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9 Theories On How Africa Got Its Name




The name Africa has been connected with the Phoenician word afar, which means “dust.” It has also has been connected to two Phoenician terms friqi or pharika, which means “land of corn or fruit.” It has also been hypothesized that Africa may have derived from a Phoenician root faraqa or faraq, meaning “separation or diaspora.”


The Romans have been given credit for popularizing the name Africa in the West. They used the name Africa terra meaning  “land of the Afri” (or singular version “Afer”)  for the northern part of the continent. Its capital was Carthage, which is modern-day Tunisia.

The story told by some historians is that the Romans got the term from the Carthaginians, as a native term for their country. The Latin suffix “-ica” can sometimes be used to denote a land (e.g., in Celtica from Celtae, as used by Julius Caesar).

Another theory is that the continent was named after the Roman general “Scicipio Africanus,” but his name meant “Sicipio of Africa,” which would mean the general was named for being from Africa.

Some say the term is drawn from the Latin adjective aprica (sunny).


The historian Leo Africanus (1495-1554) attributed the origin of “Africa” to the Greek word  aprikē  or aphrike. Phrike means cold and horror, when combined with the negating prefix a-, it means a land free of cold and horror.

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