Countries: the name Africa, origin and meaning

What values do names have? Are names given for particular reasons? These and many other questions readily come to mind whenever one comes across the name of a person or a place for the very first time.

In Africa, the names of people and places denote much more than what we often hear and read. African names connote exotic and beautiful meanings reflecting aspects of traditional rights and values, ancestors, great warriors of the past, celestial bodies and even God. For example, my name Tanyu also spelled Tanyv means “The father of God” Munang means “This is me”. what about yours?

One of the many African names that have a controversial origin and meaning is the name “Africa” itself. Surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the North, Suez Canal and the Red Sea along the Sinai Peninsula to the North East, the Indian Ocean to the South East and the Atlantic Ocean to the West, it is the second largest and second most populous continent in the world.

History holds that the name Africa which is referred to in Kemetic language as Meritah originated from the Egyptian word “Afru-ika” or “Motherland”. Pianke advanced this argument in 2011 in response to a question on “The Race and History Forum”.

There are a number of theories about how the continent of Africa got its name. The Roman theory says that the name Africa came from the Romans who named it “Afri-terra” meaning the “land of the Afri”. There are Phoenician, weather, geographical, and Africanus theories with different stories about the origin of the name. Biblically, the name is summarized into Egypt which was known to the Hebrews while Libya is referred to in the Bible as Lehabim and Libum(Ludim) in Genesis 10:13 and Chronicles 12:3 according to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

Whereas ancient history associate all that which is good and civilized to Africa, modern history has rubbed Africa of this deserved reference rather associating it to the weak and inferior. Therefore, the inferiority complex attached to it and the name as a result of white supremacist tendencies defined in colonial terms.

That notwithstanding, Africa remains the cradle of humanity and the cradle of civilization. As for the name, we can only say what we know of its

Just like one can arguably speak of the name Africa, here are some countries and their names of origin

Cameroon: it is a country in the armpit of Africa. The name is the anglicized form of the former name of River Wouri called by the Portuguese Rio dos Camaroes meaning “river of prawns”.   Ethiopia: The name is derived from the Greek form aithiopia from the two words aitho, “I burn” and ops, “face”. It thus means “the colored man’s land”-the land of the scorched faces. The former name of Ethiopia is Abyssinia, a word of uncertain origin.
Gambia: it comes from Portuguese word Cambio meaning “exchange” and named after the Gambia River.
Libya: it is Latin contracted from Greek word Libye referred to the region west of the Nile generally speaking of the modern Maghreb.
Zimbabwe: while some hold that the word is derived from dzimba-Dza-mabwe, translated from the Karanga dialect of Shona as “Large houses of stone” others claim it comes from dzimba-hwe which means “venerated houses”.
Ghana: it means “warrior king” and was the title given to the king of the media Ghana Empire in West Africa.

These and many others reveal many important things about the origins and meanings of names in Africa and above all Africa itself.

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