World Facts

Why Are So Many Countries Called Guinea?

The word Guinea appears with high frequency in country names, particularly within those in Africa. What is the reason behind this?

The following country names include the word "Guinea":

  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Guinea
  • Papua New Guinea

Etymology Of The Term "Guinea"

The exact origin of the word Guinea is disputed. The English "Guinea" is derived from the Portuguese word "Guiné" which originated during the mid-15th century. The word Guinea was used to refer to the lands owned by the Guineus, which was a collective term for the African people who came from regions south of the Senegal River.

An alternative theory claims that the term Guinea is derived from Djenné, a city in modern-day Mali that was heavily important in the trans-Saharan trade from the 15th to 17th centuries. The Djenné period of dominance featured the use of the term "Genawah" which is the Arabized word for "Ghinawen", meaning "blacks".

The History Of Guinea

Many European colonists who arrived in the Guinea region of West Africa applied names such as "German Guinea", "Spanish Guinea", "French Guinea", or "Portuguese Guinea". Some countries retained portions of these names after independence. French Guinea became Guinea, Spanish Guinea became Equatorial Guinea, and Portuguese Guinea became Guinea-Bissau. However, German Guinea entirely dropped the Guinea part of the name to become Cameron and Togo. The English coin known as the Guinea shared its name since the gold used in making the coins was originally mined in the Guinea region of West Africa. Papua New Guinea, located in southeast Asia, was given its name by a Spanish explorer who saw resemblance of the people in Papua New Guinae with those who he had seen along the Guinea coast in Africa. Papua is a term local to the island.

Common Confusion With Guyana

The term and the region of Guinea is more often confused or associated with Guyana or Guiana which is a term used to refer to the northeastern coastal region of South America. The two names both refer to coastal straps that were divided and colonized by different European powers and are not related to the African region of Guinea.

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