Where did African countries get their names?

A map showing the literal translation of the name of every African country

Map of literal place names via Credit Card Compare

Quartz Africa recently had a good article on the unusual origins of many African country names.  A surprising number are colonial mishearings that stuck around.  Take Kenya:

Another mountain would yield a country’s name in East Africa, when the British came upon an imposing snow-capped mountain that the Kikuyu people called Kirinyaga (Where God dwells.) As they struggled to pronounce, Kirinyaga, they called it Mt. Kenya – the country would be named after this mountain.

Ever wonder why Mogadishu and Madagascar sound sort of similar?

Marco Polo, the 13th century Italian explorer, never visited Madagascar, but is believed to be responsible for mistaking it for Mogadishu and including it in his memoirs. This is the first written reference to Madageiscar. Thus, the corrupted Italian transliteration of Mogadishu, Madageiscar, eventually gave the world’s second largest island country its name.

But of course, others draw on more local history.

Zimbabwe would reclaim its name in 1979 just ahead of independence from the 13th-15th century kingdom of Zimbabwe, removing its colonial legacy name of Rhodesia, after Cecil Rhodes. … Ghana on its part would also reclaim its name at independence from the Ancient West African Kingdom of Ghana, after its British colonial legacy when it was known as the Gold Coast.

3 thoughts on “Where did African countries get their names?

  1. bonjour excuse moi pour le déranger je suis nouvelle sur le site je juste fait connaissance avec vous si c’est possible

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  2. Fascinating!

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