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Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 11 comments

While we're on our SIXTH mission trip to Kenya, here are some memories of our last trip.


I was recently sending information to someone who's interested in sponsoring a student at  OpeN Chrisitan Center, our school in Kenya, and in addition I gave an explanation as to the meaning of the child's name.  I don't know about anyone else, but I find the meanings behind these names to be very interesting.

In Kenya - or at least in the areas of Kenya I've been in - I noticed many people go by their first and second names while their last name is hardly mentioned.  In fact, in the school register there are no last names listed!  While there are a wide variety of first names, the second names seemed to have come from a smaller pool. 

As I was going through the register with the head of the school, I asked him for the meanings of the second names and here is his reply:

Abuya - born in a weedy place (perhaps while the mother was working.)
Achieng - born in the daytime.   
Adero - born in (or next to) the grainery.
Adhiambo - born in the evening.
Adoyo - born during the weeding season.
Agola - born behind the house.
Aketch - born during the famine (or time of serious hunger).
Akeyo - born during the harvest season.
Akinyi - born in the morning.
Akoth - born during the rainy season.
Alouch - born during the cold season.
Amondi - born early in the morning.
Anyango - born mid-morning (around 10:00 a.m.).
Aoko - born outside.
Atieno - born at night.
Auma - born facing down.
Awino - born during the season when the maize is about to produce.
Awuor - born at midnight
Ayoo - born along the way (or along the road.)

These are all female names since they begin with the letter "A".  The names for males are similar, but they all begin with the letter "O".  Just looking at these names makes me thankful my children would be Akeyo and Omondi and not Abuya or Ayoo!

In the Bible names mean something, and it is the one in authority who does the naming.  We first see this in Genesis 2:19-20 where God gives Adam authority over all living creatures and then Adam gives names to all the animals.  We also see the name of a person in the Bible changed to reflect a new characteristic now true in his or her life, as when Abram and Sarai became Abraham and Sarah. (Genesis 17:5,15)

What does your name mean?

I have friends who chose names for their daughters based on their meanings, but I think they're in the minority.  I know my name was chosen because it was popular at the time, my parents liked the sound of it with my last name, and because of its length. (My mom had a long name, so she gave us all short names.  I, in turn, felt my name was too short and so gave my children longer names!)  I'm pretty sure meaning wasn't a factor when it came to choosing a name for me, but a little research showed my name means, "devoted to God."  Perhaps a happy coincidence, but I like it!

To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it. ~ Revelation 2:17

Not only does Jesus know each of us by name, He knows us each by a name known only to Him and to us. Looking at the pattern of naming found in Scripture, I believe that name will mean something.  Perhaps it will be a reflection of the life we've lived for Him here on earth.  What do you hope your name will be? 

Hard working?

Father, I thank you that this life is not all there is, but that as your followers we have so much to look forward to for all eternity.  I pray that I will live this life in preparation for the next, and that I will live up to my earthly name and be considered "devoted to God."


11 Responses so far.

  1. I liked what you wrote and it made me think....words spoken in relation to who we are often makes us rise to that meaning. When I became a believer I found out my name means victorious and truly in Him...I am victorious. Wishing you a beautiful Sonday.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I am a missionary serving in Mozambique. Many children are named "Believe" or "Given" or biblical names. This was very interesting.

  3. Deanna says:

    I always love to read the meaning behind names. My parents had all of our names on plaques with the meanings. Mine means God's Princess...I don't know how true that is, but I pray that I am just that to him! Thanks for linking up to the spotLIGHT series. I hope you will link up every Monday. :)

  4. Barbara Crouse says:

    Very interesting read Lisa! My parents named me Barbara, after my grandmother. But when I was older and looked up the meaning of the word it was "Stranger in a foreign land." I always identified with that definition in my earlier years because I was a timid person until I turned 40. Now (at age 70) I like the meaning for a totally different reason. Yes, I am comfortable in this land but I am now a "stranger" because I know that my real home is in Heaven!

  5. Thank you for sharing your story about names and their meanings at Tell Me a Story. I am happy that God does know our name and calls each of us by name.

  6. One source said the name Hazel means" love,full of hope,and trust.. that is lovely - - another said the name of a tree! I like the first best!

  7. Lisa, I wrote out a long reply last night about my own name. I guess it wasn't meant to be shared. This is a great post. I love reading about people's names. Hazel, I like the first one, too!

  8. Thank youf for this post. It is fascinating to learn about Kenya naming and to think about our future names btwn us and God. :)

  9. Lisa, we found the same thing in Papua New Guinea, each name carries a different meaning. In the remote tribes, it could mean, the croc were plenitul when I was born, or there was sadness because so and so died, or it was night with no moon when I was born. When they become believers its very exciting to them to realize God knows their name and it's written down. Lovely post.

  10. caryjo says:

    I immediately felt like I was "home" in Uganda. I sure understand the name challenging issue.

    Looking at the photos just made me grin. Thanks so much.

    [We sponsor our granddaughter in Uganda. Wish we could do more. Hope others will step up to the plate for those who are in such significant need. Most of our families here simply don't understand how difficult it is to eat, go to school, etc. Bless you!!]

  11. Charlotte says:

    I'm sure other cultures put more emphasis on the meaning of names. In Ethiopia when a woman gets married she doesn't take her husband's last name. In fact, I don't think they even call it a last name. It has been a long time since I've had this explained, but I think the man takes his father's first name as an equivalent of our last name.
    Thank you for sharing.

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