Etymology of the names of African states. An identity crisis

Many African states have identities they CANT link directly to their own culture. How can you expect them to GROW as FREE men & women?

Let me share the highlights of these names, you’ll UNDERSTAND why it’s so difficult to break from this slavery. #MyAfrica

  • Algeria, comes from Algiers (al-Jazair), means The Islands…
  • Angola, comes from the title “Ngola” held by the kings of Ndongo, a tributary of the king of Kongo
  • Benin, is after the body of water on which the country lies, the Bight of Benin.
  • Botswana, comes from Tswana, an ethnic group making 71.6% of its population? Literally meaning “The Place Where Tswanas Live”
  • Burkina Faso, means “the land of upright people”. A name in their own language adopted after Thomas Sankara’s revolution.
  • Burundi, comes from the kingdom of Burundi, ruled by “mwamis” (kings) before colonial times.
  • Cameroon, comes from the name Portuguese explorers gave to the area Rio dos Camarões “River of Prawns”… Cameroonians are PRAWNS?
  • Cape Verde, comes from Verde “Green”, the name Portuguese explorers gave to one of the uninhabited islands in 1444.
  • Central African Republic or Centrafrique, means just that… A republic in central Africa… No wonder the nation seems to be LOST… smh*
  • Chad, comes from the Lake Chad, a kanuri name meaning “big space of water”.
  • Comoros, comes from qamar, arabic for “moon”.
  • Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), comes from their huge herds of elephants and the ivory trade flourishing at colonial time. Coast Of Elephants?
  • Congo, comes from the kingdom of Kongo (DRC-Congo Bazza-Angola), a democratic & well organized kingdom destroyed by colonization.
  • Djibouti, comes from a Somali expression Jab Buti “the fall of the ogre” or Gabooti “a set of baskets”.
  • Egypt, comes from Hikuptah ‘Memphis’, a capital during the Middle Kingdom.
  • Guinea, comes from an English gold coin issued from 1663 to 1813 using gold from Western Africa… IS THAT ALL????????
  • Eritrea, comes from the Italian form of the Greek name Erythraía, meaning “red [land]“.
  • Ethiopia, comes from Greek (Aithiopia), from (Aithiops) “charred complexion”, from (aitho) “I burn” + (ops) “eye,face, complexion”
  • Gabon, comes from “Gabão”, Portuguese for “cloak”, which is roughly the shape of the estuary of the Komo River by Libreville.
  • Gambia, comes from ‘Gambura’ meaning ‘place of the king’.
  • Ghana, means Warrior King and was the title accorded to the kings of the medieval West African Empire.
  • Kenya, comes from the Kikuyu, Embu and Kamba names for Mount Kenya, “Kirinyaga”, “Kirinyaa” and “Kiinyaa”.
  • Lesotho, translates roughly into “the land of the people who speak Sesotho”. A Bantu language spoken in southern Africa.
  • Liberia, comes from Latin Liber-ia, “the country of the free.”
  • Libya, comes from the historical name for Northwest Africa, from Greek (Libúe).
  • Madagascar, comes from the Malagasy language, the island of Madagascar is called Madagasikara.
  • Malawi, comes from Chichewa “malawi”, flames, after the appearance of the sunrise over Lake Malawi; or from Maravi, an early Malawi tribe.
  • Mali, comes from the Mandinka who called ther homeland Manden, the Mandinka people became the Malinke.
  • Mauritania, comes from Latin Mauritania, from Maurus “Moor” (several historic populations from North Africa “Berber people”).
  • Mauritius, comes the name of some Dutch prince Maurice of Nassau… Dutch named it so. Can you believe it? SMH
  • Morocco, comes from medieval Latin “Morroch”, which referred to the name of the former Almoravid and Almohad capital, Marrakesh.
  • Mozambique, comes from Musa Al Big/Mossa Al Bique/Mussa Ben Mbiki, an Arab trader who 1st visited the land & later lived there SMH.. So Mozambicans take their NATIONAL IDENTITY from some random Arab trader who had a Spaza shop / Ligablo on their land?
  • Namibia, comes from Namib which is of Nama origin and means “vast place”.
  • Niger, comes from the Tuareg name for Niger River “egerew nigerewen”, used along the middle reaches of the river around Timbuktu.
  • Nigeria, was taken from the Niger River running through the country. Touaregs named Nigeria too…
  • Rwanda… I know it comes from the kingdom of Barwanda? But Still havent found anything deeper than that.. HELP!!
  • São Tomé and Príncipe, is named in honour of Saint Thomas by Portuguese explorers who arrived at the island on his feast day.
  • Sénégal,comes from the Wolof phrase sunu gaal, which means “our canoe”. Senegal River?.
  • Seychelles, the islands were named after Jean Moreau de Séchelles, Louis XV’s Minister of Finance. SMH Can you CHANGE it NOW?
  • Sierra Leone, comes from the hills surrounding Freetown Harbour, Serra de Leão (Portuguese for Lion Mountains).
  • Somalia, comes from Samaale, the oldest common ancestor of several Somali clans.
  • South Africa, comes from ermmm a country in the south Of Africa… And that’s ALL? How random is that? South Africa is culturally too rich to have such a random name/identity…
  • Sudan, comes from the plural of the arabic word “Aswad” meaning Blackman… (sudá:n)… So South Sudan takes up from them too
  • Swaziland , as well as its people, are named after the 19th century king Mswati of the Dlamini clan? If I am not mistaken.
  • Tanzania, comes from the names of the two states TANganyika and ZANzibar that united in 1964.
  • Togo, comes from Togodo (The Other Shore), today’s Togoville, a German colonial town, first capital of the country east of Lomé.
  • Tunisia, comes from the capital Tunis taken from the Phoenician goddess Tanith (aka Tunit)…
  • Uganda, takes its name from the Buganda kingdom, also destroyed by colonization…
  • Zambia, comes from the Zambezi River (River of God), God in my language Lingala is Nzambe :)
  • Zimbabwe, is derived from dzimba-dza-mabwe, the Karanga dialect of Shona meaning “large houses of stone”.

