What’s in a name?


Have you ever looked up the meaning of your name? Ever ask your parents why they gave you the name you have?

If you look up the name Kenya, you’ll obviously find that it is a country in Africa (shocker!!). The country received its name after Mount Kenya. The origin is Hebrew, and the name is a Kiswahili word that means Animal Horn. Awesome. Animal Horn, I mean, really?  Please note that my older sister’s name, Jamila, means beautiful.  Just let that comparison of the meaning of our names sink in. Put our names together and you have a Beautiful Animal Horn. Sweet.

My father named me Kenya (I think he heard it from a friend…seriously) and my mom thought it was pretty…boom. That was easy. It was also during the era of the Black Power Movement where people were naming their kids African names. So there you have it folks, the EPIC story behind my name.

I’ve often wanted to make up a story and say “I’m an African princess and my family is Kenyan royalty.  You must bow when you greet me.” People’s reactions would be priceless.

When I was younger, I was ALWAYS the only Kenya. I didn’t know anyone with my name.  I thought it was so cool!  As I got older, it became more popular, or I had started to meet more people with the name.  At one job I had, there were three Kenya’s and two of us worked in the same department…that didn’t make things confusing at all.

I went to Kenya when I was 18 and many Kenyan’s thought it was odd that my name was Kenya. Odd, but cool. I even felt weird telling people my name while I was there. It did seem odd, but cool, to be in Kenya and be named Kenya.

I honestly love seeing my name in places that sell Kenyan coffee and in newspaper headlines (when it’s positive). President Obama is in Kenya right now, and it’s all over my twitter feed!

Credit: Starbucks.com
Credit: Starbucks.com
Credit: CBS Boston
Credit: CBS Boston


My friends and I joke about how people get my name wrong.  It happens more often than not, and if I’m introducing myself in a place where there is a lot of background noise…forget it. Many people think my name is Kendra or Tanya. I’ve even seen people write, Kenia.  I remember telling someone that my name was Kenya and that my middle name was Tanzania, they thought I was serious. I mean…come on.  The ones that do hear my name clearly often respond with, “Are you from there?” And my response is always, “Nope, but I’ve been there.”  Which is then followed up with, “Oh cool, was that weird?”  My favorite response was from a guy I met at a bar who said, “Awesome, I just got the new Enya CD.” I simply smiled and walked away.

Rather than cause confusion, my normal response to when people ask my name is, “My name is Kenya, like the country”. Ding ding ding! Most of the time that solves the confusion and many people even say, “That’s a beautiful name!”

Kenya IS a beautiful name and I love it. My family and closest friends don’t even call me by name that much. My nicknames are: K, Ken, Kenny, KB, and Brockovich (thanks Briana!). So thank you mom and dad (and my dad’s friend) for giving me a name that is always a good conversation starter.

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