Borrowed Names: The World Borrows from Each Other

Is your name a borrowed one?

Was your name borrowed
from another culture?
(Image: edwardpye/Pixabay/CC0)

We have our own culture in Africa and we are proud of it. Yet we have very many names borrowed from other cultures especially the western. Borrowed names become the order of the day and it is hard for one to differentiate them from the local ones.


Names of Places

There are many places in our country which were borrowed. Here are some examples of such names:


  • This is the name of a big market in our capital city, Nairobi. People come to this market from very far off places as you can find all that you need in this market. It is also a very cheap market. ‘Kariokor’ is derived from ‘carry your call’. It will be very hard for one to identify the name and its English version.


  • This is a slum village in the capital too. It boasts of having very many prostitutes, drunkards and other low-class people. The name comes from ‘carry your bags’.
Names on credit cards

African culture has borrowed names of people, places, and things
( IMAGE: 27707/Pixabay/CCO)


Names of Things

There are also things which have these borrowed names.


  • These are three drums among the Abaluhya of the western province. The name also refers to a dance which accompanies the drums. The dance is characterized by the swaying of the hips and gyrating of many body parts. It is done by both men and women. The name came about when it was danced to some Europeans who enjoyed the dance so much that they exclaimed, ‘it is good’. That is how the name came about.


  • This is a Swahili word for a cow. It is derived from India. It came about when the Indians came to construct the railway in our country.


Names of People

There are also people with such borrowed names. Here are examples:


  • This is a name given to a girl. The name happens to have come from the wife of a missionary who came to preach the word of God. In honor to the missionaries, many girls came to be called that name. The borrowed name is a coined one from “Mrs. Baker.” You cannot place the two names on the same platter. They look worlds apart.


  • This also happens to be a borrowed English name. Can you guess what it stands for? It stands for “Miss Reeves.” Reeves happened to be a missionary too. His name is associated with the Friends African Mission which is common in my area.

Our communities thrive from many borrowed names of which it is hard to convince even the locals that the names are not originally from the community. No man is an island and no community can stand alone.


Featured Image: PeteLinforth/Pixabay/CC0


  1. Andria Perry

    I have never thought about this, I do find it very interesting because we here in the USA often use the name from the bible and those names are dropped down to us. My fathers name was Amos.

    I stumbled this article.

  2. Rex Trulove

    America really is a melting pot of cultures, so most names are borrowed, except for some that are Native American. We’ve borrowed from almost every culture; Spanish, French, German, Dutch, Arabic and just about every other one we’ve come into contact with. When my grand daughter was born, our daughter wanted a unique name, so I came up with Astali, meaning ‘beacon of light’ or ‘Star Light’. She really was exactly that, too. 🙂

    1. @stbrians meshack bwoyele keya Post author

      Mountain man @rextrulove, Am grateful that you do agree. We will soon have names in America like Vihiga. That is my home area. The name is derived from the big boulders that are found in my area. Mahiga are cooking stones. ThEY ARE THREE AND WE USE FIREWOOD TO COOK IN THEM. iS THAT NOT INTERESTING?

    2. Rex Trulove

      Yes indeed. That is how many Native Americans cooked, traditionally. They used large, flat rocks in much the same way that modern frying pans are used. Often, those stones were about a foot across, so they were big enough to cook meat and vegetables at the same time. Food was placed directly on the hot rocks, to cook. They also rolled food in wet leaves and put them into the coals of a fire to bake them.

      Where I live, there is a large amount of slate, which is quite flat and perfect for cooking. Though this is in the mountains, before the mountains formed, this whole area was under the shallow sea that covered most of what is now North America. The slate is the accumulation of sea mud that compacted until it is extremely hard. The slate is in sheets, usually no more than a few inches thick, though they can be very long and wide. The sheets lay one upon another and the point is that the Sioux and other Indians in this region used the slate for cooking. It is heavy, dense and stays hot for a long time once it is heated.

  3. Kyla Matton Osborne

    I think this is a fascinating phenomenon. It made me wonder if it was common to also speak a sort of Patois in your part of Africa, too?

    English is just full of loan words, as well as the large bulk of Latin-based words that came into our language after the Norman invasion. I love to look words up and discover where they come from. Until I was allowed to study syntax in university, etymology was my favourite aspect of linguistics 🙂

  4. Gil Camporazo

    You are correct. I heard my late mother before she mentioned “kalubangi”. It is a place where her relatives are living. It seems it is related to the word “Kariobangi” in your country.

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