10 Things to Expect When You are Looking for the Meaning of a Kinyarwanda Name.

In a Rwandan family, a name given to the child often reflects parents’ desire, their fear, their situation at birth time, their beliefs, their philosophy of life, their cultural or socio-political perceptions, the environment or circumstances surrounding the birth, etc. That name is usually a praise of God, affection to the child, a wish, a cultural or social depiction, or a message to the third person. The name can also be given as a continuation of a family lineage.

I learnt that my name ‘Micomyiza’ (good manners) was given to me because when I was about to be born the labor didn’t take long and was not so painful as usual.

The following are ten things mostly reflected in meanings of popular Kinyarwanda names.

God (Imana)

Bizimana: only God knows it.

Ntirenganya: God is fair/just.

Niyonkuru: God above all.

Rurema: God the creator.

Manirakiza: God heals.

Nshimiyimana: I thank/praise God.

Uwizeyimana: the one who has faith in God.

A cow and related things (Inka)

Murorunkwere: stare at her and give me a dowry/a cow.

Munganyinka: she is worth a cow.

Mukobwajana: she is worth hundred cows as a dowry.

Kagaju: an elegant colour of cows.

Cyurinyana: bring calves back home.

Giramata: may you always have milk.

Mukamisha: milking helper.

Honesty and good manners (Ubupfura n’imico myiza)

Micomyiza: good manners.

Ineza: goodness.

Mwizerwa: trustworthy.

Uwamahoro: peaceful, serene.

Rugero: exemplary.

Rugwiro: convivial.

Uwera: innocent.

Munezero: happiness, joy.

Beauty and elegance (Uburanga n’ikimero)

Marebe: water lilies.

Keza (diminutive)/Mwiza: beautiful/gorgeous/pretty.

Agasaro (diminutive)/Isaro/Rusaro: a pearl.

Akarabo (diminutive): a flower.

Akazuba (diminutive): a sun.

Iribagiza: glittering, shimmering.

Agatako (diminutive)/Umutako: decoration, ornament.

Heroism and Patriotism (Ubutwari no Gukunda igihugu) 

Ntwari: brave, hero.

Ngabo: soldier, warrior, shield.

Gatsinzi: winner.

Manzi: a category of Rwandan Heroes (It can also mean a boy that has not yet had sexual intercourse).

Bigwi: legend.

Rwagitinywa: frightful.

Ruvuzandekwe: skilled at spearing.

Love and affection (Urukundo no Gutetesha)

Agatesi (diminutive)/Umutesi: she who is loved by her parents with excessive affection/the spoiled one/the overindulged one.

Mukundwa: the beloved one.

Mutamuriza: never make her cry/never make her sad.

Mutoni: the favoured one.

Shema: pride.

Gatete (diminutive)/Atete/Teta/Murekatete: let her be spoiled/overindulged.

Luck and fortune (Ishya n’ihirwe)

Hirwa: good luck.

Mugisha: a blessing.

Twahirwa: we are lucky.

Heza/Aheza: bright future.

Kwizera: hope.

Birth order (Imbyaro)

Akariza/Iriza/Mfuranzima: the first born.

Nyandwi: the seventh born.

Nyiraminani/Minani: the eighth born.

Nyabyenda: the ninth born.

Profession and occupation (Umwuga)

Gahigi (diminutive): hunter.

Kanyarutoki: banana cultivator.

Munyemari: businessman, millionaire.

Gakire: the wealthy.

Gasare/Nyirabasare: sailor.

Traditional rites and practices (Imihango n’imigenzo gakondo)

Mugasa, Semandwa, Kamandwa, Nyamugenda, Busizori, Binego, Mugasa, Muhama, Bigimbu: Those are names that derive from traditional rites and practices though are hardly given to children today.


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