World Facts

How Did Kenya Get Its Name?

Kenya is named after Mount Kenya, which is the country's highest mountain.

Kenya, which is officially named the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East Africa that borders Tanzania, Somalia, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Uganda. The southeastern part of the country also has coastline along the Indian Ocean. Kenya covers an area of 224,081 sq mi and has an estimated population of 49.3 million, ranking as the world's 48th most extensive and 27th most populous country. The country is subdivided into 47 semi-autonomous counties, and each county is led by a governor who is elected by popular vote. Nairobi is Kenya's capital and largest city, with an estimated population of 3.1 million people.

Origin of the Name

Kenya derives its name from the tallest mountain in the country, Mount Kenya. The earliest record of the name was written by German explorer Johann Ludwig Krapf in the 19th century. It is alleged that when Krapf was traveling with the local Kamba people, he asked about name of the mountain, and the locals told him it was named "Kĩĩma- Kĩĩnyaa" or "Kĩ-Nyaa." The Kikuyu people, who lived on the slopes of the mountain referred to it as "Kĩrĩma Kĩrĩnyaga" in their native language, while the Embu people, who also lived on the slopes of the mountain, called it "Kirenyaa." All three names have the same meaning, which is believed to be linked to the mountain's black rock and white snow that resembled the feathers of an ostrich. Krapf recorded the name as "Kenia" and "Kegnia." In 1882, Scottish explorer, geologist and naturalist Joseph Thompson drew a map of the region and labelled Mount Kenya as "Mt Kenia." The mountain's name was later accepted as the name of the country, although it was not widely used during the colonial period, as the country was known as the East African Protectorate at that time. It was renamed the Colony of Kenya in 1920, and then adopted the name the Republic of Kenya when the country gained independence in 1963.

History of Kenya

The Nilotic speaking people of Kenya are believed to have settled in the country in approximately 500 BC, migrating from the region that is now South Sudan. Kenya was colonized by the British in the nineteenth century, and the modern state of Kenya can be traced to 1895 when it was established as a British Protectorate, and subsequently to 1920, when it became a British colony. Growing tensions between the local population and British colonists resulted in the Mau Mau Uprising in 1952. Kenya eventually gained its independence in 1963.

Languages in Kenya

Kenya is home to several ethnic populations that speak different native languages within their own communities. However, the country has two official languages, which are Swahili and English. The English language is widely used in government offices, trade and commerce, and is also taught in schools. Swahili, which is also taught in schools and colleges, has a higher total number of speakers in Kenya. 

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