mũndũ– person; Kamũndũ – small person; Kĩmũndũ

Andũ – people; tũmũndũ – small people; imũndũ – big people

7. Mwana – child; Kana – small child; Kĩana; big child

Ciana – children; Twana- small children;

8. Mũiretu – girl; kairĩtu- small girl; kĩirĩtu – big girl,

Airĩtu – girls; Tũirĩtu – small girls

9. Mwanake – young man; kĩmwana – big young man

Anake – young men; Imwana – big young men

10. Mũndũrũme – a man; mũrũme – husband

Arũme – men

11. Mũndũmũka (muka) – woman; Mũtumia – married woman

Aka – women; Atumia – marriedwomen

12. Mũthuuri – old man (husband); Mũthee – old man

Athuuri – old men (husbands)

13. Guka – grandfather; Gacũkũrũ (gacũcũ) – Grandchild

Maguka – Grandfathers; tũcũkũrũ (tũcũcũ) - grandchildren

14. Cũcũ – Grandmother; Nyakĩnyua – Fairly old woman (who is allowed to take alcohol).

15. Mũingĩ – crowed of people

16. Mũteti – politician; Mũgo – diviner priest; Mũrathi – seer; mũrogi – witch/wizard

Ateti; Ago; Arathi; Arogi – plurals for no. 16 above

17. Mũrigiti (ndagitarĩ) – doctor;

18. Mũndũ mũirũ – African (Black person); Mũthũngũ – Eropean (any white person); Mũhĩndĩ – Indian (any asian).

Dialogue 9

Ciana na nyina – children and their mother

1. Kamau kinya magego – Kamau, brush your teeth

2. Nĩndĩmakinyĩte. Rĩu nĩ nguo ndĩrehumba – I have already brushed them, I am now dressing

3. Ĩ wee njeri nĩkĩĩ ũreka? – and you Njeri, what are you doing?

4. Ndĩrabanga mabuku makwa mũhukoinĩ – I am arranging my books in the bag.

5. Ukai mũnywe cai naihenya mũtanacererwo – come (plural) and take (plural) tea quickly before you (plural) are late.

6. Nĩtũnyuĩte maitũ – We have taken it, mother.

7. Kiumei mũthie kwĩ ithe wanyu – Then get out and go to your father


Mwana – child; Ciana- children

Gũkinya magego – to brush teeth, mũkinyi – Toothbrush,

Kwĩhumba – to dress, Mwĩhumbĩre – style of dressing, matonyo - fashion

Maitũ/mami – mother, Nyina – his/her mother, nyũkwa – your mother

Mwari wa maitu – my sister (My mother’s daughter), Mwari wa nyina, Mwari wa nyukwa

Baba – Father, ithe – his/her father, ithe witũ – our father, Thogwo – your father

Mũrũ wa baba – Brother (my father’s son – used for stepbrother), Mũrũ wa ithe, Mũrũ wa thogwo

Kũbanga – to arrange, to pack,

Uma – come out, Umai – come out (plural), Kiume – then come out, kiumei – then come out (plural)

Tata – Auntie (on mother’s side), Mama – uncle (on mother’s side)

Baba mũnini - Uncle on Father’s side but must be younger than father (literally small father)

Baba Mũkũrũ – Uncle on father’s side but must be older than father (literally old father)

Note that all aunties on father’s side are all called Tata. All wives of paternal uncles are adressed as 'Mother.' All cousins on both sides are brothers and sisters and any sexual relationship with them is incestuous.

Dialogue 10

Mũndũ na mũtumia wake – a man (person) and his wife

1. Nyina wa maina, ũkĩra – Maina’s mother, wake up.

2. Nĩngũkĩra, he dagĩka ithano - I will wake up, give me five minutes

3. Atĩ dagĩka ithano? – Five minutes?

4. Ndiganĩtie toro – I haven’t had enough sleep

5. Nĩũramenya nĩngũcererwo? – Do you know I will be late?

6. Reke njũkĩre ngũhiũhĩrie maĩ ma gwĩthamba. – let me wake up to heat bathwater for you.

7. Ruga cai naihenya Ngĩthamba – make tea very fast as I take a bath.

8. Nĩkĩĩ ũmũthi, kaĩ wĩna ihenya rĩa kĩĩ? – Why today, why are you in such a hurry?

9. Twĩna mũcemanio – We have a meeting

10. Kaĩ mũkoragwo na mĩcemanio hĩndĩ ciothe? – Do you have meetings all the time

11. Umũthĩ anene othe nĩmegũka – Today all the bosses will come

12. Maĩ maku magwĩthamba nĩmahiũ– Your bath water is ready

13. Hũrĩra mũbuto ũyũ na cati ĩno bathi – Iron this trouser and this shirt

14. Cai ũrĩhĩa rĩ ndaruta mawĩra mau mothe? – When will the tea get ready if I do all those chores?

15. Ngwihũrira bathi na hake iratũ rangi – I will iron and polish my shoes myself


Hũra – beat, hũra nguo bathi – iron clothes, hũra nguo – wash clothes, hũra ngari mwaki – start a car, hũra thimũ – make a telephone call

Hũrĩra – beat for me, Hũrĩra nguo bathi – iron clothes for me, wihũrire nguo bathi – iron clothes for yourself, ni Ngwihũrira – I will iron for myself

Kuhaka - to apply any liquid or paste.

