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KANANA: How my dad’s name changed

MY dad’s name changed from Stephen Muthuuri to Stephen M'Rinyiru wa M'Riria wa M'Thiuru wa M'Mbanaita, wa M'Chinii...... of Imenti South Sub County, Nkuene Ward. Meru County.

Our writer Ms Mary Kanana Nteere explains the naming system of the Ameru community and how her father's name changed./Courtesy

I would like you to know how the Miru people named their grownup sons, by the following know true example, particularly so in our family. (My late Dad's family)

When my late dad Stephen was born, he was named Muthuuri. My 1st uncle Joseph(late)was named Kinoti, then Samuel(late) was named Kithinji, Silas (late) was named Kiambi just to name but a few. He had many other sons and daughters. We are a large family. The last born of the entire household uncle Mbae.

When they became of age and the traditional rituals thereon, the name Muthuuri for Stephen was abandoned and given a new name M'Rinyiru wa M'Riria. Same for Joseph who took M'Mugambi wa M'Riria. Samuel becoming M'Ikiara wa M'Riria and Silas taking M' Kurea wa M'Riria which never took root save to few family members.

"Nto" was ment to depict the characteristic and or what his father was well known for. M'Rinyiru was because his father had many cattle's and within the heard, there were very special cattle which could only be found in a rich man heard. He was a man of great wealth. This is the reason why you do not find many Rinyirus here and there. It was reserved and revered in equal measure.

M'Mugambi because my grandfather was a man of great wisdom.  Colonial administration often sought his counsel to settle disputes in the region.

M'Ikiara because of many cattle in the homestead. 

M'Kurea because my grandfather was tall.

And the list went on up to our last-born uncle Mbae wa M'Riria.

Daughters names also changed upon circumcision.  The title 'Cio' applied eg 'Cio Mwebia, Cio Kanugu, and so forth.

My grandma

My grandma upon her circumcision assumed the name of Cio Ntaari.  My paternal grandfather was from the kingdom of Mikumbune. He was known as Chief Ntaari My grandma was the first born in the family. So, she could only wed into another kingdom...yawa... and those days only the royals could wed yawa.

There is other instance where a community would give a title or nickname depending on how they perceived you.   For instance my Late grandmother Miriam Muthoni wa M'Riria was often referred to by the community as 'Tirimani' a nickname that to date is alive She earned this nickname for being the most kind, generous..she could feed the entire village to their full and still had enough in her granaries. 

When my grandfather M'Riria was born, he was given the name Kaburia. The name  Kaburia referred to age group. When he became of age, he became M'Riria wa M'Thiuru.  Mzee M'Thiuru had many wives, sons and daughters.

Mzee M'Thiuru was the son of Mzee M'Mbainata.

M'Mbainata was the son of M'Chinii.... On so it went...

Please note that M'Riria means that his farther had very many cattle and great wealth which was true. M'Thiuru was well known because of his very many head of cattle's.

Because of the above reason, that is why many of the boys who are born and named after M'Riria, are named Mugambi because of his wisdom.

In fact, his age mates also nicknamed him "muchiuko" and not "michihiko" which clueless call him.

Therefore, for instance if you refer to my grandfather as M'Mugambi M'Riria, you are making reference to his son Joseph Kinoti my late uncle.

Now you know.


Guti mbiiji itirii.



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