Africa. The so-called civilized people call this landmass ‘dark continent’. Yet what many of them forget is that the man was born here, thousands of years ago. The great Egyptian civilization flourished here. Africa is the second largest and second most populous continent on Earth. It accounts for the 15% of the total human population in the world. It is home for unparalleled ethnic, linguistic and cultural variety and biodiversity.
The origin of the name Africa has been under dispute for a long time. Like many other things, the historians haven’t been able to agree upon its formation. Various historians and writers have proposed different hypotheses regarding the way the continent went on to be known as Africa. Many of these are just proposals without much historical evidence to back up themselves while others are fairly reasonable.
According to the 1st-century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, the continent was named for Afer, the grandson of Abraham and a companion of Hercules. Josephus claimed that Afer’s descendants had reached as far as Libya.
Another assumption is that the word Africa comes from the Latin root aprica meaning ‘sunny’ or the Greek word aprike meaning ‘without cold’. The first one was also suggested by Isidore of Seville in his book Etymologiae. There is also a Phoenician word, faraqa, which means separation or diaspora from which the land might have gotten the name. It is supported by the presence of similar sounding words in some African languages. There is also a Phoenician word, pharika, meaning fruit, considered to be the source of the word Africa.
One of the most popular hypotheses about the origin of the name Africa is linked to the European invasions. The name is believed to have derived from what the Romans called the native people south of the Mediterranean. The word might have stemmed from the Latin word afri, used to refer the Berber tribe Aourigha. The latin suffix -ica is used to denote a landmass as well. The name is also supposed to be linked with the Hebrew word afar, meaning dust. Adding the suffix -ica, it might mean the land of dust.
Even though the word was initially used to denote the Libyan land, as the understanding of Europeans about the geography of Africa grew, it went in to be used for the entire continent. Since the word is a European construct, many eminent Africans, including author Wole Soyinka, have proposed to drop the use of the word, replacing it with appropriate native words.
You might also like: