Why so many guineas?

OK, I’ve had enough. You’ve got Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau as countries in western Africa. You’ve got Papua New Guinea as a country in the south Pacific. Guinea pigs are rodents from South America. Guineafowl are birds from central Africa. A guinea was a coin from England. Guineaholing is a perversion practiced by members of the British aristocracy.

So… what’s the deal with “guinea,” then? Where or what is the original “guinea?” Thanks in advance for your help with this burning question. If it helps, I made up that last one.

Seems like a kind of a Cecil question, really.

Guinea was/is a region in Africa. Some countries in that region are named after the region. Like “America” is a place, and “The United States of America” is one of the countries in that place.

So we have Guinea in Africa. The Guinea fowl is named because it came from there.

The guinea pig is named because although it comes from South America, people mistakenly thought it came from Africa. Same thing as the “Turkey fowl”, which came from America but was named after Turkey, but is still called “turkey” in America. In lots of countries oranges are called “Chinese apples”. If you get a random new thing, you might give that random new thing a name from an exotic place, even if that thing isn’t actually from there.

New Guinea is named after the African region, just like New England in America was named after England. New South Wales, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, same thing. New Guinea is a tropical rainforest inhabited by dark skinned people, and it reminded someone of Africa, and so was named.

The coin was named because the gold to make the coins was looted from Africa, originally.

The reason you have some many Guineas is because Guinea traditionally refers to a large region in west Africa around the Gulf of Guinea. This is the original Guinea.


The Republics of Guinea and Guinea-Bissau both take their names from this region.

The origin of the name Guinea pig isn’t known for certain, but one theory is that they were originally imported from South America to Europe through Guinea, leading people to mistakenly think that they came from this region.

Papua New Guinea got its name from Spanish explorers who saw a distinctive resemblance between the people there and the people from the Guinea region in Africa. Their ancestors actually did come from that general region of Africa, so the name is reasonably accurate.

Guineafowl come from Africa, and while their territory isn’t limited to the Guinea region, that’s where their name comes from.

The Guinea coin’s name also comes from the Guinea region in Africa as that’s where a lot of the gold came from to make the coins.

As for Guineaholing, you’re on your own with that one, and I don’t even want to know what you think it means. :stuck_out_tongue:

ETA: Damn ninjas.

Don’t forget about the Guianas in South America. OK, etymologically not related, but I tended to get them confused with the various Guineas.

On the other hand, the residents of New Britain, New Ireland, New Hanover, the New Hebrides, and New Caledonia in the same region didn’t much resemble the British, Irish, Scots, or Germans.:wink:

Guineaninjas at that!

how did it get turned into a slur against Italians?

I have wondered about this for a long time but never thought to ask, good thread!

There’s also Ghana, a country in western Africa, if that helps to muddy things up even more.

It comes from calling dark-skinned Italians “Guinea Negros” or “Guineas”, comparing them to people from the Guinea region of Africa, so again, the term comes back to the same region.

Well, ten minutes of googling hasn’t led me to the answer. I generally try to avoid the perversions of the British aristocracy, so I’d like to know what this refers to.

PM me?

It ran from south of the Senegal River to where the coast heads south again. It was made up of several sub-regions named for their main trade item, including the Grain (or Pepper) Coast, Ivory Coast, Gold Coast, and Slave Coast.

If you google it, this thread is the only relevant return, because it was invented for this thread.

Hebrides: https://media.lonelyplanet.com/news/production/2015/07/Outer-Hebrides.jpg

New Hebrides: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/OcI4oY6Ia5s/hqdefault.jpg

Ahh, that fake news you hear so much about.

Cecil already covered the coin 40 years ago: In Britain, what’s the difference between a pound and a guinea?

Fun fact - livestock and horses at auction are often still priced in guineas (the modern equivalent value of a guinea is £1.05). As I understand it, the sale is priced in guineas, but the seller gets paid in pounds (the difference forming a little under 5% commission for the auctioneer)

(OP here) There did seem to be sort of a west-African nexus to some of these names, so all of these answers (and engineer_comp_geek’s guineanja’ed ones) make sense. I just assumed the name in Africa came from somewhere else. (I was guessing Britain somewhere.) It doesn’t seem like names that spread around originate in Africa, much. Or anywhere else outside of Europe, for that matter. Place-name-wise, of all the “New ______” places I can come up with, I can’t think of a single other one that isn’t European. I mean, I’m sure there probably are some, but I expect it’s far more common that places were named by discoverers or colonists thinking of home, rather than by another place they’d seen. (Of course, this being SDMB, I fully expect that some knowledgeable Doper will now point me toward a region of the Indian subcontinent called New Tenochtitlan or something.)

Anyway, thanks for all the answers and info. Everyone should go treat themselves to a little guineaholing. Enjoy!

There actually aren’t that many countries or regions named that way. Not counting cities, there are only 13 (including two regions named New England) on this list (which omits New Hanover).

Two are non-European:

New Guinea
New Mexico

Of the rest, 9 are named for places in the British Isles or possessions, one for a place in Germany (Brunswick), and one for a place in the Netherlands (Zeeland). You can add in Nova Scotia (Britain) and Hanover (Germany).

So really nearly all “New” places are named after places in the British Isles. New Guinea is an exception, but there aren’t many exceptions in general.