Is Kenya Named After Kenyatta?

Is Kenya Named After Kenyatta

When it comes to the origins of names, there can often be fascinating stories and misconceptions. One such query that arises in the context of Kenya is whether the country is named after its renowned leader, Jomo Kenyatta. Let’s dive into this topic and uncover the truth behind the name “Kenya.”

Is Kenya Named After Kenyatta?

To put it simply: no, Kenya is not named after Jomo Kenyatta. The name “Kenya” predates the political career of Kenyatta and has a different origin altogether. The country derives its name from Mount Kenya, which stands proudly as the highest peak in the nation.

The Origin of the Name

The name “Kenya” is believed to have its roots in the Kikuyu language, spoken by the Kikuyu people who inhabited the region surrounding Mount Kenya.

In Kikuyu, the mountain was referred to as “Kirinyaga,” which translates to “mountain of whiteness.” This name was inspired by the awe-inspiring sight of the snow-capped peak of Mount Kenya, a majestic sight that captivated the locals.

British Colonial Influence

The British colonial authorities played a significant role in the adoption of the name “Kenya” for the territory.

During the colonial era, British officials encountered difficulty pronouncing the name “Kirinyaga” accurately. As a result, they began referring to the region as “Kenya” instead.

In 1920, the British colonial authorities formally adopted the name “Kenya” for the territory. This decision was not influenced by Jomo Kenyatta or any specific individual but rather by the colonial administrators’ need for a name that was easier for them to pronounce.

The Legacy of Jomo Kenyatta

While Jomo Kenyatta is an influential figure in Kenya’s history and is often referred to as the “father of the nation,” the name “Kenya” was not bestowed upon the country in his honor. Jomo Kenyatta was a prominent Kenyan politician and played a pivotal role in the country’s struggle for independence from British colonial rule.

Born as Johnstone Kamau, Kenyatta adopted the name “Kenyatta” in the 1920s as he became increasingly involved in political activism.

The name “Kenyatta” itself has its own intriguing origin, but it is separate from the naming of the country.


In conclusion, Kenya is not named after Jomo Kenyatta. The country’s name originated from the Kikuyu word “Kirinyaga,” meaning “mountain of whiteness,” which referred to the awe-inspiring Mount Kenya. The adoption of the name “Kenya” by the British colonial authorities was a result of their difficulty in pronouncing “Kirinyaga,” and it predates the political career of Jomo Kenyatta.

So, while Jomo Kenyatta holds a significant place in Kenya’s history, the name of the country itself is not a direct homage to him. It serves as a reminder of the majestic mountain that has become an iconic symbol of Kenya’s natural beauty and cultural heritage.

In summary, Kenya is not named after Kenyatta. The name “Kenya” originated from the Kikuyu word “Kirinyaga,” meaning “mountain of whiteness,” and refers to the country’s highest peak, Mount Kenya. Jomo Kenyatta, the first president of Kenya, adopted his name separately, and it does not have a direct connection to the naming of the country.

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