125+ Common Kenyan Last Names Or Surnames, With Meanings

125+ Common Kenyan Last Names

Kenyan last names are known for their unique origins, reflecting the country’s rich cultural and historical influences. With roots in indigenous languages such as Swahili, Arabic, and Kikuyu, these names offer insights into Kenya’s diverse heritage. Our extensive list includes common, popular, and rare surnames, each distinctly Kenyan. Many of these names also carry meanings linked to familial lineage, the traits of its people, and their ancestral histories. Delve into this compilation of Kenyan surnames that capture the essence of the country’s undying spirit.

Common Kenyan Last Names

From traditional names rooted in Kenyan languages and cultures to those emerging as global trends, here are some common Kenyan last names that are usually preferred among Kenyan societies.

1. Abdallah

Abdallah is a surname with Arabic roots, and means ‘servant of Allah.’ Historically, Abd Allah was the name of the Prophet’s father.

2. Abdi

Abdi is a Kenyan surname with Arabic origins. It is derived from the Arabic root abd, meaning ‘servant.’

3. Akinyi

Typically used among the Luo people of Kenya, Akinyi means ‘born in the morning.’

Kenyan Last Names, Akinyi

4. Ali

The popular Arabic name Ali is also a surname in Kenya. It has Arabic origins, meaning ‘high,’ ‘lofty,’ or ‘sublime.’

5. Atieno

Originating from the Luo language, this Kenyan surname is a variant of Otieno, signifying ‘born at night.’

6. Haines

Also spelled Haynes, this surname has English and Old German origins, meaning ‘enclosure.’

7. James

A common name in English, James is also a prevalent Kenyan surname. Originating from the Hebrew Jacob, it carries meanings of ‘supplanter,’ ‘holder of the heel,’ and ‘God protects.’

8. Jeruto

Used among the Kalenjin tribal groups, Jeruto conveys the meaning of ‘born away from home,’ typically during a safari.

9. Kamau

Although common, this surname lacks a specified meaning. It gained popularity through its association with Jomo Kenyatta, the first president of independent Kenya.

10. Kariuki

A popular one in Kenya, derived from the Kikuyu language. Kariuki means ‘reincarnated one.’

11. Kenyatta

A derivative of the term kinyata, this surname is linked to an ornamental belt adorning the Maasai. Notably, Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya’s first president, carried this surname.

12. Khamis

Khamis, both a given name and surname, originates from Arabic. It means ‘Thursday.’

13. Kimani

A well-known masculine name and surname from Kenya, Kimani means ‘adventurous’ or ‘sailor.’ It is common among the Kukiyu tribe of Kenya.

14. Kipkirui

A surname common among the Kalenjin communities of Kenya, Kipkirui translates to ‘one who was born while people slept.’

15. Kiprono

Besides being a masculine name, Kiprono is also a surname with Kalenjin origins. It typically means ‘one born near dusk.’

16. Kipruto

This Kenyan surname carries a captivating meaning of ‘one who likes traveling,’ or ‘one born for travel.’

17. Maina

A cheerful and lively surname from Kenya, Maina means to ‘sing’ or ‘dance’ in Kikuyu.

18. Makokha

A surname common among the Luhya tribe of Western Kenya, Makokha means ‘ashes.’ In ancient times, this surname was given to a child born after their parents had lost earlier children.

19. Masai

Masai, a given name and surname with an unclear meaning, is borne by the talented and award-winning Kenyan former long-distance runner, Edith Masai.

20.  Mohamed

Having Arabic origins, the Kenyan surname Mohamed is rooted in the term Muhammad, meaning ‘praised’ or ‘commendable.’

21. Mugendi

The surname is common among the Embu tribe in Kenya, meaning ‘the sojourner’ or ‘the pilgrim.’ Mugendi is also used as a given name for boys.

Kenyan Last Names, Mugendi

22. Murimi

Murimi is typically found among Kikiyu and Embu groups of Kenya. Its meaning remains unknown.

23. Musa

An Arabic term and surname Musa is rooted in the Hebrew name Moses, which possibly means ‘son,’ ‘mercy,’ or ‘deliver.’ This surname is common among Lozi people.