He – give me, mũhe – give him/her, mahe – give them, tũhe – give us, ke- take, oya - pick

Nyina wa maina; Nyina wa Njeri – It is respectable to call a wife as the mother of the first born, in this case – Maina/ Njeri.Often it is shortened to ‘Wa Maina/wa Njeri - of Maina/Njeri.

Ũkĩra – get up; wake up, Nĩngũkĩra – I will wake up (now); Nĩngokĩra – I will wake up (tomorrow)

Kũigania – to have enough, Ndiganĩtie – I have not had enough, Igania irio – have enough of that food (literally – Stop eating)

Kũmenya – to know, Nĩũramenya – do you know, niwamenya – have you known (just now); Niũkũmenya – You will know (today), Niũkamenya – You will know (tomorrow or later in future)

Dagĩka – minute, Thaa – time, Mũthenya – day, ũtuko – night

Hĩndĩ (hingo) ciothe – all the time

Wira – work, mawĩra- jobs

Cai – tea, ũcũrũ – porridge, njohi – beer,

mũcemanio – meeting; mĩcemanio – meetings; gũcemania – to meet

Gomana – meet; magomano; meeting point(meetings); Kũgomana – to meet

Dialogue 11

Wonjoria – Trading

1.Agĩkũyũ nĩ mendete kũĩyandĩka – Kikuyu people like to be self employed

2.Mũno marutaga wĩra wa wonjoria – they mostly work as traders

3.Mawĩra ma wonjoria nĩ maingĩ – there are many trading jobs

4.Kũrĩ magũraga nguo cia mũtumba Nairobi – some buy second hand clothes in Nairobi

5.Magatwara nguo icio mataũni mangĩ ta Naikuru na Naivasha – they take those clothes to other towns like Nakuru and Naivasha.

6.Onjoria angĩ magũraga maciaro ma mĩgũnda – Other traders buy farm produce

7.Maciaro ta mbembe, mboco, ngwacĩ, ndũma… – produce like maize, beans, sweet potatoes, arrow roots…

8.Matunda ta macungwa, maembe, makorobia na ndimũ. – Fruits like oranges, mangoes, avocados and lemons.

9.Onjoria angĩ maigaga nduka, ithĩi cia mbembe kana ngari cia matatũ – other traders have shops, maize mills or public transport vehicles.

10.Matũkũ maya kwĩna mawĩra ma mĩthemba mĩingĩ mũno – These days there are many different kinds of jobs

11.Kwĩ mĩtambo ya kompiuta, mathukuru ma ũbundi wa kompiuta ona wĩra wa kwendia kompiuta -There are computers networks, schools to teach computer technology and even to sell computers.

12.Ũngĩenda kũruta wĩra wa biacara ĩrĩkũ? – Which business would you like to do?


- Kwandĩka - to write, to employ, Kwĩyandĩka - to be self employed

- Wonjoria - trading, mwonjoria - trader, onjoria - traders

- Kwenda - to love, nĩngwendete - I love you, Mwendwa wakwa - my lover, nĩ mendete - they love

- Gũthĩa - to grind into flour, Gĩthĩi - a grinding machine, mũthĩi - person grinding

- nguo cia mũtumba - second hand clothes

- Twara - deliver,take to, gũtwara - to deliver, to take to

Dialogue 12

Mĩthenya ya heho – cold days

1. Hĩ! Kaĩ kwina heho-ĩ! – Lo! It is very cold-oh!

2. Kaĩ wĩ mũrũaru? – are you sick?

3. Wanjũria ũguo nĩkĩ? – Why do you ask me such a question?

4. Tondũ gutirĩ na heho – because it is not cold

5. We! Ta-ĩkĩra burana – you! Just put on a cardigan

6. Kwĩna ũrugarĩ – It is hot (warm)

7. Urenda kũrũara? – do you want to fall sick?

8. Ngwĩhumba burana na kabuti – I will wear a cardigan and an overcoat.

9. Mweri wa mũgwanja ũkoragwo na heho mũno – the seventh month (July) is usually very cold


Kaĩ – this is a prefix that turns a statement into a question. Adding a syllable ‘ĩ’ at the end of the sentencecancels out the question back to an emphatic statement.

Kwĩna heho – it is cold, Kaĩ kwĩna heho? – is it cold?

Kaĩ kwĩna heho - ĩ ? It is really cold

Heho – cold, ũrugarĩ – heat, warmth, Mwaki – fire, Gĩchinga – a burning stick

Burana – cardigan, sweater, igoti – coat, Kabuti – over coat, mũrĩngĩti – blanket,

Ĩkĩra – put (in this case ‘put on – wear), Kwĩhumba – to wear

Mweri – month (moon), mũno – very much

Dialogue 13

This conversation was requested by fjbosko, a follower of this hub.

The word in brackets is an alternative for the word before it.

Wanjikũ: Njeeri', there are many people at your compound. I don't know how they are relatives. Who is Jerusha?

Njeeri, kwĩna andũ aingi mũciĩ waku. Ndiũĩ mũtaranie atĩa. Jerusha nũũ?

NJEERI: Jerusha is the first wife of Mwangi.

Jerusha nĩ mũtumia (mũka) wa mbere wa Mwangi

WANJIKŨ: And Kamau?

Ĩ Kamau?

NJEERI: Kamau is the eldest [big] son of Mwangi.

Kamau nĩ irigithathi rĩa Mwangi.

WANJIKŨ: And whose house is that?

Na ĩrĩa nĩ nyũmba yaũ?

NJEERI: That is the house of the last wife (The word for ‘small’ is used to mean last)

Ĩrĩa nĩ nyũmba ya mũtumia (mũka) ũrĩa munini

WANJIKŨ: Truly. And who is Maria ?

