What is a kopje?

A kopje is a manadnock. Which, in turn, is an inselberg. Indeed, it may sometimes be called a Kakba, but that is the most obscure of all the terms for a very large lump sticking out of the earth all by itself. Like this:


In South Africa, this is called a “kopje” (pronounced “Cop eee” a lot like the English word “Copy” like “I am going to the Xerox machine to make nine copies of this thing”). The term Kopje is actually used across a wider range of English speaking Africa. Monadnock is a North American term and this phrase comes from a Native American (I think an Algonquian language, probably Abenaki) for a particular mountainin southwestern New Hampshire called … wait for it …. Mount Manadnock. Inselberg is, of course, the more commonly used European term.

This particular kopje is located on a reserve called “Leopard Kopje” … but the kopje named Leopard Kopje is not what you see here. Leopard Kopje is a strange hill with a hidden dale within it. To get to the dale you pass through a very narrow and heavily vegetated pass. When you do that, you find animal bones strewn all around, because there is indeed a leopard that lives here (and this has probably alwasy been true) and you are walking through its ambush site. Best to do this in the heat of the afternoon when the leopard is sleeping.

In this region, which is the Northern Cape of South Africa, the kopjes are usually some sort of extra hard granite-like rock sticking up among a bunch of softer, and thus flattened out granite-like rock. But in this region, the kopjes are often made of quartz and quartzite. So if you see a kopje, unless you get up close to really inspect it, don’t take it for granite.


  1. #1 BZ
    December 4, 2008

    “Best to do this in the heat of the afternoon when the leopard is sleeping.”

    Is this tip coming from personal experience?

  2. #2 Bjorn Watland
    December 4, 2008

    HA! Don’t take it for granite. I get it! You’re punny!

  3. #3 Who Cares
    December 4, 2008

    Seeing that this is South Africa I blame the Dutch for inflicting this word on the rest of the world 😀
    Kopje translated from dutch it means either small head (kop is slang for hoofd which means head) or small cup.
    More likely it is a misspronouncement of topje (as tip in tip of the iceberg), see the white rhino for something similar.

  4. #4 Squiddhartha
    December 4, 2008

    Born in Namibia. Know kopjes well.

    (We moved to the US when I was very young, but visited again several years later, and I dubbed the countless termite mounds ‘innumerable ant heaps.’)

  5. #5 Morejello
    December 4, 2008

    Wow, that was a long way to go for a ‘don’t take it for granite’ joke.

  6. #6 Virgil Samms
    December 4, 2008
  7. #7 Bee
    December 4, 2008

    “Inselberg” is German and means “island mountain”

  8. #8 StuV
    December 4, 2008

    In Dutch, and from what I can find online in South-African as well, the pronunciation should actually be “cop-yuh”. “Cop-ee” is the slang form “koppie”, mostly used in spoken form, except for the expression “koppie-koppie”… which means “smart”, but is mostly used sarcastically for maximum confusion.

    *Puts down coffee*

  9. #9 JanieBelle
    December 4, 2008


    I’d like to see them start burning those sons of bitches at the stake. There are few people I despise more than child abusers.

    Anyway, I wonder if the chain of responsibility will lead back to the freakazoid fundies here in the states. Somehow it wouldn’t shock me one little bit.

    If that’s the case, I’d like to see the pyres piled for those bastards, too.

    Evil people suck, and it’s disgusting how badly other people are harmed all over, ultimately because of some brand of voodoo death cult or other.

  10. #10 christopher guerra
    December 6, 2008

    omg wtf thats where my spaceship is hidden