Home » 54 names of African countries, origins and real meanings

54 names of African countries, origins and real meanings

Africa is the second largest continent in the world with a land mass of about 30,370,000 km2, and it is also the second most populous continent after Asia. Africa as a continent generally consists of 54 countries, 5 regions, different native languages and ethnicities.

Africa has been believed to be the continent in which the human species originated from as well as the oldest territory inhabited on earth. It is rich in history as well as natural resources that make it a unique continent.

We are quite familiar with the names of countries in Africa, but some of us do not really know their meanings, origins, colonial masters and regions.

In this article, we are going to talk about African countries, and their original meaning of their names.

Names of African countries and their real meanings

1 Algeria

It is the largest country in Africa by area, and it is located in the Maghreb region of North Africa. The country was colonized by France, and their official language is Arabic. It would interest you to know that the name Algeria was derived from the city of Algiers which originated from the Arabic al-Jazāʾir (the Islands). In other words, Algeria means the Islands according to Wikipedia.

2 Angola

This is a country located in the west coast of Central Africa. It was colonized by Portugal, and their official language is Portuguese. The name Angola was derived by the Portuguese from the title “ngola” held by the kings of ndongo. Angola in other words means the Land of Ngola.

3 Benin

Benin also known officially as the Republic of Benin is a country located in West Africa. The official language of the country is French and it was colonized by France. Formerly known as Dahomey, but was later renamed Benin after the body of water on which the country lies. The name Benin means the Land of Argument.

4 Botswana

Botswana is a country located in Southern Africa, and it was colonized by Britain. Botswana was named after the dominant territory in Botswana. The name of Botswana means the Land of the Tswana.

5 Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso formerly called the Republic of the Upper Volta is a country located in West Africa. It was colonized by France, and their official language is French. Burkina Faso was named by then president Thomas Sankara on the 4th of August 1984. The name Burkina Faso means the Land of Honest Men.

6 Burundi

Burundi is a country located in East Africa, it was colonized by Belgium. The name Burundi means the Home of Rudi Speakers.

7 Cameroon

Cameroon officially known as Republic of Cameroon is located in Central Africa. It was colonized by Germany, Cameroon officially known as Republic of Cameroon is located in Central Africa. It was colonized by Germany, France and England. The name Cameroon is derived from Rio de Camaroes meaning “River of Prawns” according to Encyclopedia Britannica.

8.Cape Verde

Cape Verde is a country located in West Africa, and it was colonized by Portugal. The country was named by Portuguese navigator Dinis Dias in 1444. The name of Cape Verde means Green Cape. You would also like to know that Cape Verde is officially called Cabo Verde.

9. Central African Republic

Central African Republic is located in Central Africa, and it was colonized by France. The country’s name means Republic in the Central of Africa.

10 Chad

Chad which is named after Lake Chad is Located in Central Africa. It was colonized by France and it means Land of the Large Lake.

Others are:

11 Comoros

Region: East Africa

Colonial Master: France

Origin: Derived from Arabic djazaïr al kamar

Meaning: Islands of the Moon

12 Congo

Region: Central Africa

Colonial Master: France

Origin: Named after the kingdom of Congo

Meaning: Kingdom of Mountains

13 Congo DRC

Region: Central Africa

Colonial Master: Belgium

Origin: Named after the kingdom of Congo.

Meaning: Democratic Republic of the Congo.

14 Côte D’Ivoire

Region: West Africa

Colonial Master: France

Origin: Derived from the herds of elephant

Meaning: Ivory Coast

15 Djibouti

Region: East Africa

Colonial Master: France

Origin: Derived from Gabooti which means “a set of baskets”.

Meaning: The Plateau.

16 Egypt

Region: North Africa.

Colonial Master: Britain

Origin: Derived from Latin Aegyptus.

Meaning: Frontier.

17 Equatorial Guinea

Region: Central Africa

Colonial Master: Spain

Origin: Derived from gnawa(black man)

Meaning: Equatorial Land of the Black Men

18 Eritrea

Region: East Africa.

Colonial Master: Ethiopia.

Meaning: Land of the Red Sea.

Origin: Named by Italian settlers.

19 Ethiopia

Region: East Africa.

Colonial Master: None.

Origin: Derived from the son of Koush.

Meaning: Land of Burnt Faces.

20 Gabon

Region: Central Africa.

Colonial Master: France.

Origin: Derived from the word “Gabão” named by the Portuguese.

Meaning: Hooded Cloak .

21 Gambia

Region: West Africa.

Colonial Master: Britain.

Origin: Named after the river”Gambura”.

Meaning: The River.

22 Ghana

Region: West Africa.

Colonial Master: Britain.

Origin: Named after Ancient Ghana.

Meaning: The King’s Land

23 Guinea

Region: West Africa.

Colonial Master: France.

Origin: Same as Equatorial Guinea.

Origin: Same as Equatorial Guinea.

Meaning: Land of the Black Men.

24 Guinea Bissau

Region: West Africa.

