ContinentCountryLanguage of originWords in original languageEnglish translation of name/etymologyExplanation behind etymologySource 1Source 2Source 3
AfricaAlgeriaArabicAl Jazā᾽irThe IslandsAlgeria is the Anglicization of the Arabic name Al Jazā᾽ir, ‘the islands’. + Latinate "country" suffix -ia.
AfricaAngolaPortuguese NgolaThe Land of Ngola The Portuguese called the Angola area after the first word of the title of the ruler of the Mbundu people in Ndongo, Ngola a kiluanje.
AfricaBeninYoruba Ile–ibinuLand of ArgumentThe name may be derived from the Bini, Benin’s original inhabitants. Alternatively, Benin may come from the Yoruba Ile–ibinu, ‘Land of Argument’, a possible reference to a time when the tribes were at war.
AfricaBotswanaTswanaBechuanalandThose Who Went AwayNamed after the indigenous people, the Tswana or baTswana. Their name apparently means ‘those who went away’ or ‘the separators’.
AfricaBurkina FasoMore/ DioulaBurkina/faso Land of Honest Men Burkina Faso translates to ‘Land of Honest Men’, from Mandekan Burkina, ‘honest’ or ‘upright’, and faso, ‘fatherland’.
AfricaBurundiKirundiBurundiHome of Rundi Speakers The name comes either from Kirundi, a Bantu language spoken in Burundi, with Bu, a prefix indicating the country, or from the name of the Rundi people.
AfricaCameroonPortuguese CamarõesRiver of Prawns Cameroon is the Anglicized form of the Portuguese Camarões. The area was named Rio dos Camarões, ‘River of Prawns’, by Portuguese explorers.
AfricaCape VerdePortuguese Cabo VerdeGreen Cape The name of the country stems from the nearby Cap-Vert, on the Senegalese coast. In 1444 Portuguese explorers had named that landmark as Cabo Verde, a few years before they discovered the islands (Verde is Portuguese for "green").
AfricaCentral African RepublicFrenchRépublique centrafricaineRepublic in the Centre of AfricaThe country’s name is a reference to the fact that it lies at the centre of Africa. Its previous name, Oubangui-Chari, comes from the Bantu ou, ‘land’, and bangi, ‘rapid’, and from a reference to the river Chari.
AfricaChadKanuriTsadeLand of the Large Lake The name is taken from the Lake Chad, which in turn takes its name from the Bornu tsade, ‘lake’, itself from the Arabic tŝād, ‘large lake’.
AfricaComorosArabicجزر القمرMoons Name derives from the Arabic designation "Juzur al Qamar" meaning "Islands of the Moon"
AfricaCongoBantuKongoKingdom of Mountains The Congo got its name from the river Kongo, which is named after the Kongo people who founded the Kongo kingdom. Kong or kongo is a Bantu word for ‘mountains’.
AfricaCôte d'IvoireFrench Côte d'IvoireIvory Coast The Cote d’Ivoire, or Ivory Coast in English, is so called because the French and Portuguese confined themselves to the coast to trade in ivory in pre-colonial times.
AfricaDemocratic Republic of the CongoBantuKongoDemocratic Republic of the MountainsThe Congo got its name from the river Kongo, which is named after the Kongo people who founded the Kongo kingdom. Kong or kongo is a Bantu word for ‘mountains’.
AfricaDjiboutiAfarGabouriPlateThe name probably comes from an Afar word gabouri, ‘plate’ or 'plateau.' It may refer to the fact that the city is on the coastal plain and surrounded by flat desert.
AfricaEgyptGreekΑἴγυπτοςTemple of the Soul of Ptah The ancient Greek and Roman names Aiguptos and Ægyptus are derived from the Egyptian hūt-kā-ptah, ‘Temple of the Soul of Ptah’, from hūt, ‘temple’, and kā, ‘soul’, and the god Ptah. The Latin name Ægyptus is said to mean ‘The Land below the Aegean Sea’, from aigaiou hyptios.
AfricaEquatorial GuineaPortugueseAguinaw(Equatorial) Land of the Black MenGuinea was given its name by the Portuguese after a Berber word, aguinaw, meaning ‘black man’, or akal n-iguinamen, meaning ‘Land of the Black Men’.
