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Swahili Words for Strength Explained

Strength is an important aspect of life, especially in modern-day society, where we must deal with economic hardships, health issues, and stressful work schedules. It impacts how we overcome challenges, achieve our goals, and influence others daily. 

In Swahili, the word for strength is “nguvu.” Though many attribute “nguvu” to being strong, this word has a comprehensive and detailed meaning beyond physical strength.

So, what does “nguvu” really mean?

Meaning of Nguvu

1. Physical Strength

This is the most basic meaning of nguvu. In its basic form, it denotes aperson’s ability to exert force or lift heavy objects. Physical strength can be seen in sports or manual labor, where physical strength is necessary to perform well.


Swahili: Wanahitaji vijana wenye nguvu kukamilisha mradi wa ujenzi.

English meaning: They need strong men to complete the construction project.

2. Mental Strength

Nguvu also refers to the ability to persevere and remain resilient even in the face of adversity. This is a crucial aspect of strength that can be seen in cases of emotional or mental health challenges, where mental strength is necessary to overcome difficult situations.


Swahili: Amejaribu kubaki mwenye nguvu licha ya maumivu ya kufiwa na mume wake.

English meaning: She has tried to remain strong despite the pain of losing her husband.

3. Spiritual Strength

Nguvu ya kiroho refers to one’s ability to endure through tests of faith. This aspect of strength is essential for all who believe in a higher power since they need to remain loyal to their course despite facing obstacles and persecution along the way.


Swahili: Kuwa na nguvu kiroho kumewawezesha kubaki imara licha ya kufungwa gerezani kwa sababu ya imani yao.

English meaning: Being spiritually strong has enabled them to remain strong despite being imprisoned because of their faith.

4. Power

Nguvu carries a connotation of power and influence as well. In this case, it is linked to one’s ability to impact others and make a difference in their lives.

This can be seen in the context of leadership or community involvement, where strength is necessary to effect change.

When used in the context of “power,” nguvu can be used as a force of good or a force of evil.

For example, in lands ruled by a dictator, such leaders use their power (nguvu) to oppress individuals into executing their will.


Swahili: Wenye mamlaka wametumia nguvu zao kuwakandamiza raia wao.

English meaning: Those in power have used their power to oppress their citizens.

Other Swahili Words That Can be Used in Place of Nguvu

In addition to these meanings, nguvu is also associated with other insightful terms and meanings in Swahili.

The word nguvu is often replaced with the terms below that may hold different meanings in English depending on the context or audience.

  • Uwezo (power)
  • Imara (Strong)
  • Nguvikazi (might)
  • Ujasiri (bravery)
  • Shupavu (Brave)

At times, the word “nguvu” is coupled with other words to convey its meaning.


“Kung’aa nguvu” means to shine with strength, implying that strength can be a source of light and positivity in one’s life.

“Nguvu ya kale” refers to ancient strength, linked to the idea that strength has been a valued characteristic throughout history.

“Nguvu ya mwili” refers to stamina, which is the body’s ability to sustain physical strain resulting from stressful activities, such as HIIT workouts, to prolonged activities, such as manual labor.

Did You Know?

Nguvu is also the Swahili word for “force.” In previous translations, “kani ya utendaji” was used to refer to force. However, only the word “nguvu” is used in modern Swahili.

Also check:

Useful Swahili Greetings and Salutations

35 Inspirational Swahili Words to Brighten Your Day

Swahili Love Messages: Here Is How to Express Love in Kiswahili

Powerful Swahili Curse Words and When to Use Them 

To Sum Up

Overall, nguvu encompasses various meanings and terms that highlight the importance of strength in all aspects of life – physical, mental, and emotional. It serves as a reminder of our power and the potential to overcome challenges and achieve our goals.

Kenyalogue Contributor


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