Colonial Master: Portugal.

Origin: Same as Equatorial Guinea

Meaning: Black Bissau

25 Kenya

Region: East Africa

Colonial Master: Britain

Origin: Derived from Kikuyu

Meaning: Mountain of Whiteness

26 Lesotho

Region: Southern Africa

Colonial Master: Britain

Origin: Named after the Sotho people

Meaning: Land of the Sotho

27 Liberia

Region: West Africa

Colonial Master: American Colonization

Origin: Derived from the Latin word” Liber” which means free

Meaning: Free Country

28 Libya

Region: North Africa

Colonial Master: Italy

Origin: Derived from the Greek word”Libúe”

Meaning: Land of the Libu

29 Madagascar

Region: East Africa

Colonial Master: France

Origin: Derived from the Malagasy language

Meaning: Holy land

30 Malawi

Region: East Africa

Colonial Master: Britain

Origin: Derived from Marawi

Meaning: Land of flames

31 Mali

Region: West Africa

Colonial Master: France

Origin: Derived from “Madinka”

Meaning: Hippopotamus

32 Mauritania

Region: West Africa

Colonial Master: France

Origin: Derived from ancient Berber kingdom

Meaning: Land of the Mauri

33 Mauritius

Region: East Africa

Colonial Master: Britain

Origin: Derived from the name of a Dutch prince “Maurice of Nassau”

Meaning: Land of Governor Van Nassau

34 Morocco

Region: North Africa

Colonial Master: France

Origin: Derived from the Latin word” Morroch”

Meaning: The far west

35.Mozambique

Region: East Africa

Colonial Master: Portugal

Origin: Named after Mouzino de Albuquerque

Meaning: Land of Musa Al Biq

36 Namibia

Region: Southern Africa

Colonial Master: Germany

Origin: Derived from Namib

Meaning: The vast place

37 Niger

Region: West Africa

Colonial Master: France

Origin: Named after River Niger

Meaning: River of rivers

38 Nigeria

Region: West Africa

Colonial Master: Britain

Origin: Named by British journalist Flora Shaw who later got married to Lord Luggard

Meaning: Niger River derived from Ni Gir – meaning River Gir which is derived from the latin word ‘niger” meaning black.

39 Rwanda

Region: East Africa

Colonial Master: Germany/Belgium

Origin: Ruanda

Meaning: Land of the Rwandans

40 Sao Tome & Principe

Region: Central Africa.

Colonial Master: Portugal

Origin: Named after Saint Thomas by the Portuguese explorers

Meaning: Saint Thomas and Prince

41 Senegal

Region: West Africa

Colonial Master: France

Origin: Derived from “Sunu gaal”

Meaning: Our canoe

42 Seychelles

Region: East Africa

Colonial Master: Britain

Origin: Named after Jean Moreau de Séchelles

Meaning: Republic of Seychelles

43 Sierra Leone

Region: West Africa.

Colonial Master: Britain.

Origin: Derived from “Serra de Leão”

Meaning: Lion Mountains.

44 Somalia

Region: East Africa.

Colonial Master: Britain/Italy.

Origin: Derived from “Samaale”.

Meaning: Land of Soma.

45 South Africa

Region: Southern Africa.

Colonial Master: Britain.

Meaning: Beautiful southern land.

46 Sudan

Region: East Africa.

Colonial Master: Egypt/Britain.

Origin: Derived from the Arabic word”Aswad”.

Meaning: Country of the Blacks.

47 Swaziland

Region: Southern Africa.

Colonial Master: Britain.

Origin: Named after king Mswati.

Meaning: Kingdom of Swaziland.

48 Tanzania

Region: East Africa.

Colonial Master: Germany/ Britain.

Origin: Derived from” Tanganyika and Zanzibar”.

Meaning: Land of Tanganyika and Zanzibar.

49 Togo

Region: West Africa.

Colonial Master: Germany.

Origin: Derived from the word “Togodo”.

Meaning: Land by the water.

50 Tunisia

Region: North Africa.

Colonial Master: France.

Origin: Derived from the Phoenician goddess” Tanith.

Meaning: Land of Tunis.

51 Uganda

Region: East Africa.

Colonial Master: Britain.

Origin: Derived from Buganda.

Meaning: Land of the Ganada people.

52 Zambia

Region: Southern Africa.
Colonial Master: Britain.
Origin: Derived from the Zambezi river.
Meaning: Land of the Great River.

53 Zimbabwe

Region: Southern Africa.

Colonial Master: Britain.

Origin: Derived from the karanga dialect of Shona “dzimba-dza-mabwe”.

Meaning: Stone Enclosure.

54 Western Sahara

Region: Northwest Africa
Colonial Master: Morocco
Origin: Named after the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic
Meaning: The Sahrawi Arabs

References:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algeria
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burundi
  3. https://shinoveneblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/21/african-country-names-and-their-origin/
  4. https://www.fyicomminc.com/gaianews/speech35.htm