Nĩguo? ĩ Maria nũũ

NJEERI: She is the grandmother.

Nĩ cũwe

WANJIKŨ: Thank you.

Note: Cũcũ – Grandmother, Cũwe – His/her grandmother

C – pronounced as SH. But in some localities it is pronounced as ‘S’


1. Kwĩna (nĩ kũrĩ) – there is (in a certain place)

2. Nyingĩ – many (things), Aingĩ – Many (people), tũingĩ – many (small things)

Depending on the noun class, we can also say Maingĩ – eg. Maũndũ maingĩ (Many things)

3. Gũtarania – to calculate, to relate, to think hard, Nĩ tũtaranĩtie – we have calculated, we are related, we have thought very hard.

4. Irigithathi – First born,

5. Kĩhĩnga-nda – Last born (the one who closed the stomach)

6. Nda – stomach, womb,

7. Nyũngũ ya mwana – womb (the baby’s pot)

8. Nini – small, young

9. Mũtumia mũnini – Small wife (where there is one or more older wives, the youngest is said to be the ‘small wife’)

10. Ũũ? – who? Nũũ, who is it?

11. Nĩ a? - who are they,

12. Ni ĩnyuĩ a – who are you? Inyuĩ! You people!

13. Guka – Grandfather, gukawe – his her grandafather, gukagwo – your grandfather

14. Mũka – wife, his wife, Mũkagwo – your wife, Aka – women, wives, gaka

15. Yakwa – mine, Yake – his/her, Yao – theirs, Yanyu – Yours (plural), Itũ - ours (plural)

Dialogue 14

This conversation was requested by fjbosko, a follower of this hub.

Nĩndamũgeithia inyũothe - Greetings to all of you.

Nitwageithĩka – we have received greetings (said in response to the first line in this dialogue)

Amũkĩrai ngeithi - Greetings to all of you.

Nĩtwamũkira – we have received

Geithĩkai - Greetings to all of you.

Nĩndakũgeithia - Greetings to you (singular).

Nĩndageithĩka – I have received greetings

Amũkĩra ngeithi - Greetings to you (receive greetings).

Geithĩka - Greetings to you (be greeted)

Inyuothe nĩmũgũka ndũnyũ? - Are you all coming to the market?

Ĩĩ, nĩtũgũka ndũnyũ ithuothe - Yes we are coming to the market, all of us.

Ĩ rĩu (ũcio) nĩ irigithathi rĩaku? - And is that your first born?

Ĩĩ (ĩni) – Yes

Asha tiwe – no he/she is not the one

Maitũ, arĩa nĩ a? - Mama, who are those?

Arĩa nĩ ageni – those are visitors

Ũcio aarĩ tata wa baba - That was the aunt of your father.

Nĩ mwarĩ wa nyina na ithe wa thoguo - She is the sister of the father of your father

Niĩwe kĩhinga nda na ũrĩa nĩ mwarĩ wa nyina na mũka (mũtumia wake) - He is the last born and that is the sister of his wife. =

Ũrĩa nĩwe irigithathi – ũcio ũngĩ nĩ mũrũwanyina na mũka - That is the first-born, the other is his brother-in-law (Note: I have not heard a term for brother-in-law??????).


Ngeithi – greetings, Geithania – greet people (usually told to someone who is leaving).

Geithĩka – get greeted (literally)

Amũkĩra – receive

Inyũothe – you all, ithuothe – we all, marĩothe (othe) – all of them

Ndũnyũ – market

Mũgeni – visitor, Ageni – visitors, ũgeni – a visit

Mwarĩ – girl, daughter


The following translation was requested by Christine on 22rd November 2011

Wanjirũ wanted to go home with you but she has changed her mind

Wanjirũ arendaga Kũinũka nawe no nĩeciria ũndũ ũngi

Inũka - go home

Kũinũka - to go home

no - but

Meciria - thoughts

ũndũ ũngi - Something else

Wanjirũ arendaga Kũinũka nawe no nĩagarũra meciria

ndĩragarũra - I changed

Nĩndagarura meciria – I have changed my mind

nĩagarũra - he/she has changed

kũgarũra - to change

Note that the English word Change has been borrowed into Kikuyu as Cenjia – change, gũcenjia - to change

Wanjirũ arendaga Kũinũka nawe no nĩacenjia meciria –

Wanjiru wanted to go with you but she has changed her mind

Dialogue 15

This a conversation was requested by Bosko. The brackets indicate alternative words for those preceding.

Wanjikũ: ĩ aya magĩũka - Here they come!

Njeeri: Mũrĩega? (ũhoro wanyu?) Nĩ ndamũnyita ũgeni (nĩ ndamwamũkĩra) Kenya - Hi! Welcome to Kenya.

Njĩtagwo Njeeri, na ũyũ haha nĩ Kamau - I am Njeeri and here is Kamau.

Nancy: Tũrĩega, Njĩtagwo Nancy. Nĩ ndakena nĩ gũkũmenya - Hi!(We are fine) I am Nancy. Nice to meet you.

John: Niĩ njĩtagwo John. Ndĩ mũrutwo kuma Amerika - And I am John. I am an American student

Wanjikũ: Uhoro waku John? Nĩ wega (Nĩndakena) muno nĩ gũkũmenya - Hello John. Very nice to meet you!

