|Kibo Summit of Kilimanjaro|
Kilimanjaro, with its three volcanic cones, Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira, is an inactive stratovolcano in north-eastern Tanzania and the highest mountain in Africa at 5,895 metres or 19,341 ft above sea level (the Uhuru Peak/Kibo Peak).
It is unknown where the name Kilimanjaro originates, but a number of theories exist. European explorers had adopted the name by 1860 and reported that it was its Swahili name, with Kilimanjaro breaking into Kilima (Swahili for "hill, little mountain") and Njaro, whose supposed origin varies according to the theories—according to some it's an ancient Swahili word for white or for shining, or for the non-Swahili origin, a word from the Kichagga language, the word jaro meaning "caravan". The problem with all these is that they can't explain why the diminutive kilima is used instead of the proper word for mountain, mlima. The name might be a local joke, referring to the "little hill of the Njaro" being the biggest mountain on the African continent, since this is a nearby town, and guides recount that it is the Hill of the Njaro people. A different approach is to assume that it comes from the Kichagga kilmanare or kileajao meaning "which defeats the bird/leopard/caravan". However this theory cannot explain the fact that Kilimanjaro was always used in Kichagga before in Europe in the mid-19th century.
An alternative theory is as follows: "ON November 10th, 1848, the German Missionary Rebmann wrote in his diary: "This morning we discerned the Mountains of Jagga more distinctly than ever." Later on Von Der Decken climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in 1861, "who got no farther than 8,200 feet". Jagga was pronunciation of Chagga by Europeans. Kilimanjaro is may also European pronunciation of the Chagga phrase that "Kile-lema-irho" means that we failed to climb it in Kiuru, Kioldimoshi, Kimarangu, Kivunjo, Kikibosho, Kimachame and Kirombo, Kichagga in general. If so, name itself, Kile-lema-irho/Kilimanjaro, would have been the Chagga way of explaining to kyasaka/newcomers when they asked about the shining mountain top of Kibo and Mawenzi Peak. Kibo peak is more visible from the Kibosho Area, and Mawenzi from Maranu. Now you can relate that the names of these regions somehow determined the names of each peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
In the 1880s, the mountain, at that time spelled Kilima-Ndscharo in German following the Swahili name components, became a part of German East Africa after Karl Peters had persuaded local chiefs to sign treaties (a common story that Queen Victoria gave the mountain to her grandson Kaiser Wilhelm II is not true). In 1889 the peak of Kibo was named "Kaiser-Wilhelm-Spitze" ("Kaiser Wilhelm peak") by Hans Meyer, on the first ascent to the summit on 5 October 1889. That name was used until 1918, when after World War I the German colonies were handed over to the British empire. When British-administered Tanganyika gained its independence in 1961, the peak was named "Uhuru peak", meaning "Freedom peak" in Swahili.
Historical map with "Kilima-Ndscharo" in German East Africa, 1888
The Ki- prefix in Swahili has several underlying meanings. The old Ka- diminutive noun prefix (found now only as Kadogo - a small degree), merged with the Ki class. One of its meanings was to also describe something unique of its kind: Kilima, a single peak, as opposed to Mlima, which would better describe a mountain range or undulating country. Several other mountains also bear this prefix, such as Kilima Mbogo (Buffalo Mountain), just north of Nairobi in Kenya. People with disabilities are also placed in this class, not so much as a diminutive idea; but a unique condition they possess: a blind or a deaf person, Kipofu and Kiziwi. This prefix "Ki-" in no way implies a derogatory sense. The name Kibo in Kichagga means "spotted" and refers to rocks seen on snowfields.