Those are the names of African countries as far as I could find out for now. Some countries are messed up because they DONT HAVE an IDENTITY.

An IDENTITY is your PRIDE, the reason WHY you EXIST… If you get it wrong, whatever else you do is pointless & NEVER rewarding…#SELAH

Bentley Lumumba

12 thoughts on “Etymology of the names of African states. An identity crisis

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    1. Aisha

      christianMarch 7, 2012Nzambe aza le seul oyo aakktia bana na ye, okueya to te soki oza ya ye akokangela porte mokolo moko te. j’ai bcoup appre9cier votre nouvel album c’est un travail des pro. Bcoup du succes avec Je9sus Christ. ba mbote ata tomonana kala. Christian muana maman Mabele bye

    1. Bentley Lumumba Post author

      Yes, the name Tanzania derives from the names of the two states Tanganyika and Zanzibar that united in 1964 to form the United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, which later the same year was renamed the United Republic of Tanzania.

      That’s how far I could go :)

  3. Ndangwa Noyoo

    Actually, the pitfalls of the post-colonial African state stem from its foreign origins, notably colonial rule. The so-called post-colonial African nation-state never organically evolved as such, but became a caricature of the colonial state. Organic pre-colonial state formations which could have evolved into modern nation-states such as Barotseland, Buganda, Kongo, among others, were either obliterated or undermined by the colonial establishments. After independence, these pre-colonial state formations were forcibly incorporated into the so-called unitary state with its centralised government and vast powers vested in one man, the president. This was a recipe for disaster and those areas which had charted their own destinies were now hounded at every juncture, by the new post-colonial politicians, in the name of “national unity”. Whenever they expressed the desire to have more say in their affairs, people from such areas were vilified as secessionists. On the other hand, those who came from the “chosen” ethnic group (this being of the president’s) enjoyed the “fruits” of independence with development projects tilted in the direction of the presidents’ home areas. Ironically, many of these communities had never amounted to anything in the pre-colonial era, whilst those which were now suffering after “independence” had been mighty kingdoms.

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  7. Ndurya Mwadzaya

    They are called relics of colonialism, that is these things that Brits, Arabs, Portuguese, French and Spaniards left. Small wonder we allow the Frenchmen to come to our rescue in the face of arab invasion.


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