John: Nĩ waragia gĩthũngũ? - Do you speak English

Wahota kwaria Gĩthũngũ - Can you speak English

Njeeri: ĩĩ nĩ twaragia Gĩthungu - Yes, we speak English

Ona Gĩthweri - and also Kiswahili

No twendete kwaria Gĩkũyũ - but we prefer to speak Kikuyu.

John: No njaragia Gĩkũyũ kĩnini tu - But I speak only a little Kikuyu.

Wanjikũ: ũraria wega mũno. Nĩ ũranyita?(nĩ ũraigua?) - You speak very well. Do you understand?

John: Ndĩranyita (Ndĩraigua) wega mũno - I understand it well

Wanjikũ: Ni wega! - Great!

Nĩ wega! One! Haya! Nĩ wega mũno! (nĩ ngatho) - Good! All right! Very well! Thank you!

John: Onawe wĩ mũrutwo? Are you a student too?

Wanjikũ: ĩĩ, ndĩ mũrutwo, no Njeeri nĩ arutaga wĩra. Nĩ mũinjinia - Yes, I am a student, but Njeeri works. She is an engineer.

John: ũthomagĩra kĩĩ – What do you study?

Wanjikũ: Thomagĩra thiomi yunibathĩtĩ ya Kenya - I study languages at the university of Kenya.

Ĩĩ we John? ũthomagira kũ? - And you John? Where do you study?

John: Tũthomagira New York - We study in New York.

For some reason, we do not use ‘ini’ for towns to mean ‘in’

Njeeri: New York nĩ tauni nene ma - New York is certainly a great city.

John: Nĩ ma nĩ nene - Indeed it is.

Wanjikũ: Mathandũkũ mothe me haha? - Are all the suitcases here?

John: II, me haha - Yes, they are.

Wanjikũ: Nĩ tumagare (nĩ tũthiĩ) - Let’s leave

Nancy: Ngaari ĩ ha (ĩ ha ngaari)? - Where is the car?

Wanjikũ: Kwa mũtino ngaari n ĩ thũku - Unfortunately, the car is broken

Tũguthiĩ na mbaathi - We are going by bus.

Ĩno mbaathi ya gũthiĩ (gũtũtwara) taũni - Here is the bus to take us downtown.

John: tũkũrĩha mbeca cigana – How much shall we pay?

Tigiti yumaga mbeca cigana? - How much does the bus ticket cost?

Tigiti nĩ wa thogora ũrikũ? – what is the cost of a ticket?

Njeeri: Nĩ ciringi mĩrongo ĩrĩ - It costs 20 shilings.

The word ‘welcome’ does not exist in Kikuyu. It is common to here people say ‘werokamu,’ or ‘karibũ’- borrowed from English and Kiswahili respectively. The appropriate terms are ‘Nĩ ndakũnyita ũgeni (nĩ ndakwamũkĩra),’I have received you as a visitor, used here in singular. This is followed by ‘ũigwe wi mũciĩ’ – feel at home.

Mũtino – bad luck, bad omen, an unfortunate event

Ũthomaga – you study, ũthomagira - you study for, You study at

thogora - Cost, yumaga - it costs,

gũthogorana - Buying and selling(this is much more as it includes bargaining).

Dialogue 16

Wĩ mũhiku? - (question to a woman) Are you married?

Ĩĩ ndĩmũhiku – (response by a woma) Yes, I am married.

Nĩ ũhikanĩtie? - (question to a man) Are you married?

Ĩĩ nĩhikanĩtie – (response by a man) Yes, I am married.

In Kikuyu it is the man that marries. The woman gets married. Women cannot say “ I married my husband.” This might imply that she is the ‘man’ in the house.

ũrĩ ciana? – (asked to an individual) Do you have children?

mũrĩ ciana? – (asked to a couple) Do you have children?

Ĩĩ tũrĩ ciana ithatũ. Ciothe ni ihĩĩ (tũothe ni tũhii) - (if they are preteens or uncircumcised) Yes, we have three children, all are boys.

Ĩĩ tũrĩ ciana ithatu. othe ni anake – (if they are teens or circumcised)Yes, we have three children, all are boys.

Ĩĩ wee mũthuuri ũyũ, nĩ ũhikanĩtie? - And you, Sir, are you already married?

If you want to massage someone’s ego, you can call him ‘mutongoria’ – leader, for sir.

Ĩĩ, nĩhikanĩtie, no tũtire hamwe na mũtumia – yes I am married but we are not together with my wife (Yes, I am married, but my wife and I have separated).

Ndũkamake mũtongoria – Do not worry (for ‘I am sorry Sir.’)

Nĩ wega (nĩ ngatho) ni kũnyũmĩrĩria– thanks for the support

Ahota gũcoka – She might come back. (Perhaps we will be able to get back again.)

In Kikuyu culture, it is the woman who left the husband and then came back after negotiations between the families.

Ndikwenda kũmũte – I do not want to throw her out (I don’t want a divorce)

In Kikuyu there was no term for divorce. A man could throw out his wife (gũte – to throw out), or the woman could run away (kũũra – to run away). In either case the extended families would meet to resolve the differences. Today, the English word ‘divorce’ would be used to give the modern living where divorces are extremely common.

Ndihikĩte, no ndĩna mwendwa - No, I am not married, but I have a lover (fiancé).

Etagwo Kamau - He is called Kamau.

Ũkwenda kũhika rĩ - When do you expect to get married?

Ndĩrenda (Ngwenda) kũhika ndarĩkia gĩthomo - I want to get married after completing my studies.

