Why is Africa called Africa?

Why Is Africa Called Africa?

Conny Waters – Icestech.info – We read about historical places and events without thinking about what’s behind a name. For example, we can ask – Why is Africa called Africa? How did the African continent get its name?

After Asia, Africa is the world’s second-largest continent.  There are 54 countries and territories in Africa, and 11 billion people inhabit them. It’s a beautiful but poor continent that is often forgotten by the western world.

According to historians, there could be several plausible explanations as to why Africa is called Africa.

Why is Africa called Africa?

1644: Willem Janszoon Blaeu. “One of the most decorative and popular of all early maps of Africa, from the ‘golden age’ of Dutch mapmaking. First issued in 1630, the map was reprinted many times between 1631 and 1667, appearing in Latin, French, German, Dutch, and Spanish editions of Blaeu’s atlases.” Credit: Public Domain

The most accepted and widespread theory states that the ancient Romans gave the continent its name after the North African Berber tribe Afri. The Afri lived in caves near the city of Carthage (also called Karthago), corresponding to modern-day Tunisia. During this period, Carthage was inhabited by people who were at war with the ancient Romans. About 146 B.C. Carthage and surrounding areas were destroyed by the Roman Empire and declared a Roman province.

See also: More Ancient History Facts

The Latin word “ca” means “land”. Instead of naming the new province Carthage, it was given the name Africa because the Afri tribe was loyal to the leadership in Rome. Therefore, Africa means “the Land of the Afri”.

According to another theory, Africa has its origin in the Latin word “aprica”, which means “sunny” or the ancient Greek term “aphrike”, which stands for “without cold”.

Some historians have also suggested a connection between the African continent and the Egyptian word “af-rui-ka”, which means “to turn toward the opening of Ka”. In Egyptian mythology Ka was the power of the soul, an energetic double of every person. This means “af-rui-ka” can be translated as “the place of birth”.

A different theory emerged in the early sixteenth century when famous explorer Leo Africanus who documented everything he saw while visiting many places in North Africa came suggested that the name ‘Africa’ was derived from the Greek word ‘a-phrike’, meaning ‘without cold,’ or ‘without horror’. This is rather logical in fact because “other historians have suggested that the Romans may have derived the name from the Latin word for sunny or hot, namely ‘aprica’. Where exactly the Romans got the name ‘Africa’ from is, however, still in dispute.” 1

Many scientists have suggested that Africa is home to the first humans. If this is true, then the phrase “place of birth” should be considered more seriously, as Africa could be the birthplace of humankind.

Talking about names, do you know why Europe is called Europe?

Written by Conny Waters – Icestech.info Staff Writer

Updated on July 4, 2021

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Expand for references

  1. South African History – Africa _ What’s In A Name?
  2. Lewis, Martin and Karen E. Wigen – ‘The Architecture of Continents: The Development of the Continental Scheme’, in The Myth of Continents: A Critique of Metageography

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