Afri was a Latin name used to refer to the Carthaginians who dwelt in North Africa in modern-day Tunisia. Their name is usually connected with Phoenician afar, "dust", but a 1981 hypothesis has asserted that it stems from the Berber word ifri or ifran meaning "cave" and "caves", in reference to cave dwellers. Africa or Ifri or Afer is the name of Banu Ifran from Algeria and Tripolitania (Berber Tribe of Yafran).
Under Roman rule, Carthage became the capital of Africa Province, which also included the coastal part of modern Libya. The Latin suffix "-ica" can sometimes be used to denote a land (e.g., in Celtica from Celtes, as used by Julius Caesar). The later Muslim kingdom of Ifriqiya, modern-day Tunisia, also preserved a form of the name.
Other etymological hypotheses that have been postulated for the ancient name "Africa":
- the 1st century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (Ant. 1.15) asserted that it was named for Epher, grandson of Abraham according to Gen. 25:4, whose descendants, he claimed, had invaded Libya.
- Latin word aprica ("sunny") mentioned by Isidore of Seville in Etymologiae XIV.5.2.
- the Greek word aphrike (Αφρική), meaning "without cold." This was proposed by historian Leo Africanus (1488–1554), who suggested the Greek word phrike (φρίκη, meaning "cold and horror"), combined with the privative prefix "a-", thus indicating a land free of cold and horror.
- Another theory is that the word aphrikè comes from aphròs, 'foam' and Aphrikè, 'land of foam', meaning the land of the big waves (like Attica, from the word aktè, Aktikè meaning land of the coasts).
- Massey, in 1881, derived an etymology from the Egyptian af-rui-ka, "to turn toward the opening of the Ka." The Ka is the energetic double of every person and "opening of the Ka" refers to a womb or birthplace. Africa would be, for the Egyptians, "the birthplace."
- yet another hypothesis was proposed by Michèle Fruyt in Revue de Philologie 50, 1976: 221–238, linking the Latin word with africus 'south wind', which would be of Umbrian origin and mean originally 'rainy wind'.
The Irish female name Aifric is sometimes anglicised as Africa, but the given name is unrelated to the geonym.
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