Andũ aitũ nĩ maharĩirie maũndũ mothe ma ũhiki - Our families have already made all the wedding arrangements,

Kwoguo twĩhokete kũhikania mũthia (mũisho) wa mwaka ũyũ - So we expect to get married at the end of this year.

Ngai enda (mwathani enda) - God willing!


Kũhota – to be able, Ndahota – I might (I might be able), No hote – I can, no ũhote - you can, twahota – we can

Ndingĩhota – I cannot (I cannot be able)

Ũmĩrĩria – be strong; persevere

Ũhiki ( kĩhiko) - wedding

Mũhiki – bride

Mũhikithania – the official presiding over the wedding (eg. Priest)

Mũhikania – Bride groom

Kũharĩria – to prepare

Kĩhĩĩ – uncircumcised male

Q. I dedicate this song to Nyambura

A. Rwĩmbo rũrũ nĩ rwa kũgocithia (gũkumia) Nyambura

Rwĩmbo rũrũ- this song, nĩ rwa – is for

Ngumo means is fame. So to dedicate is like to make famous, to honour by bringing fame to so and so.

Kumia – bring fame to so and so by singing, or just praising.

Goca – praise, Kũgoca to praise. Kũgocithia – to cause praise to come upon someone or thing.

Kũgoca Ngai - to praise God

Extracts from a Kikuyu Phot Novel Nyumga ya Maithori (The House of Tears)

Extracts from a Kikuyu Phot Novel Nyumga ya Maithori (The House of Tears)


Translation of the above picture

Kiosk man: Maybe it’s how you talked to them. Many things depend on how you present yourself.

Susie: You are right there. Or should we attempt to go back?


jean2013 asked the following question:

Hi id like to know how u say, go warm food in kikuyu. Id appreciate.

Answer: Thiĩ ũhiũhie irio

Thiĩ (Thi as in this and ĩ like the A in Air)

ũhiũhie (ũ like the O in Oats)

Irio - this is the word for all food, though it is used by non Kikuyu to mean the Marshed foods that Kikuyu's make with bananas and greens and sometimes substituting the bananas with potatoes.

One can also say:

Thiĩ ũhiũhie kĩndũ gĩa kũrĩa

kĩndũgĩa kũrĩa - something to eat

More Kikuyu language resources

A Kikuyu man experiences snow

Common woman's attire

Common woman's attire


1. Cook, V., 1997,Inside Language, Anorld, London

2. Leakey, L.S.B., 1959,First Lessons in Kikuyu,Kenya Literature Bureau, Nairobi

3. Landar, H., 1966,Language and Culture, Oxford University Press, New York.

4. Steible, Daniel, 1967,Concise Handbook of Linguistics, Peter Owen, London.

Kikuyu male attire

Kikuyu male attire

Chief's wife attire

Chief's wife attire

© 2010 Emmanuel Kariuki

Leave your thoughts and comments below

Emmanuel Kariuki (author) from Nairobi, Kenya on July 22, 2018:

Hi Benkay.

I haven't seen such a dictionary. Maybe it's time to develop one.

Benkay on July 21, 2018:

Is there an online dictionary for kikuyu to kiswahili or english available

Emmaedo on April 18, 2018:

HI Emmanuel

Just tumbled upon this site and was impressed!

Could you, or any other participant kindly help me to translate the following words into Kikuyu:

Organisation (like a UN organisation)

Humanitarian worker

humanitarian emergency

Many thanks

Emmanuel Kariuki (author) from Nairobi, Kenya on April 14, 2018:

Ndĩmwega mũno Mwangi wa Njoroge.

Njohera nĩ macokio maya macerere. Nĩ ngatho nyingĩ mũno nĩ kũnyũmĩrĩria wĩrainĩ ũyũ wa kwĩrutĩra.

Mwangi wa Njoroge on September 21, 2017:

Wî mwega Emmanuel, ndereti ciaku nî ciingenetie mûno. Ûyû nî wîîra mwega mûno ûkoretwo ûkîruta haha gûtûthomithia Gîkûyû na Ûûgîkûyû.

Hmnjenga1 on August 29, 2017:

I actually don't have Facebook. Any other suggestions?

Emmanuel Kariuki (author) from Nairobi, Kenya on August 28, 2017:

Hi Njenga.

It is difficult have hard rules for Kikuyu because it being a tonal language, it will depend on several factors. Follow me on this page where we can also get help from other Kikuyu speakers -

Hmnjenga1 on August 27, 2017:

Hi there, I am currently studying Kikuyu, and I am trying learn how to pronounce things. I think that where to add emphasis is where I struggle. In Swahili, the second to the last syllable is usually the one that has it... But it seems to vary in Kikuyu. Is the the third to the last syllable? For example, nderakena.. I am happy.. I read nderakEna, instead of nderAkena.. I was corrected when I said it wrong. I'd like to know the rules on that, and where to put the emphasis in a word depending on how many syllables it has. Thank you

Emmanuel Kariuki (author) from Nairobi, Kenya on July 22, 2017:

Hi Georgia Estes. All Bantu languages are derived from one recent proto-Bantu making the vocabulary very similar. Some Bantu languages are even intelligible. You can't imagine Lingala that is all the way in the Congo is more intelligible to a Kikuyu than many Bantu languages that are in Kenya.

Georgia Estes from Arkansas on July 13, 2017:

I was interested to note that there were a few words also in common with Chi-Tonga of Zambia: mukuyu for fig is also a reference to "white" people, mutwe is head, and muntu for people.