24. Muthoni

Muthoni, a female name and surname from Kenya, means ‘mother-in-law’ in Kikuyu.

25. Mwangi

Originating from the Kikuyu language, Mwangi signifies ‘rapid expansion.’ This surname was linked to a generation of Kikuyu males in the 20th century, spanning approximately 30 years.

26. Nyambura

Nyambura ranks among Kenya’s most common surnames. The word mbura, from the Kikuyu language, conveys the meaning of ‘rain’ to this surname.

27. Ochieng

A luminous surname from Kenya, Ochieng signifies ‘one born when the sun shines.’ It is derived from the Luo term chieng, which means ‘sun.’

28. Odhiambo

Odhiambo carries the pleasant meaning of ‘born in the evening’ in Luo. Adhiambo is a variant of this surname.

29. Ouma

Ouma is yet another prevalent Kenyan and African surname. Though its meaning is unspecified, Ouma is believed to signify ‘grandma’ in Afrikaans.

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30. Rotich

The surname Rotich may stem from the root term Rot-Tich, which suggests the movement of cattle, particularly in the evening, between 5 and 6 pm.

31. Wafula

Wafula, a Kenyan name and surname carries the joyous connotation of ‘born during the rainy season.’ It originates from the Luhya term ifula, which denotes the ‘rainy season.’

32. Wambui

An animal-inspired surname Wambui, means ‘zebra’ in Kikuyu. It is also a common given name for girls in Kenya.

33. Wanjala

A surname and given name from Kenya, Wanjala denotes ‘born during famine’ in Luhya. It harbors the root term injala, meaning ‘famine’ or ‘hunger.’

34. Wangari

The common Kenyan girl’s name Wangari is also employed as a surname. With Kikuyu origins, it signifies ‘leopard.’

35. Wanjiku

Wanjiku, a girl’s name and surname from Kenya, was borne by one of the daughters of Mumbi and Gikuyu, the founders and ancestors of the Kikuyu tribe.

Popular Kenyan Last Names

Kenya houses coveted surnames, influenced by some notable personalities. Most have origins in Kenyan languages while some carry external linguistic influences. Listed below are some of the most popular Kenyan last names.

36. Abdullahi

Abdullahi is a popular Nigerian and Kenyan last name has Arabic roots, meaning ‘servant of Allah.’

37. Adhiambo

Originating in Luo, this name and surname is a variant of Odhiambo. It means ‘born in the evening.’

38. Amondi

The surname Amondi has a vivid meaning: ‘born early in the morning.’ It originates from the Luo culture and is also utilized as a feminine given name.

39. Akello

The surname Akello signifies ‘born after twins’ in Luo. Grace Akello, a Ugandan poet, politician, and Uganda’s Ambassador to India, carries this surname.

40. Barasa

A surname originating from the Kikuyu culture, Barasa is thought to mean ‘a meeting place.’ This is also an Indonesian last name.

41. Chesang

The Kenyan surname perhaps denotes ‘a child born outside.’ It notably belongs to Reuben Chesang, a Kenyan athlete who secured a Gold medal in the 1500-meter event at the Commonwealth Games (1994).

42. Daniel

A popular surname across several cultures including Kenyan,  Hungarian, and English, Daniel has its roots in the Hebrew name Daniyyel, meaning ‘God is my judge.’

43. David

Another well-known given name and surname, David, means ‘beloved’ and ‘uncle’ in Hebrew.

44. Hassan

The beautiful Arabic-derived surname Hassan conveys the meaning of ‘beautifier’ or ‘improver’ in Arabic.

45. Hussein

Coming from Arabic, Hussein is a surname derived from Hasan, meaning ‘handsome’ or to be beautiful and good.

46. Ibrahim

With Arabic and Hebrew roots, Ibrahim is derived from the term Abraham, meaning ‘father of many.’ This surname is quite popular in Kenya and Nigeria.

47. Joseph

A religious given name and surname Joseph carries the profound meaning of ‘He will add’ or ‘God will add.’

48. Juma

The joyful name and surname has Arabic and Swahili roots. It means ‘Friday,’ ‘week,’ or ‘born on Friday.’

