Native toKenya, Tanzania
RegionMombasa and Kwale districts in Kenya; Muheza and Tanga districts in Tanzania
EthnicityMijikenda, Chonyi, Digo, Giryama, Jibana, Duruma, Kambe, Kauma, Ribe, Rabai
Native speakers
1.9 million (2009 census)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3Variously:
coh – Chonyi
dig – Digo
dug – Duruma
nyf – Giryama
seg – Segeju

Mijikenda is a Bantu dialect cluster spoken along the coast of East Africa, mostly in Kenya, where there are 1.9 million speakers (2009 census) but also in Tanzania, where there are 100,000 speakers. The name Mijikenda means "the nine settlements" or "the nine communities" and refers to the multiple language communities that make up the group.[3] An older, derogatory term for the group is Nyika which refers to the "dry and bushy country" along the coast.[3]


The New Updated Guthrie List from 2009[4] lists the following varieties and Guthrie codes as part of the Mijikenda cluster:

The Degere are former hunter-gatherers like the Cushitic Waata, and are said to have once spoken a Cushitic language.

The Ethnologue[5] lists the following variety groupings:

Ethnologue's 'Duruma' may refer to the same thing as Maho's 'Degere', as the Degere are variously reported to speak Duruma, Digo, or a similar dialect of their own.


Clicks have been reported in ideophones from two dialects of Mijikenda: Digo and Duruma. (It is not known if they occur in the others.) These are tsya! /ʇ̃ǎ/ 'scram!' and /ʇ̃akule/ 'minute'. It is not known if these have any connection with the neighbouring Cushitic language Dahalo.


  1. ^ Chonyi at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Digo at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Duruma at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Giryama at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Segeju at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online
  3. ^ a b Heine, Bernd; Möhlig, Wilhelm J.G. (1980). Language and Dialect Atlas of Kenya vol 1. Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag. pp. 17–22. ISBN 3-496-00144-5.
  4. ^ Maho, Jouni Filip. "New Updated Guthrie List" (PDF).
  5. ^ "Ethnologue".