Latin Africa (terra) "African land, Libya, the Carthaginian territory, the province of Africa; Africa as a continent," fem. of adjective Africus, from Afer "an African," a word of uncertain origin. The Latin word originally was used only in reference to the region around modern Tunisia; it gradually was extended to the whole continent. Derivation from a Phoenician cognate of Arabic afar "dust, earth" is tempting. The Middle English word was Affrike.