AfricaEritreaGreekἘρυθρά ΘάλασσαLand of the Red Sea Eritrea was named by the Italians, from the Italianized version of the Latin Mare Erythraeum, ‘Red Sea’, from the ancient Greek erythros, ‘red’.
AfricaEthiopiaGreekÆthiopiaLand of Burnt FacesThe Greeks named the country Aithiops, ‘(Land of) Burnt Faces’, from aithō, ‘I burn’, and opsis, ‘appearance’. + Latinate "country" suffix -ia.
AfricaGabonPortugueseGabãoHooded Cloak The country adopted the name from the Portuguese, who came up with the name Gabão, ‘hooded cloak’, for the Gabon Estuary, so called because of its shape.
AfricaGhanaGhanaian GhanaThe King's LandGhana perhaps means ‘king’ or ‘sovereign’ and may be derived from the title assumed by the tribal chieftain of the old Ghanaian empire that was located to the north of modern Ghana.
AfricaGuineaPortuguese AguinawLand of the Black MenGuinea was given its name by the Portuguese after a Berber word, aguinaw, meaning ‘black man’, or akal n-iguinamen, meaning ‘Land of the Black Men’.
AfricaGuinea-BissauPortuguese (black people) aguinaw + BissauBlack BissauThe name Guinea remains a source of debate; it is perhaps a corruption of an Amazigh (Berber) word meaning “land of the blacks.” The country also uses the name of its capital, Bissau, to distinguish it from Guinea, its neighbour to the east and south.
AfricaKenyaKikuyu NyagaMountain of Whiteness Kenya is a shortened version of the Kikuyu name, Kirinyaga, a corruption of the Swahili kere nyaga, ‘Mountain of Whiteness’.
AfricaLesothoSesothoBasothoLand of the Sotho Lesotho translates approximately into ‘the land of the Sotho’.
AfricaLiberiaLatinLiber Free CountryLiberia is from the Latin liber ‘free’ – the same root of the word liberty – and is so called because it was founded in 1822 as a settlement for freed slaves from the US, and proclaimed independent in 1847. + Latinate "country" suffix -ia.
AfricaLibyaGreekLibyēLand of the LibuThe name Libya comes from the Greek name given to Northwest Africa; Libya was the daughter of Epaphus and Memphis in Greek mythology. Name is of unknown origin.
AfricaMadagascarArabicMadageiscar Holy LandThe name Madageiscar originated with explorer Marco Polo in the 13th century as a result of hearsay and misunderstanding. He never visited the island and mistook the Italian version of the Arab name for Mogadishu, Mogadiscio, on the Somali coast to refer to the island which he called Madeigascar.
AfricaMalawiBantuMaravi Land of Flames Malawi comes from Maravi people. Their name means ‘flames’, which may be taken from their habit of burning off dead grass to prepare the land for cultivation.
AfricaMali Malinké and BamanaMaliHippopotamus Mali may come from the Malinké people, also known as the Mandinka, who are closely related to other Mande-speaking peoples who trace their ancestry to the Mali Empire. It has also been suggested that the name comes from the Mande word for ‘hippopotamus’.
AfricaMauritaniaLatin(Tribe) Mauri + (Land) -itaniaLand of the MauriThe name comes from the country’s biggest ethnic group, the Mauri. + Latinate "country" suffix -ia.
AfricaMauritiusDutchMaurice van NassauLand of Governor van NassauMauritius had various name changes before being named, in 1598, after the Dutch Prince Maurice van Nassau.
AfricaMoroccoArabicMaghrib-al-AqsaThe Far Westfrom Italian, from Berber Marrakesh (properly the name of the city of Marrakesh), from Arabic Maghrib-al-Aqsa "Extreme West." Compare French Maroc, German Marokko. In English, the first vowel has been altered, apparently by influence of Moor. Related: Moroccan.
AfricaMozambiqueArabicMusa al BiqLand of Musa al BiqMozambique is said to have come from a ruling Arab Shaikh, Musa al Biq and the town which developed here was known to medieval Arab geographers as Musanbīh and in Swahili as Musambiki.
AfricaNamibiaNamaNamibThe Vast PlaceNamed for the coastal Namib Desert; the name "namib" means "vast place" in the Nama/Damara language
AfricaNigerTamasheq Ger-n-gerRiver of Riversnamed for the river Niger, probably an alteration (by influence of Latin niger "black") of a local Tuareg name, egereou n-igereouen, from egereou "big river, sea" + n-igereouen, plural of that word. Translated in Arabic as nahr al-anhur "river of rivers."
