Kenya - Etymology

Etymology

Further information: Names on Mount Kenya

The word Kenya, /ˈkɛnjə/, originates from the Kikuyu, Embu and Kamba names for Mount Kenya, "Kirinyaga", "Kirinyaa" and "Kiinyaa". Prehistoric volcanic eruptions of Mount Kenya (now extinct) may have resulted in its association with divinity and creation among the indigenous Kikuyu-related ethnic groups who are the native inhabitants of the agricultural land surrounding Mount Kenya.

The Wakamba first pointed out the second mountain to Dr. Krapf called "Kĩ-Nyaa" or "Kĩĩma- Kĩĩyaa" which is similar to Kĩrĩma Kĩrĩnyaga in Kikuyu... probably because the pattern of black rock and white snow on its peaks reminded them of the feathers of the cock ostrich.

The word "Nyaga" is a Kikuyu – Embu word meaning "spot". It is a diminutive for "Manyaganyaga" (spots). The spots of the black rock and the white snow could be the origin of the words "Kĩrĩ-nyaga" which in this case means 'spotted'. Therefore, Mwene- Nyaga (Agikuyu God) means "The owner/guardian of the spotted Mountain".

In the 19th century, the German explorer Ludwig Krapf recorded the name as both Kenia and Kegnia believed by some to be a corruption of the Kamba version. Others say that this was—on the contrary—a very precise notation of a correct African pronunciation /ˈkɛnjə/. A map drawn by Joseph Thompsons, 1882 a Scottish geologist and Naturalist indicated Mt. Kenya as Mt. Kenia, 18620.

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