Emmanuel Kariuki (author) from Nairobi, Kenya on June 17, 2017:

Hello, Jim McGurr. I am very sorry that I did not see this post till now. Follow me on my facebook page ( Learn Kikuyu - Wîrute Gîkûyû - Jifunze Kikuyu ) I and will answer all your questions related to translation of the Gikuyu language.

Jim McGurr from New York on December 29, 2016:

I sponsored a little girl in Kenya named Jackline. I believe her naive language is Kikuyu. I want to write the following note to her. Can someone point me to a good resource? Thank you.

Hello Jackline.

We wish you and your family a happy, healthy and blessed New Year's.

We pray for you always.

Love Jim

Karinagrube on November 03, 2016:


How do you say the following words in Kikuyu?

- Wise

- Storyteller (male and female)

- Flower

Many thanks!


johnmburu on September 09, 2016:

Nĩ ndĩrenda kũhũthĩra ihinda rĩrĩ gũgũcokeria ngatho nĩ ũndũ wa wĩra ũrĩa ũrutĩte haha. Ndaambĩrĩirie gũthoma hub ĩno ta mĩaka ĩĩrĩ mĩthiru, na Gĩkũyũ gĩakwa nĩ kĩagĩrĩte ingĩgerekania na hĩndĩ ĩrĩa ndaanjirie kwĩruta. Rĩu ndĩrenda kũmenya thimo na ndaĩ, oro ũndũmwe na mĩtugo. He thimo ĩrĩa yugaga atĩ, “ciunagwo rũkomo kĩmenyi akamenya ikiunwo.” He handũ ndĩĩrĩga gũthoma, na haataũrĩte atĩ kuga ũgwo nĩ kuga “Twaragia na thimo tondũ korwo wĩ mũgĩ nĩ ũgũtaũkĩrwo.” Ũgwo nĩ ma? Na “rũkomo” nĩ kĩĩ?

Boniface Kamiti from Nairobi, Kenya on August 25, 2016:

Wi mwega Kariuki,

Kwendaga kumenya kana mudu ni auge, ngaari i ku, hado ha kuga ngaari ĩ ha?

Boniface Kamiti from Nairobi, Kenya on August 23, 2016:

Hi Kariuki,

In reference to yesterday, is it right to say,

Joyce did not come to pick the letters?

Joyce ndanoka kuoya maruwa

Boniface Kamiti from Nairobi, Kenya on August 21, 2016:

Thanks Bwana Kariuki,

Now i understand aria ni a and acio ni a. What the difference in the following sentence, and what is the appropriate one to use?

Wanjiru akwendaga kũinũka nawe no nĩeciria ũndũ ũngi

Wanjirũ arendaga kũinũka nawe no nĩeciria ũndũ ũngi

Emmanuel Kariuki (author) from Nairobi, Kenya on August 21, 2016:

Hi Kamiti,

I promise to try to respond in good time. Here we go:

arĩa nĩ a? ( who are those people? it is infered here that they are within sight, both you and your listener can see the questionable persons)

acio nĩ a? ( Who are they? the inference here is that they are not within sight, perhaps they are in another room possibly they can't hear you either, but both you and your listener saw them sometime earlier).

Boniface Kamiti from Nairobi, Kenya on August 15, 2016:

Another one Kariuki...

Wanjirũ wanted to go home with you but she has changed her mind-

Would i be wrong to say, Wanjiru akwendaga kuinuka nawe no nieciria undu ungi instead of Wanjirũ arendaga Kũinũka nawe no nĩeciria ũndũ ũngi

My confusion is that the sentence with the use of "arendaga" sounds like it was in the past used with "nieciria undu ungi" sounding like the present.

Boniface Kamiti from Nairobi, Kenya on August 15, 2016:

Hi Kariuki, at what point do you know what to use in the following:

arĩa nĩ a?

acio nĩ a?

Mbugua Mwangi on March 29, 2016:

Hi Kariuki.

I need some one to give me the parts (ciiga) of a slaughtered ngoima.

Emmanuel Kariuki (author) from Nairobi, Kenya on September 24, 2015:

What exactly are you trying to say with these words?

Kana gathaka mũno, tene na tene Cũcũ

Sheba Marley on September 20, 2015:

Niatia Emanuel,

Can you help, I want to quote my sons grandmothers on his headstone and need to check its correct as I am English and not sure. He was born in Kenya and named Njoroge, please help and advise on where the squiggly lines should go on u ? and if it is grammatically ok

Thank you muno muno x

on one side of his grave it will say

Your smile lit up our lives, love you Grandma

which is from my mother and on the other side ;

Kana gathaka mũno, tene na tene Cũcũ

we left kenya when he was nearly 2 years, his kenyan name is Njoroge Ngũgĩ

It will be engraved and i dont want any mistakes

Emmanuel Kariuki (author) from Nairobi, Kenya on September 17, 2015:

izokim, this is a tough one. Unless we coin a word, I don't know how to write "square kilometre" in Kikuyu.

Rene Reyes

Thanks for your visit to my page and liking it. Sorry for delay in responding. To learn Kikuyu, start here.


Thanks for your compliments. I will continue to improve this hub as time goes on.

izokim on August 28, 2015:

Hi Emmanuel,

How do you write "square kilometre" in Kikuyu


Rene Reyes on March 29, 2015:

Those are great lessons. I do arabic classes online at right now but I'll take Kikuyu as the next language to learn. thanks for this.

Gacuuru Wa Karenge from Nairobi, Kenya, Africa on February 01, 2015:

This is a good hub. Kariuki has really put a lot of effort to this. A few corrections here and there might be useful.