AfricaNigeriaTamasheq Ger-n-gerLand of the Niger RiverNigeria is named after the Niger River; The river’s name, may come from the Berber phrase ger-n-ger, ‘river of rivers’. + Latinate "country" suffix -ia.
AfricaRwandaKinyarwandaVanyarwandaLand of the RwandansThe country takes its name from its indigenous people, the Vanyarwanda. Name is of unknown origin.
AfricaSao Tome and PrincipePortuguese/BerberSão Tomé and PríncipeSaint Thomas and PrinceSão Tomé and Príncipe translates from Portuguese as ‘St Thomas and Prince’.
AfricaSenegal WolofIl sunu gaolOur CanoeAn explorer pointed to the Senegal River and asked what its name was.

Another theory is that the country is named for the river through it, perhaps from a local word meaning "navigable."
AfricaSeychelles French Séchelles
Repiblik Sesel (Creole);
République des Seychelles (French)
Republic of SeychellesThe French laid claim to the islands in 1756 and named them after Jean Moreau de Séchelles (1690–1761), the French controller-general of finance. The name was later changed by the British to Seychelles
AfricaSierra LeoneSpanishSierra LeonaLion Mountains Sierra Leone means ‘Lion Mountains’ from the Portuguese sierra, ‘mountain chain’, and leão, ‘lion’. However, there are no lions here, even if there once were.
AfricaSomaliaSomali SomalisLand of SomaSomalia is named after its indigenous inhabitants, the Somalis, or Soomaali, who may have taken their name from a legendary ancestor, Soma or Samale; it has also been suggested that their name may come from so ‘go’ and mal ‘milk’, a reference to their pastoral lifestyle. + Latinate "country" suffix -ia.
AfricaSouth Africa AfrikaansSuid-AfrikaBeautiful Southern LandSouth Africa is, of course, the southernmost country in Africa; the word Africa may come from the Berber word afar, ‘dust’, or perhaps the ancient Egyptian root n’fr, meaning ‘good’, ‘beautiful’, or ‘perfect’.
AfricaSudanArabic Bilad-al-sudanCountry of the Blacks From Arabic Bilad-al-sudan, literally "country of the blacks" (originally the stretch of Africa between the Sahara and the equator), from sud, plural of aswad (fem. sauda) "black." In early use also Soudan, from French. Related: Sudanese.
AfricaSwazilandSwati (Swazi)Umbuso weSwatiniKingdom of SwazilandThe country is named after King Mswati II. The Swazis were a Nguni clan, taking their name from Ngwane III, who led them to this region of southern Africa.
AfricaTanzaniaTonga(Tanganyika) and Arabic(Zanzibar)Tanganika and ZanzibarLand of Tanganika and ZanzibarTanzania is formed by merging the names of its constituent parts, Tanganyika and Zanzibar, which were united in 1964. + Latinate "country" suffix -ia.
AfricaThe GambiaPortugueseBa-DimmaThe River The country takes its name from the Gambia River, itself named by the Portuguese after the local name, Ba-Dimma, ‘The River’. + Latinate "country" suffix -ia.
AfricaTogoEweTogoLand by the WaterDerived from the Ewe words "to" (water) and "go" (shore) to give the sense of "by the water"; originally, this designation applied to the town of Togo (now Togoville) on the northern shore of Lake Togo, but the name was eventually extended to the entire nation
AfricaTunisia BerberTunisia Land of Tunis Tunisia is named after the city of Tunis with the suffix -ia adapted from the French name for the protectorate, Tunisie.
AfricaUganda Swahili BugandaLand of the Ganda PeopleUganda means ‘Land of the Ganda (People)’ from the Swahili u ‘land’ and ganda, the root word and adjective for Buganda, the principle province.
AfricaZambiaTonga Great RiverLand of the Great RiverThe country is named after the Zambezi which forms its southern border with Zimbabwe. + Latinate "country" suffix -ia.
AfricaZimbabweShonaDzimba-dze-mabweStone Enclosure Zimbabwe means ‘stone enclosure’ or ‘stone dwelling’ from the Bantu zimba, ‘houses’, and mabwe, ‘stones’.