49. Kendi

More commonly known as a given name in Africa, Kendi can also functions as a surname in Kenya. Though it may resemble Kennedy or Candy, Kendy serves as a spelling variant for Kendi.

50. Kibet

Likely a popular surname among the Kalenjin tribe, Kibet signifies ‘a child born at midday.’

Kenyan Last Names, Kibet

51. Khamisi

A variation of Khamis, this Kenyan surname also signifies ‘born on Thursday.’

52. Kilel

Though its meaning isn’t well-documented, Kilel is a common surname in Kenya. A Kenyan long-distance runner and specialist in road running competitions, Caroline Kilel, bears this last name.

53. Kipchirchir

Commonly seen among the Kalenjin tribes, this unique surname means ‘born after a short labor.’

54. Kipkemoi

A unique surname mostly seen in Kenya, Kipkemoi, means ‘born at night.’

55. Kipsang

The surname Kipsang is generally used among the Kalenjin people of Kenya. It signifies ‘one born outside the house.’ Chesang is a feminine form of Kipsang.

56. Mumbi

Mumbi is a surname given immense significance in Kenyan cultures. This name was borne by one of the creators of the Gĩkũyũ or Kikuyu tribes, revered as a mythological, maternal figure. The surname means ‘she who shapes.’

57. Munyao

Of unspecified origin and meaning, Munyao is a common surname in Kenya. Alexander Mutiso Munyao, a long-distance Kenyan runner, is a notable bearer of this surname.

58. Mutua

Used predominantly in the Eastern-African cultures, Mutua is a surname with an uncertain meaning. Florence Mwikali Mutua, a Kenyan politician from Busia, bears this last name.

59. Mutai

Denoting ‘a child born one day later than expected,’ this Kenyan surname is popular across the Kalenjin, Meru, and Kikuyu tribes.

60. Ndungu

Also spelled Ndung’u, this Kenyan surname is popular across Africa. Njuguna Ndung’u, an economist and former Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya, is a prominent bearer of this surname.

61. Njeri

Evoking wanderlust, this charming Kenyan surname means ‘traveling one’ in Kikuyu.

62. Obama

A renowned surname used in America and Africa, Obama originates from Kenya, meaning ‘descendant of the bent one. Former American President Barack Obama’s father, a Luo Kenyan, is a renowned figure bearing this surname.

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63. Obunga

The surname Obunga is widespread in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Central Africa. Kenyan boxer and Olympian Harold Obunga carries the surname.

64. Ochieng

Carrying the radiant connotation of ‘born during sunshine hours,’ Ochieng is a popular masculine name and surname of the Kenyan Luo tribe.

65. Odumbe

The well-known Kenyan family name, with unknown connotations, is popularized by Maurice Odumbe, a former Kenyan cricketer who also served as captain of the Kenya national cricket team in ODIs.

66. Okello

Typically used in Luo communities, Okello is a Kenyan last name, meaning ‘born after twins’ or ‘third born of triplets.’

67. Omar

An esteemed first name and surname, Omar originates from Arabic. It is derived from the Arabic word Umar, signifying ‘populous’ or ‘flourishing.’

68. Otunga

A Kenyan surname borne by the renowned American actor and wrestler David Otunga. Its precise meaning remains unknown.

69. Owiti

Owiti, a Kenyan name and surname, carries the meaning of being born after a misfortune, such as a difficult birthing process, in the Luo language.

70. Ruto

Ruto or Rutto is a Kenyan surname originating from the Kalenjin tribe. It means ‘a child born on a visit or journey.’

71. Sang

A well-known Chinese surname, Sang, can also be found within Kenyan communities. Derived from the Sino-Korean term, it means ‘common’ or ‘frequent.’

72. Simiyu

A Korean surname commonly seen among the Luhya people of western Kenya, Simiyu means ‘born during the dry season.’

73. Simon

Simon is a popular name and surname in America and Africa, meaning ‘to hear’ or ‘to listen.’ Yet, it is also found to be the last name in Kenya.

Kenyan Last Names, Simon

74. Wanjohi

The precise meaning of the surname is not clear; however, it was associated with the name of a Kenyan valley in ancient times.

75. Wanyoike

The last name Wanyoike is most used in Kenya and East Africa. ‘It means being alone.’

