Sunday, 31 July 2016

Ghana 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 I cast my net a little wider. As English place names share some links to other tongues it would be interesting to see if any of the elements contributing to our place names could be found elsewhere. Continuing an alphabetical tour of the world and a look at the largest of Ghana's cities.

Accra comes from the Akan language where nkran originally meant 'ants'. The numerous ant hills in this region being the outstanding feature, of course these are the obvious towers built by the African varieties and not the small mounds seen in Europe.

Ashaiman was founded by one Nil Ashai in the 17th century, his name taken for the place and thus meaning 'Ashai's town'.

Sunyani grew from a minor outpost used by elephant hunters during the 19th century. Indeed its name reflects this as it comes from the Akan word osono meaning 'elephant'.

Cape Coast is a simple enough name needing no explanation.

Koforidua traditionally takes its name from the Akan man Kofi Ofori after he built a home under a magnificent mahogany tree. As this became a place of shelter for those returning from the fields, they spoke of going to rest under "Kofi Ofori's tree" with the Akan word for 'tree' being dua.

Nkawkaw means 'red, red', a reference to the red soils here.

Navrongo is an Anglicised version of the local name of navoringo, itself from navoro. Here naga voro describes the crunching sound made when stepping onto dry, crumbly soil. A most unusual origin for a place name, indeed I can think of no other named for a sound.

Salaga is from the Dagomba language where salgi refers to 'get used to a place of abode'.

Banda Ahenkro has historically provided shelter from any number of peoples seeking shelter during the era of the slave trade. At this time the place was known as Serminakuu referring to 'the grasses' growing in this area. The name was changed to Banda, a corruption of woanda meaning 'they did not sleep'. The people of the Asante kingdom here were known for their strength in times of war, the warlike people refusing to sleep during times of war.

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

1 comment:

  1. Hello Anthony. Greetings. Cape Coast is actually not so simple, being a corruption of Cabo Corso, which derives from the Portuguese name for the town in the 16th century. See my website at: -JT