Nigeria, the Giant of Africa. Why is this land named Nigeria? Was Nigeria named after the Niger River or, maybe vice versa? It is one of the most populated countries in the world. One of the richest with natural treasures and human resource.
Possible origins of the name of Nigeria
This was once a vast land that belonged to many Africa tribes and nations. Some of them still remain within the today’s borders. All of them had their own names for this piece of land beside the ocean. However, the powerful river that still flows through this land was called in a Berber way – “N’jer”. This was a common Berber word that denoted any river in general. Those who did not know how to pronounce it or were not able to pronounce it created something that sounded like “Niger”.
Another version says that Portuguese sailors who arrived in Africa many centuries ago saw the locals with their dark skin and called them “negro” – “black” in their own language. In a while, it is supposed, the entire land was named after the black-skinned inhabitants, and the big river with dark waters has nothing to do with the name. The same version offers the Roman origin of the name but it’s very unlikely because Romans had very little to do with this part of Africa.
In accordance with the third version, there was a Tuareg phrase, which sounded like “gher n gheren” and determined “the river of rivers”. For more convenience, it was then shortened to “ngher” and gave the name to the big local river. All in all, the river has eventually received its present name and the land around it seemed to be close to receiving its own name, too.
When was Nigeria named Nigeria?
Researchers say that the first time this land was allegedly called Nigeria happened in 1897. A colonial editor of The Times suggested this name as a combination of “Niger” and “area”. Since that time, it’s possible to say that Nigeria is named after what river runs across the land. Even without knowing for sure what the river name exactly means and where its origin is, we can be sure that this very name has a very precise meaning.
It’s possible that somebody had called this country Nigeria before the Times’ editor. It’s possible that the land had had a hundred of names in all the 30 languages of the nations that inhabit the area. There are numerous hypotheses. However, the present name is the only one that has survived up to the present days in its initial form.
Who named Nigeria?
The name of The Times’ colonial editor who invented the name of the country in the 19th century was Flora Shaw. She was searching for a shorter and more convenient name instead of the “agglomeration of Mahomedan and pagan States”, which was used at that time alongside “Royal Niger Company Territories”. In the process of searching for a new better name, she invented the name Nigeria, having thrown away things like “Central Sudan” invented earlier by travelers and researchers. She was sure that Sudan is only one and it’s located in the Nile area, just where the present Sudan is.
So, she suggested the name on January 8, 1897, as a neutral name that cannot be used for any other part of Africa, which doesn’t insult any neighboring areas, and with the help of which it’s possible to separate the areas under the influence of the UK from the French and Niger protectorate and from Lagos colonies.
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