76. Wainaina

Wainaina is a Kenyan last name famously linked to Erick Wainaina, a Kenyan marathon runner and Olympic medalist. However, it isn’t associated with a precise meaning.

77. Wario

A Kenyan surname with uncertain etymology, Wario, is a popular name in the gaming realm. It is given to an antagonist character in the Mario video game series.

Unique Kenyan Surnames

These unique Kenyan last names have rare occurrences in Kenya. Most of them originate exclusively from Kenyan languages, although some may also be found in other African and Middle Eastern countries, adding to their diversity.

78.  Abdille

An uncommon surname of Kenyan origin, Abdille’s meaning remains ambiguous.

79. Athman

Typically confined to Kenya, the surname Athaman is carried by Kenyan politician Ali Sharif Athman.

80. Anyango

Originating in the Luo language, the surname Anyango means ‘born in the mid-morning.’

81. Angwenyi

The surname is borne by Kenyan athlete and 1500-meter specialist, Elkanah Angwenyi. Its meaning is not widely specified.

82. Awuor

Stemming from the Luo culture of Kenya, Awuor signifies ‘the greedy one.’

83. Bosibori

One of the rare Kenyan surnames with unclear origins, Ruth Bosibori, is perhaps the only well-known person bearing this surname.

84. Chepkirui

Found among Kalenjin individuals of Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, the surname Chepkirui means ‘one who was born while people slept.’

85. Chepkwony

Although its meaning is not widely documented, Chepkwony is a Kenyan name originating from the Kalenjin community.

86. Chepkwemoi

A rare Kenyan surname, Chepkwemoi, is the last name of Nancy Chepkwemoi, a Kenyan middle-distance runner.

87. Githinji

The given name and surname Githinji adorn notable namesakes such as Githinji Gitahi, a Kenyan medical doctor and World Health Organization member, and Nice Githinji, a Kenyan actress, producer, and television personality. Its meaning remains known.

88. Hamisi

A Kenyan surname carries the meaning of ‘Thursday’ in Swahili. It is also used as a given name for boys.

89. Jepchumba

Jepchumba, a surname with a distinctive sound, has Kenyan roots, signifying ‘daughter of Chumba.’

90. Jepkosgei

The surname appears as a middle name for Mary Jepkosgei Keitany, a former professional long-distance runner from Kenya and a world record holder. There isn’t a specific meaning associated with Jepkosgei.

91.  Jerop

The surname Jerop has Kenyan origins, meaning ‘born during rain.’ Cherop is its variant, carrying a similar meaning.

92. Kamathi

A surname of unknown connotations, Kamathi is also found in India. Notably, a Kenyan long-distance runner, Charles Kamathi, bears this surname.

93. Kadenge

Kadenge is a pretty uncommon Kenyan surname. It is perhaps influenced by the name of a settlement in Kenya.

94. Kemboi

A Kenyan-origin surname, Kemboi, is speculated to be a given name for a child born at night.

95. Kerubo

A name given to girls born in the plains, Kerubo signifies ‘marsh’ or ‘plain.’ This surname is widespread in East African countries and Kisii, Kenya.

96. Kilonzo

Kilonzo is a Kenyan surname of an unknown meaning. It was borne by Mutula Kilonzo, a former politician and Minister of Education from Kenya.

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97. Kimetto

A Kenyan surname, not very prevalent, is shared by Kenyan marathon runners Alice Kimetto Chelanga and Dennis Kipruto Kimetto.

98. Kimemia

Carried by a few Kenyan politicians like Francis Kimemia, the surname Kimemia is rather uncommon.

99. Kiptoo

A whimsical surname from Kenya, Kiptoo has its roots in the Kalenjin culture. It is said to mean ‘born when visitors arrive or during visitation.’

100. Kiplagat

With a patronymic essence, this Kenyan family name means ‘son born at dusk.’ It is commonly used among the Kalenjin people in Uganda and Kenya.

101. Kivuva

The meaning of this surname remains uncertain. Jackson Kivuva, a Kenyan runner specializing in the 800 meters, bears it.

