What’s in a name? What the M’ prefix in Meru names means.

Meru name culture

What’s in a name, eh?

Many people have asked me how to pronounce my second name: M’Mwenda. Well, let me share the proper way to call me because it’s not Mumwenda or any other witchcrafty variation. But before that, some background:

M’Mwenda (that’s me)

That’s my family line. Or at least the male figures who now count as the immediate part of my ancestors. This is about 200 years of my lineage. I got this thanks to my cousin Harrison Matti.
As you can see, 5/6 of us have that M’ in our names. I don’t know about the guy on top. Must have been too badass to conform to societal norms.

Well, in Meru culture, when a boy was born he would receive a name after his father’s father if you were a first born like me. So I was born as Brian Mûtwîri. Brian because it was the nomial equivalent of cheap beer back in the 90’s and Mûtwîri to mean judge (Mûtwîri tî mûtwîri o ng’ombe). I was baptised as Victor. A name I chose myself for reasons I can’t tell (my competitive nature ?️). But as you can see, none of those 3 names appear as my Facebook moniker. Why? I dumped Victor and Brian owing to their imperialistic roots. Now only the government, my office and sexual predators call me Brian.

So how was Mûtwîri expelled? In 2006 I became a warrior of the Ameru after initiation. No kidding, I am a soldier in the ranks according to Njûri Ncheke. Salute me kids. Though it’s been a minute since we had any drills or attacked our enemies the Akabi (what you guys call the Maasai). Anyway, I became a warrior after shedding my childish ways and bits of me, if-you-know-wharra-mean. So I needed a name to befit my new position. A name that could be sang from one hill to another as it merged with the songs of victory after war. A name that girls could whisper about by the riverside after a successful conquest. That name was not going to be Mûtwîri.

It had to be M’Mwenda or some other M’ name. This is a warrior’s name given from attributes of the father. So to the point, M’Mwenda is pronounced as Muntû wa Mwenda – One who loves ? (call me Cupid). But since those syllables need to fit in a bar when they rapping about me on them hills, M’Mwenda can be pronounced as Ntamwenda (esp. in Tharaka) or Ntomwenda (In Imenti, Tigania & Îgembe). Some Meru people prefer to write those names the way they pronounce them (case in point: Emily Ntongai Nathan Ntongai).

But before I became M’Mwenda, I was given several choice names to choose from by my initiatory father:
1. M’Kîthomo – One who reads.
2. M’Rwanda – One of the dry lands and
3. M’Tharaka – One of Tharaka. It’s a no-brainer why I chose M’Mwenda.

Let’s imagine I have come from Laikipia after shooting down the Akabi. Let’s forget the colonialist ever came. This is how I would have introduced myself to the welcoming party:

“My name is M’Mwenda of M’Mugambi of M’Rubane of M’Kiarie of M’Kamuti of Baituara of the great Kanjogu mbaû (elephant calf) Clan! Victor of all wars, master of the plains and forests, the arrow that never misses, the thigh of the elephant, the crusher of the Akabi and the slayer of dragons”


Editors Note:

Join us in welcoming Njagĩ M’Mwenda  aka Brian Victor Mutwiri 🙂 to The Ameru family. He is a writer wa siku nyingi and has been showing a lot of zeal in learning and teaching the Kimeru culture He will be helping us dig and bring out the ways of our people. Makofi!

– M’Mwenda Kibuacha M’Lithara 🙂

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10 Comments to “What’s in a name? What the M’ prefix in Meru names means.”

  1. Gakii Kithinji

    haha that introduction “ikumbuna mabaru itu”!!! sounds like Spartacus, typically, speaking of the gods of the Arena…lol. Wameru oyieee!!

  2. M'Echengi M'Kurraru

    You are doing great job by educating us on our culture and roots. A people without Mila ni mtumwa. Because they are blown to any direction by the wind of change.
    If I remember well, getting the M’ name is requires one to go to M’Aru. Uuuu M’Aru!!

  3. Kendi

    Lol I feel like I need a pen and notebook.I love my meru name!However y’all deep Merians might say I am not ‘fully’ Meru because I am from Chuka.Nkt


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