The Luhya (also known as Abaluyia or Luyia) are a Bantu ethnic group in Kenya. They number about 5.3 million people according to the 2009 census, being about 16% of Kenya's total population of 38.5 million, and are the second-largest ethnic group in Kenya.
Luhya refers to both the people and their language. There are 18 (and by other accounts, 19, when the Suba are included) tribes that make up the Luhya. Each has a distinct dialect. The word Luhya or Luyia in some of the dialects means "clan", and Abaluhya (Abaluyia) thus means "people of the clan". Other translations are "those of the same hearth."
The seventeen tribes are the Bukusu (Aba-Bukusu), Idakho (Av-Idakho), Isukha (Av-Isukha), Kabras (Aba-Kabras), Khayo (Aba-Khayo), Kisa (Aba-Kisa), Marachi(Aba-Marachi), Maragoli (Aba-Logoli), Marama (Aba-Marama), Nyala (Aba-Nyala), Nyole (Aba-Nyole), Samia (Aba-Samia), Tachoni (Aba-Tachoni), Tiriki (Aba-Tiriki), Tsotso (Abatsotso), Wanga (Aba-Wanga), and Batura (Abatura). They are closely related to the Masaba (or Gisu), whose language is mutually intelligible with Luhya. The Bukusu and the Maragoli are the two largest Luhya tribes.
The principal traditional settlement area of the Luhya was in what is now the Western province of Kenya. A substantial number of them permanently settled in the Kitale and Kapsabet areas of the Rift Valley province.
The western province is the most densely populated part of Kenya. The Kisii are considered to be closely related to the Luhya, and more specifically, to the Nyole and Maragoli, having split from them approximately 500 years ago. The Kisii are geographically separated from Luhyas by the Kano plains and the Nandi escarpment, and their settlement is in south-western part of Kenya. The relationship between the Luhya and the Kisii is deduced from their connected oral history as well as linguistic similarities. The languages are still almost mutually intelligible even though the two groups have lived in locales hundreds of kilometres apart for several centuries.
Migration to their present Luhyaland (a term of endearment referring to the Luhya's primary place of settlement in Kenya after the Bantu expansion) dates back to as early as the 1450s.
Immigrants into present-day Luhyaland trace their ancestry with several Bantu groups and cushitic groups,Tutsi (who are unrelated to the Maragoli and adopted a Maragoli name for king (Mwami) and to Nilotic peoples like the Kalenjin, Luo, and Maasai.
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By 1850, migration into Luhyaland was largely complete, and only minor internal movements occurred after that due to disease, droughts, domestic conflicts and the effects of British colonialism.