102. Kurgat

Lydia Kurgat, a Kenyan long-distance marathon runner, has this Kenyan surname with an unknown meaning.

103. Kuto

In Kenya, Kuto is an uncommon surname, with its meaning not known. This surname is borne by Kenyan runner Julius Kipruto Kuto.

104. Kwemoi

A surname with roots in Eastern African cultures, Kwemoi is believed to mean ‘a child born at night.’

105. Machage

Machage, a rare Kenyan surname with an uncertain meaning, is linked to Kenyan diplomat Sospeter Machage.

106. Maiyo

Maiyo is a surname from Kenya, taken to mean ‘alcohol’ in Kalenjin culture.

107. Makau

Serving as both first and last name in Kenya, Makau is usually associated with the Lozi tribe.’

108. Masamba

This unusual Kenyan surname carries the meaning of ‘leaves’ or ‘plants’ in Yao. It is more common as a given name in Malawi, Tanzania, and Mozambique.

Kenyan Last Names, Masamba

109. Mukoya

The atypical last name, Mukoya, isn’t linked to a specific significance. Perhaps the only notable individual with this surname is Margaret Mukoya, a former volleyball player and member of the Kenya women’s national volleyball team.

110. Nasimiyu

The surname originates from the Luhya language, ultimately stemming from the term Simiyu, meaning ‘born during the dry season.’

111. Ndereba

Ndereba is a Kenyan surname whose meaning is unclear. It has likely gained global fame due to Catherine Ndereba, a former Kenyan marathon runner, Olympic medalist, and World Champion.

112. Nderu

A rare last name from Kenya, with a geographical essence. It is the name of a settlement in the Central Province of Kenya.

113. Ndolo

This name and surname are common in Kenya and Congo. In Congo, it’s linked with a language and airport, giving it a diverse significance.

114. Njoroge

Njoroge is an animal-inspired surname originating from Kikuyu. It means ‘genet.’

115. Nyabuti

The Kenyan surname’s rarity is marked by its limited presence among notable figures. Its meaning is also unknown.

116. Nyaga

Nyaga is another surname with a rare presence. However, it seems to be a settlement in the Central Province of Kenya.

117. Onyiego

A surname borne by Kenyan former sports shooter and Olympian Dismus Onyiego. The exact meaning of this last name is unknown.

118. Omondi

A surname and given name from Kenya, Omondi denotes ‘born early in the morning’ in Luo.

119. Osiemo

While the meaning of this name is unclear, it is relatively more common in Kenya than in other regions worldwide.

120. Owuor

A given name and surname Owour means ‘born at mid-morning’ in Luo. A notable individual with the surname is award-winning Kenyan author Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor.

121. Ronoh

Ronoh is a Kenyan surname borne by Kenyan long-distance and marathon runner, Timothy Kiplagat Ronoh. The meaning of this surname is not widely known.

122. Rudisha

With an uncertain etymology, Rudisha stands as a rare Kenyan surname. It is notably linked to Kenyan athletes, and father-son duo Daniel and David Rudisha.

123. Wairimu

The surname from Kenya is derived from the Kikuyu term irimũ, meaning ‘ogre’ or ‘giant.’ It is also a given name for girls in Kenya.

124. Wangui

A Kenyan surname is also used as a middle name. Pascaline Wangui, a former female long-distance runner from Kenya, bears the surname, while it adorns the middle name of Kenyan long-distance runner Lucy Wangui Kabuu.

125. Wanjiru

The Kenyan surname has its roots in the Kikuyu tribe. It comes from the term njĩra, meaning ‘way’ or ‘path.’

126. Waweru

A given name and surname from Kenya, Waweru is commonly associated with the Kikuyu ethnic group residing in the Mount Kenya region.

Discover More Names

When you have to choose a name for your baby, a few hundreds of names may not be just enough. Keep digging our mine of baby names until you find that one precious gem.

Kenyan surnames offer a glimpse into Kenya’s diverse heritage and the various influences shaping them. As outlined in this post, they originate from ancient languages spoken by the natives and from circumstances or the environment at the time of individuals’ birth. Whether the names are rare or common, this list provides a detailed insight into the origin and significance of the family names commonly used in Kenya.

Article written by Baby Plumbing

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