What Was The Original Name Of Africa?

By Antonia Čirjak on June 16 2020 in Did You Know

The continent of Africa is as mysterious as it is beautiful.
The continent of Africa is as mysterious as it is beautiful.
  • According to experts that research the history of the African continent, the original ancient name of Africa was Alkebulan. This name translates to “mother of mankind,” or “the garden of Eden.”
  • Alkebulan is an extremely old word, and its origins are indigenous. Many nations in Africa used this word, including the Ethiopians, Nubians, Moors, and Numidians.
  • Many experts believe that the name actually came from two Phoenician words. These words were “friqi” and “pharika,” which would translate corn and fruit, respectively.

The continent of Africa is as mysterious as it is beautiful. The richness of the cultures of people living there is still not entirely understandable to people coming from other parts of the world. Still, Africa is the second-largest and most populated continent, right after Asia. A continent this big holds many secrets about its people and the origins of its culture.

Throughout history, many nations tried conquering and colonizing African countries. Many succeeded as well, and in time, many of our western influences left their mark on the continent. One of those is in the name of the continent itself. Africa is not the original name of the continent, and in this article, we will try to discover how the continent got the name we know today, and what the original name was.

Alkebulan

According to experts that research the history of the African continent, the original ancient name of Africa was Alkebulan. This name translates to “mother of mankind,” or according to other sources, “the garden of Eden.” Alkebulan is an extremely old word, and its origins are indigenous. Many nations in Africa used this word, including the Ethiopians, Nubians, Moors, and Numidians.

The name Africa was given to this continent by the ancient Romans and Greeks. However, Alkebulan was not the only name used for the continent. There were many others used throughout history by the people living there, including Corphye, Ortigia, Libya, and Ethiopia. However, Alkebulan is the most common one.

Wine region near Stellenbosch looking at Simonsberg in South Africa
Wine region near Stellenbosch looking at Simonsberg in South Africa

So how exactly did the continent get the name “Africa”? There are several theories that try to answer this question. The most commonly accepted theory states that the name came from Romans when they discovered land on the opposite side of the Mediterranean. They called this land after a Berber tribe that was living in the Carthage area at the time. According to many sources, the name of that tribe was Afri. Originally, the Romans supposedly called the continent Afri-terra, which was later transformed into Africa.

The Theories Behind The Name

Several other theories aim to discover how the continent of Africa got its name. Many experts believe that the name actually came from two Phoenician words. These words were “friqi” and “pharika,” which would translate corn and fruit, respectively.

According to this theory, the Phoenicians called Africa the land of corn and fruit, which actually makes sense. The Phoenicians inhabited cities along the coast of the Mediterranean, and it is quite possible that they managed to discover Africa.

Migration of elephants. Herd of elephants. Evening in the African savannah.
Migration of elephants in the African savannah.

Other theories about the name of the continent also deal with its climate. Many people believe that the name Africa derived from the Greek word “aphrikē,” which denotes a land that is free from the cold weather. Another word that is often mentioned is the Roman word “aprica,” which translates into sunny.

Whatever that may be, it is not hard to imagine why the weather could play a major factor in the name chosen for this continent. Although generalizing the weather of an entire continent is not that easy, the people that ''found'' Africa have probably only seen a small part of it before giving it a name.

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