Many have written about Towns and Cities names origin and I also hereby add some which my late father would narrate to me at times. I also got some from my friend George from Kennesaw Georgia who claims to be a Historian and will believe him partly. In case you find an error in the origin of names just email us and we will rectify if your source is credible.
KENYA: When missionaries spotted Mt Kenya, after reaching the Athi plains they used the hand language to enquire from the Kaamba people the name of the mountain that was so visible then, and got “Kiima kinyaa meaning gods resting place.
The white people put notes and reported back home that they were in Kenia..that later came to be known as the present Kenya.
The white man was clever to travel with natives who at times acted as interpreters. People like David Livingstone had two of them named Suzi and Chuma.
Tanzania unlike Kenya is easy as it was just joining Tanganyika and Zanzibar but Kenya we must say that it was the Kaamba effort and had they told the white man a naughty name, it would have stuck.
WE here without much elaborating show you how other towns got their names.
NAIROBI-From Maasai enkare nyorobi—A place of cool waters
KARATINA: This Town before Nyeri was used for animal Quarantine or from other school of thought is that there was a tree called Muratina which was at the middle of the market but Quarantine sounded near to us.
NYERI Towards the end of 1902, as the British were establishing their colonial presence, Richard Meinertzhagen marched a strong
military column meeting spirited resistance from the native Kikuyu warriors led by Wangombe Wa Ihura. The Kikuyu were
eventually defeated. After Meinertzhagen’s victory, a decision was reached to site a British post close to a
little hill on the slopes of Mt. Kenya. The Kikuyu called the hill Kia-Nyiri while their Maasai neighbours called the hill Na-aier.
The post took its name from the little hill. On 18 December 1902, Nyeri was founded.
KANGEMI: Mzee Jomo Kenyatta would always stop here and the women would do their ululations and then he would always tell the escort to stop at gachagi ka ngemi..place of ululation..Another school of thought says the white PEOPLE used to play card game and natives heard kangemi…not sure this make sense though. Original is tales from my father.
GIKAMBURA: Lord Kirk Borough. He owned the whole City.
NDUMBERI: Named after a settler named Lord Durnberry.
KAMOO: A white settlers farm near Githiga …Coffee pickers would be told by the white man .. who would go round nearby villages shouting.Come all thereafter natives would say ni tuthii ….Kamoo
GACHURUBA: A village near the Githiga white settlers and all it means is “catch a robber” but the Kikuyuyus heard different and called it as written
KABARNET_ Named after a white missionary named Bernet….I have gone to Ka…barnet…homestead of Bernet as per the Tugen
LIMURU: From the Maasai word ilmur meaning donkey dung.
TIGONI: A town near Limuru according to white settler was Tea Zone but the word to natives sounded like it’s called today
RUARAKA: There was a river women used to bathe and natives kikuyus started calling it rui rwa aka.
KAPROPITA: A town in Baringo County named after a white man named Corporal Peter
NAKURU: From Maasai word Nakurro meaning a dusty place and sure it was then.
EMBAKASI: It originated from the Maasai word Impakasi meaning vast land or savannah.
RUIRU TOWN: It was named after the black river meaning in Kikuyu ruiru
KISUMU: From combination of names all meaning a place of trading..Luos Kisumo…Maragoli Kusuma.. Nandi Kesumett- or what have you on this?
ELDORET: From the Maasai word Eldore meaning stony river
KAPSABET: The name Kapsabet comes from “Kap”- ‘belong to/area of’ and “sabit” or “sobet” – ‘live’ and has come to mean ‘a place of life’ though external influences and documentation refer it as Kapsabet. The locals praise it as ‘Kapsabit ak mego’.Kapsabet
KIRIGITI STADIUM: It was where the white man used to play the game cricket in Kiambu
KIAMBU: The Maasai from neigboring Nairobi would occasionally invade Kikuyus homestead and force their cows to graze while beating anyone on site. The women would produce what Kikuyus call Mbu shrieking voices and then all would say ” i am going to that village of Mbu… ndathii gicagi kia mbu.
GITHUNGURI: High grounds
ROYSAMBU: The colonial district commissioner gave land to white people and the area was referred to as Royal Suburbs but it was too hard to the natives and simply called it roisabu.
KARIOKO: It was the ground for Carrier Corps during the first world war
PANGANI : Once dominated by prostitutes from neighboring Kiambu the word is from panga meaning arrange and all would say hau panga ini. but my father interpretation was different as he would say it was named after natives fought with pangas to retaliate the arrest of Harry Thuku and after the revolt many pangas were left behind earning the name. hau panga ini
KASARANI: There was a river full of grass like reeds called in kikuyu thara and natives would say hau ….ga thara-ini
DAGORETTI: Two versions comes here, some say the natives protested after the white man crossed from Karen to invade present day Dagorreti and all shouted in Kikuyu ..ndagurite. meaning he has not bought…. Then there are others that say it meant “the great corner” and hence the great market not far off called Dagorreti Market. maybe also can be a good version.
THOGOTO: From Scotland mission that established Alliance. The Kikuyu could not pronounce Scotland well
RUMURUTI: Rumuruti is a town in Laikipia County about 40km north of Nyahururu. How did it get its’ name? The town was on the route from Nyahururu to Mararal which was commonly used by white settlers. They referred to the trail between the two settlements as a “Remote route”. The corrupted version of this then became Rumuruti, the town name as we know it today.
TENWEK: Is a shopping centre located in Bomet County and location of one of the oldest hospitals in the region which was built in 1936. The name Tenwek is believed to have come about because it took ten weeks to travel from Mombasa to the area by foot.
Matayos: In the county of Busia there is a trading called Matayos. According to the residents of Busia a European by the name Mathew moved to the area during the colonial times. The residents referred to him as “Mathayo” which is the Kiswahili version of Mathew. However, in Luhya dialect the name was pronounced as “Matayo”. Today Matayos is one of the new constituencies in Busia.
Msongari: The name was Muthangari and an area in Lavington still maintains that name. it had the thangari that make a farm unproductive The name was a bit tough for the settlers and they pronounced it as “Msongari”.
BIBILIONI: Named after a white lady the natives would call bibi Leon or wife of Leon
KAREN: Named after the famous first white woman to contact Syphilis in Kenya called Karen Blixen
MUTHAIGA: The area medicine men would get their drugs and herbs from a muthaiga tree
THIKA: Named after thiririka river
GIKAMBURA: Acre borough as the land was sub-divided into acres.
NDEIYA: Diary yard- more investigation going on
MACHAKOS: White man inquired about the leader of the natives and they gave him the name Masaku…but he may have heard it as Machakos
KILELESHWA: Clay land Swamp. more investigation
KAMANGU: Camp Ground
KINOO: Kings knot OTHERS say there was a huge sign written no way.. and kikuyus would say ndathie hau Ki NO…RESEARCH ON
ROD-COPANY Is a busy town in Homa-Bay County. During the construction of a road in the area the Mehta Singh Road Company the residents would refer to it as Rodi Kopany. This name quickly stuck and the town was known as Rod-Kopany which is a corruption of the name Road Company
RIRUTA: The white people used to refer this town as Little Town and natives Kikuyus heard just like its named today
EASTLEIGH: Clearing ground that the white people likened to Eastleigh in London… word was borrowed from the Anglo Saxon word Leah meaning clearing.
MARIAKANI: Derived from Duruma language meaning tremble or quiver
KALOLENI: : One told me Carol lane after a Muzungu who had a shop there ..or Kikuyu excitement as houses were too beautiful taroreni and Mzungu heard Ka instead of Ka research still open
KARIOBANGI: Located near where war carrier corps would tell natives Carry your bags.. One source and others saying a place that would sell bangi the drugs…research on.
NYAHURURU: Enaiwurruwurr in Maasai meaning a place of storms. orther source place of falls making hururu sounds all day till they would say guku no hururu.
KARINDE: It was end of Karen Blixen land end Karen end at young age she was pretty and though addressed as “Lady” native would say Karendi. Haha niho mugunda was Karendi wakinya. another source says.
NAIVASHA: Its Maasai enaiposha meaning big lake.
KAWANWARE: It was a floodplain full of Karia ka ngware… in Kikuyu there used to exist fowl like or hen like birds family called ngware which are eaten.. karia ka ngwares.
KAKAMEGA: Colonialist found the Luhya people who told them name of their land was khakhameka but they heard and wrote it Kakamega.
MUMIAS: Named after Nabongo Mumia the leader of the Wanga people.
LAKE RUDOLF: Named after a man called Rudolf but later wisely changed to Lake Turkana.
LAKE VICTORIA: Still sadly named after Queen Victoria but its a high time they named it after an African who has done a lot to humanity
Email us if you have more:
This research continues:
Disclaimer: No one is a custodian of origin of names of Kenyan Towns and we write what we are told and do not invent names. From initial observation, Maasai people greatly contributed to naming of Towns.
KENYA PARENTS IN USA