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Old 01-15-2009, 08:45 PM
Ponch8 Ponch8 is online now
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Why are so many countries named "Guinea?"

Africa has a nation named Guinea and a bordering nation named Guinea-Bissau. Quite distant from these two countries (but still in Africa) is another country named Equatorial Guinea. Then there's the big island of New Guinea (partly taken up by the nation of Papua New Guinea) north of Australia. Finally, I'm not sure if they also come from the word "Guinea," but there are Guyana and French Guiana in South America. What's the deal?
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Old 01-15-2009, 09:02 PM
Tamerlane Tamerlane is offline
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Because they all lie along the Gulf of Guinea - loosely covering the coastal region of West Africa below the western tip of the continent to the Bight of Benin. As various powers gobbled up various areas they became local "Guineas". The country of Guinea was French Guinea, the country of Guinea-Bissau was Portuguese Guinea, Equatorial Guinea was Spanish Guinea. New Guinea comes from the melanesian inhabitants superficially resembling black Africans. The Guinea coin comes from the fact that most of the gold originally used to make them came from the general region of Guinea, etc.

ETA: Well, obviously only the African ones are on the Gulf of Guinea . What I meant is they all derive from the name for that general region, which on some wiki poking apparently derives from a Berber word for "black", as filtered through Portuguese.

Last edited by Tamerlane; 01-15-2009 at 09:07 PM..
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Old 01-16-2009, 12:30 AM
MEBuckner MEBuckner is offline
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Guiana/Guyana isn't etymologically related to Guinea; the name Guiana or Guyana comes from one of the indigenous languages of that section of South America.
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Old 01-16-2009, 10:08 AM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MEBuckner View Post
Guiana/Guyana isn't etymologically related to Guinea; the name Guiana or Guyana comes from one of the indigenous languages of that section of South America.
And there were formerly three: British Guiana, now Guyana; Dutch Guiana, now Suriname; and French Guiana, which retains the name.
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Old 01-16-2009, 12:07 PM
DrDeth DrDeth is offline
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Guinea was often used in the past by the English to refer to any far off exotic foriegn land.
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Old 01-16-2009, 12:52 PM
Mbossa Mbossa is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tamerlane View Post
Because they all lie along the Gulf of Guinea - loosely covering the coastal region of West Africa below the western tip of the continent to the Bight of Benin. As various powers gobbled up various areas they became local "Guineas". The country of Guinea was French Guinea, the country of Guinea-Bissau was Portuguese Guinea, Equatorial Guinea was Spanish Guinea. New Guinea comes from the melanesian inhabitants superficially resembling black Africans. The Guinea coin comes from the fact that most of the gold originally used to make them came from the general region of Guinea, etc.

ETA: Well, obviously only the African ones are on the Gulf of Guinea . What I meant is they all derive from the name for that general region, which on some wiki poking apparently derives from a Berber word for "black", as filtered through Portuguese.
Only Equatorial Guinea is on the Gulf of Guinea -- Guinea and Guinea-Bissau are a bit further north. However, Wikipedia's article on the Gulf of Guinea suggests that you're right about their names coming from the region's name.

Quote:
The Gulf derives its name from the former names of the coasts of Africa. The south coast of West Africa, north of the Gulf of Guinea, was historically called "Upper Guinea." The west coast of Southern Africa, to the east, was historically called "Lower Guinea." The name "Guinea" is still attached to the names of three countries in Africa: Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, and Equatorial Guinea, as well as New Guinea in Melanesia.
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Old 01-16-2009, 01:14 PM
Yossarian Yossarian is offline
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According to Peter Bernstein (addmittedly an economist, not a historian) in The Power of Gold: the History of an Obsession (2000, John Wiley & Sons):
Quote:
Originally Posted by p.72
Controversy persists over the source of the name Guinea, because no such place existed in Africa at that time [the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries]. No doubt the word is a corruption of something that sounded like Guinea. A likely candidate is Ghana, but Bovill [in The Golden Trade of the Moors, (1958, Oxford UP)] insists, convincingly that Guinea is derived from the name of the trading post of Jenne, situated on a tributary of the Niger River about three hundred miles southwest of Timbuktu, toward the gold-mining areas.
There was a general belief at the time that gold formed in tropical areas, and so
Quote:
During the fifteenth century, Europeans developed the custom of calling the gold-bearing areas Guinea.... Indeed, the Portuguese, who were the first to explore the territory, received permission from the pope in 1481 to call their king Lord of Guinea, a title that survived until the twentieth century. In 1662, the English began to use gold imported from West Africa by the African Company to mint a coin that they called the guinea....

Last edited by Yossarian; 01-16-2009 at 01:16 PM..
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