Emmanuel Kariuki (author) from Nairobi, Kenya on September 13, 2014:

Jessy Kamau, thanks for visiting this hub. I am happy you found it useful.

Emmanuel Kariuki (author) from Nairobi, Kenya on September 13, 2014:

Hello Johnmburu.

Sorry for replying late, but here we go:

GÛTHIOGONYWO - to be lied to; to be taken down the garden path

NYUGUTO - Something that has been thrown out: from Kunyuguta - to throw out

NYUGUITHIA - Never heard this usage - likely from "kuigwithia" - to make one understand.

KÛHWEREREKERA – to dry out - eg. when water is boiling and evaporates until finished.

MÛHIÛRANIA - swinging each other about- from kuhiuria - to swing something tied to a string.

MÛTHITHÛ- savings

MÛHATÎKANO - crowding in a small space; pushing and shoving

MEGIÎ - this word is unknown to me - check spelling

COMBA - originally used to mean "Arab trader", presently used to mean "white man"

RANGÎRÎRIA - Step onto something with force and vigour

Nobody writes Kikuyu dictionaries any more. The most reliable English Kikuyu Dictionary, and a gem to boot due to its archival of words that are no longer in usage is by G. Benson and A.Ruffell Barlow.

I hope that helps

johnmburu on August 27, 2014:

Ohoro waku, ngwendaga kumenya kana no unjire dictionary ya Gigikuyu

iria iri njege mono. Ni ndirenda kugura imwe na computer.

Ni ngatho

Jessy Kamau on August 04, 2014:

Really nice article..., i like it. My question got answered.Keep up the good work.

johnmburu on July 04, 2014:

Ha ha hena ciugo indigithîtie, na nî ingîkena korwo no ûcitaûre.











Emmanuel Kariuki (author) from Nairobi, Kenya on June 30, 2014:

@ Lydiawacera

Hi Wacera, thanks for compliments. I consider the Murang'a Kikuyu which flawed into Kiambu to be the Standard Kikuyu whereas the Kirinyaga and Ndia are intelligible variants. However, Nyeri, Murang'a and kiambu are the "Gikuyu Karinga" - pure Kikuyu in terms of culture. This is debatable since the Consolata mission in Nyeri used the Nyeri dialect as the Standard while the Scottish Mission in Thogoto used the Kiambu dialect as the standard. Statements like "ni ndingiokire" used in Nyeri are hardly put into writing. "ni ingiokire" would be the preferred version to mean I would have come. I stand to be corrected.

Turukia - make to lose balance. I have not heard someone use the word to mean disappear from view. "buiria" is the word for disappear.

I hope that helps.

Lydiawacera on June 26, 2014:

Kariuki nindakugeithia na ni wega ni wira uyu uraruta wa gututhomithia GIgikuyu kiega.

Ndi na ciria igiri

1. Is there standard Gikuyu and if yes, which one is?

2. Turukia does the word also mean to dissapear from view?

Emmanuel Kariuki (author) from Nairobi, Kenya on June 26, 2014:

@ johnmburu

Hi Mburu. Here are the answers to your querries.

ÛMATHO - the act of looking for a livelihood. KÛMATHA - to look for sustenance

RICÛKWO - from the verb KWÎRICÛKWO - to change one's mind about an issue

KWÎGÛMÎRA - to use excessive force when lifting or pushing an object.

MAKEGU - uknown word. Check spelling or give an example in a sentence.

MÛRARÎ - the carbon webs (soot) that overhang a fireplace

IME - morning dew (on grass)

AMU - used with the prefix NÎ to mean - for example, like (swahili - kama). This is a rather archaic term which I heard my grandfather use, but not many people use it today. He often used it to punctuate sentences without attaching much meaning to it.

(MÎRÎYO YA MWARO) - healthy sweet potato vines . MÎRÎYO - sweet potato vines

MÎKENGERIA - a runner weed that is harvested in the bushes to feed sheep and goats. Will find out the scientific name later.

WÎRINGIE NÎ RWA NYARÎRÎ - this statement is told to a person to mean "you are on your own now, solve your own problems"

johnmburu on June 26, 2014:

Nî ngatho nî ûteithia waku. Ici nî ciugo njiguîte no ndiûî mauge ma cio.











Emmanuel Kariuki (author) from Nairobi, Kenya on June 19, 2014:

@ bonface

I will be posting the "Wakimaitu" kind of greetings soon. Sorry for the delay in responding.

Emmanuel Kariuki (author) from Nairobi, Kenya on June 18, 2014:

Hello readers, I am sorry for the long absence. I am now back, answering questions the best way I can - here goes,

@ johnmburu 7 weeks ago

Ng'ania - So and so (someone whose name you do not want to mention)

Mûnyugî - an ornamental feather placed on the head.

Rirûka - be refreshed, like after taking a soft drink in extreme thirst.

Ûmbani - the act of winning a girl's love; Ûmbana - win a girl's love ; Ûmbanîrwo - get someone to win a girl's love for you (it can also mean 'to be beaten up by a group - mob justice)

Nyugûra - be overripe, to be in great comfort

Nyugûrîra - make to be over ripe; make to be in great comfort

Mîraniî - not well, in truble, perhaps with dease, opposite of'Nyugûrîra'

Thîgîrîra - A place, a town or a where things were placed.

Turûkia - make to lose balance (from Turûka - lose balance without completely falling)

Rûtumo - a threading (as in a fabric; joint in leather goods)

Arahûka - arise ( in the morning; get up early)

Itatî - a cooperative; a group meeting for a common purpose.

