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Who named Africa? Where did the name Africa come from?


Africa is the world’s second-largest continent, both by size and population, after Asia. Africa, and being African, has become a core part of the identity of billions of people, but where does this word, to which so many people have such an emotional connection, come from?

The origin of the word 'Africa' has been difficult to elucidate. It became the accepted term from Roman times onwards in the form 'Africa', replacing the originally Greek or Egyptian word 'Libya', the land of the Lebu or the Lubins in Genesis.

From designating the North African coast, the word 'Africa' came to be applied to the whole continent from the end of the first century BC.


But what was the original meaning of the name?


Starting with the most likely explanations, the following versions have been proposed. The word 'Africa' is thought to come from the name of a Berber people who lived to the south of Carthage, the Afarik or Aourigha, whence Afriga or Africa to denote the land of the Afarik.


Another derivation of the word Africa is that it comes from two Phoenician terms, one of which means an ear of corn, a fertility symbol in that region, and the other, Pharikia, means the land of fruit.


It is further suggested that the word comes from the Latin adjective aprica (sunny) or the Greek aprike (free from cold).


Another origin might be the Phoenician root faraqa, which suggests the idea of separation or in other words diaspora. It may be pointed out that the same root is to be found in some African languages, for instance, Bambara.


In Sanskrit and Hindi the root Apara or Africa denotes that which, in geographical terms, comes 'after', in other words, the West. Africa is the western continent.


A historical tradition subscribed to by Leo Africanus ( 16th century AD Berber Andalusi diplomat and author who is best known for his book Descrittione dell’Africa centered on the geography of the Maghreb and Nile Valley) has it that a Yemenite chief named Africus invaded North Africa in the second millennium BC and founded a town called Afrikyah. But it is more likely that the Arabic term Ifriqiya is the Arabic transliteration of the word 'Africa'.

Source: General History of Africa

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