Sunday, 15 May 2016

Equatorial Guinea Place Names Explained

Having blogged samples of my books on English place names and also examined the etymologies of the nations of the world and their respective capitals I thought it time to cast my net a little wider. This time Equatorial Guinea and a look at some of its largest settlements and most interesting names and starting with the capital.

Malabo is the current capital city and the oldest of the nation's cities. Found on the island of Bioko, itself discovered by Portuguese navigator Fernao do Po in 1507, who named it Formosa Flora or 'beautiful flower' but soon after became known after its discoverer, albeit slightly corrupted to Fernando Poo. Subsequent Spanish attempts to settle permanently failed and when the British Captain Nelly found the place abandoned in 1821, it led to the colony founded by Captain William Fitzwilliam Owen. He named the settlement Port Clarence, honouring the Duke of Clarence who later became William IV. However to the indigenous Bubis people if was Ripoto or 'place of the foreigners'. By 1855, now back under Spanish control, the name changed to Santa Isabel after Queen Isabel II. Not until 1973 did this become Malabo, this to honour another ruler, one Malabo Lopelo Melaka, the last Bubi king.

Bata is the former capital city and still the largest by population, albeit marginally. Bata's origins are unclear but may derive from the Spanish bata meaning 'gown', although just what is being described is unknown.

Bioko, the island where European settlement all began, takes its name from the Bubis people. This name if from pre-colonial days and is not how they knew themselves, it is thought to mean simply 'man' as in 'male'. However the locals know the island as Otcho in the Bube tongue.

Niefang represents the eastern limit of the area occupied by the Fang tribe, hence its name meaning 'the limit of the Fang'. Note those of the tribe living to the west in the coastal region were known as Playeros or 'beach people' by the Spanish.

Annobon - also seen as Annabon, Anabon, Anno Bom, Annabona - is derived from Ano Bom, literally 'good year' having been discovered by the Portuguese on New Year's Day 1473.

Moka, also given as Moca, is named after the Bubi king Mookata or King Moka who reigned from 1835 to 1845 and again from 1875 to 1898.

Note the spellings of the places are English as the piece is written in English.

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