Guiana, Guinea, Guyana
Few place-names have been used to refer to more distinct places than “Guinea.” Four countries now share the name, three in western Africa (Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, and Equatorial Guinea), and one in the western Pacific (Papua New Guinea). Historically, several other places were referenced by the name as well. The Wikipedia disambiguation page lists thirteen “countries” called “Guinea,” in one form or another, including the former Dutch Guinea and German Guinea in West Africa. The same article counts seven additional regions called “Guinea,” including one in Gloucester County, Virginia, USA.
The origin of the term is uncertain. New Guinea, the large island north of Australia, was so named 1546 by Spanish explorer Inigo Ortiz de Retes in reference to the natives' dark skin and tightly curled hair.
Guinea, region along the west coast of Africa, presumably from an African word (perhaps Tuareg aginaw "black people"); the 20-shilling coins so called because they were first minted for British trade with Guinea (but soon in domestic use) and with gold from Africa.
The Portuguese word Guiné, applied by fifteenth-century mariners to the African coast south of the Senegal River. How the term entered Portuguese is unknown. Some have linked it to various Berber words for dark-skinned people, others to the major commercial city of Djenné, located far inland on the Niger River. A third theory holds that “Guinea” comes from the medieval kingdom (or empire) of Ghana, located in modern Mali and Mauritania. In the eighteenth century, European geographers applied the term “Guinea” broadly to the West African coast, although the exact zone so labeled varied.
Guinea was a geographical term formerly designating the Western African coast region between the Senegal River on the north and the Orange River on the south, and now being gradually restricted to Portuguese Guinea (adjoining Senegambia) and Angola. The region extending from Sierra Leone to the Gabun River in French Congo was generally termed Upper Guinea, and the region south Lower Guinea. The term Northern, Guinea was sometimes applied to the coast of what is now Nigeria and Kamerun. The four Guinea islands were Fernando Po, Annobon, Principe, and São Thomé.
The earliest form of the word began to appear on maps in the middle of the fourteenth century. The Portuguese were the first to explore and trade along the Guinea coast, tempted by the gold deposits, and later also by the opportunities of slave-trading. The coast, besides having a deadly climate due to disease, was generally hard of access from the sea, owing to a rough surf and lack of good havens.
A Guinea was a gold coin formerly current in Great Britain, but now no longer coined. It derived its name from the fact that the gold from which the first specimens were coined was brought from the Guinea Coast in West Africa. For the same reason it originally bore the impression of an elephant. It was first coined during the reign of Charles II in 1664, and continued in common use till 1817, when it was superseded by the sovereign. Its value varied considerably at different periods, but was ultimately fixed at twenty-one shillings. It was long customary in Great Britain to estimate professional fees, honoraria of all kinds, complimentary subscriptions, prices of pictures, etc., in guineas.
Gulf of Guinea is that portion of the Atlantic Ocean which washes the western coast of Africa between Cape Palmas at the southeastern point of Liberia and Cape Lopez in about 1° south latitude. It forms two open bays, known as the Bight of Benin and that of Biafra.
In the mid-19th Century Africa, Lower-Guinea, commonly called Portuguese Guinea, was composed of Congo, Angola and Bengula. The Portuguese claimed sovereignty over the whole region, but their authority was supposed to be merely nominal, except in the vicinity of their ports, and in the immediate neighborhood of the coast. The country was discovered by them in 1487, and soon afterwards visited by a number of missionaries, who converted many of the natives to the Catholic faith. Religion was in a languishing condition and only prominent in a few places, such as St. Salvador and St. Paul de Leando. The number of Catholics was estimated at fifty thousand.
The coastal mainland from Senegal River to Sierra Leone regions, was called by various names such as Upper Guinea Coast, Western Africa, Rios de Guiné, Rios de Guiné de Cabo Verde, and the Cape Verde Islands.
French Guinea was established in 1891, taking the same borders as the previous colony of Rivières du Sud. Prior to 1882, the coastal portions of French Guinea were part of the French colony of Senegal. In 1891, Rivières du Sud was placed at Dakar, who had authority over the French coastal regions east to Porto-Novo. In 1894 Rivières du Sud, Cote d'Ivoire and Dahomey were separated into'independent' colonies, with Rivières du Sud being renamed the Colony of French Guinea. In 1895, its Governor then became a Lieutenant Governor to a Governor-General in Dakar. In 1904, this was formalised into French West Africa. French Guinea, along with Niger each were ruled by a lieutenant governor, under the Governor General in Dakar.
“Guinea” is occasionally confused with Guyana (Guiana), a term referencing the northeastern coast of South America. The two words not only sound similar, but they exhibit a parallel geographical structure: both refer to coastal strips that were formerly divided among European powers: Guyana historically encompassed British Guyana (Guyana), Dutch Guiana (Suriname), French Guiana, and Portuguese Guiana (Amapá state of Brazil). The two terms are not etymologically related, as “Guyana” probably stems from a local word meaning “land of many waters.”
The term "Guyana" is of Arawak origin. meanin "land of abundant waters". Or the term Guyana is of native origin in the Guanao dialect, that is, the Indian population of the Orinoco delta, guai would mean "name, denomination", and yana would be a negation. Hence Guayana, which is still the Italian term for the Guiana massif. Guyana would therefore say "without name, what can not be named". Guyana, then, would be the land "dare not name, the sacred land, the house of the Supreme Being". The Guianas are a region in northern South America, grouping from east to west:
- Brazilian state of Amapá , former Portuguese Guiana, then Brazilian
- French Guiana (or simply Guiana), region of overseas French
- Suriname, independent and former colony of the Netherlands as country Dutch Guyana
- Guyana , independent country and former colony of the UK under the name British Guiana
- Venezuelan Guyana, the southeastern region of Venezuela, and former Spanish Guayana
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