If I have erred, to err is human. Kindly correct me.


@ eeric49 2 months ago

'Nathi' are called Ground Cherries in English (among many other names). There are many different species in the genus Physalis and are thought to be distant cousins of the tomato.

I hope that helps.

Bonface from Nairobi, Kenya on May 03, 2014:

Nĩ ndakũgeithia mũthuri ti Kariũki. Nĩwega nĩ wĩra ũcio mwega ũraruta. Mwene Nyaga arũkũrathima.

Ngeithi cia ũgĩkũyũ, nonyende wandĩke ũhoro wacio nĩgetha tũcimenye. (wakĩa cũcũ, wakĩa maitũ and the rest)

Nĩwega mũno.

johnmburu on April 26, 2014:

Wî mwega? Niî nî ndîrenda kûmenya kana no ûndaûrîre ciugo ici cia Gîkûyû na Gîthûngû.












Emmanuel Kariuki (author) from Nairobi, Kenya on April 07, 2014:

I know those fruits. I still see them growing wild on roadside bushes. I will definitely find out their botanical name if not English. Give me one week.

eeric49 on April 05, 2014:

Hallo Kariuki,

Do you remember those fruits that children used to eat on their way to school "Nathii"? What are they called in English? Gikuyu is tough

Emmanuel Kariuki (author) from Nairobi, Kenya on April 03, 2014:

The correct spelling of Asha is aca. If I have used Asha, that is an error. it is stated at the beginning of the hub that 'S' is not in the standard Kikuyu alphabet. Spelling errors do and I have seen spelling errors in the most meticulously edited novels.

I do not claim to be an authority and I frequently say "I will find out." Sometimes I even say "I am not sure" - like johnmburu's NI ACUGANAGIRIO - I haven't come across that phrase!

I will be happy if you point out the specific lines for corrections later.

Lydiawacera on April 02, 2014:

Hi Emmanuel,

I have been reading the queries and the answers in this hub but some seem incorrect as much as I'm not an authority in Kikuyu. For instance the letter 's' is not in the Kikuyu orthography but you use it like in the word 'Asha'. other times you confuse or ignore the differences between these two vowels 'u' and 'ũ'. What's your take on this?

Emmanuel Kariuki (author) from Nairobi, Kenya on April 02, 2014:

Lydiawacera - Thanks for compliments. Someone would have to undertake the study. I do not know of any books or texts on that issue, but that's a challenge.

Emmanuel Kariuki (author) from Nairobi, Kenya on April 02, 2014:


The others are correct but I am not sure about this last one.

"He runs from place to place" NI ACUGANAGIRIO

Perhaps this will help you to figure out the rule on endings:

I eat - ni ndiaga

Some one helps me eat -ni ndiithagio

I make someone/something eat - Ni ndiithagia

some one makes someone/something eat on my behalf - Ni ndiithagirio

Lydiawacera on April 01, 2014:

Hi Emmanuel Kariuki,

First thank you for the in-depth insights into the Gikuyu language. Please help if you can with a collection of or a comparison in terms of phonological and lexical differences between Kimathira and Southern Gikuyu ( Southern Murang'a and Kiambu). A link,books or any other resources will help.

johnmburu on March 22, 2014:

Hello, when i say "I swim", is it NI THAMBAGIRA

"It gets surrounded" NI IRIGICAGIRIO

"I get chased" NI NDENG'ERAGIO

"He runs from place to place" NI ACUGANAGIRIO

are these correct?

can you please explain how you know the ending to use when you say someone or something does something

I get confused with, -GIO -RIO -RA and -GA endings

Is there a rule in how to use them?

Emmanuel Kariuki (author) from Nairobi, Kenya on March 08, 2014:


i wake up (at a particular hour) - Njûkîraga

i get out (at a particular hour) , I leave - Nyumagîra

TO WALK AROUND - kûrûra, guceracera, kuanganga (a rude word to mean aimless walking about)

johnmburu on February 15, 2014:

Hey, i was wondering if you could tell me the word for "TO WALK AROUND"

I remember reading it somewhere, and sounds like "kûrûra" but i know it's not correct. can you give me the right word? Thank you

johnmburu on February 11, 2014:

Thank you very much.

so, "i wake up", would be,


& "i get out", would be,


Emmanuel Kariuki (author) from Nairobi, Kenya on February 11, 2014:

johnmburu - Let unswer your first question

1. ngûcû - a dance for elderly men, (grandfathers) no longer practiced.

2. rwambo - a sharp wooden peg. The plural "Nyambo" is used to today to mean the spikes used by police at a road block.

3. Ndîmûtwaragîra - this is the correct one.

johnmburu on February 08, 2014:

When i say "i take to him", do i say...




can you please explain in detail?

johnmburu on February 01, 2014:

Nî ngatho nî ûndû wa kûndirikania kiugo gîkî(tigîrîrîra)

No ûnjîre "ngûcû" na "rwambo" nî kî?

Emmanuel Kariuki (author) from Nairobi, Kenya on February 01, 2014:

johnmburu - how to say "make sure,"

1. tigiririra ati... (ensure that, make sure that); tigiririra atiriri

2. geria muno...(try very hard)

3. Utigirire ni...

4. Ugerie muno ni...

Rewrite with the correct special vowels. Hope that helps.

johnmburu on January 28, 2014:

Hey can you please tell me how to may "make sure"

Emmanuel Kariuki (author) from Nairobi, Kenya on January 23, 2014: