Aginaw? Is there such a word?

You say Tuareg Aginaw “black” may be the origin of “Guinea”. I have ransacked Berber and Tuareg dictionaries to find such a word…zilch. Can you supply an online dictionary with this word in it? Thx’’

Hey Omolon, I found this same claim on the Guinea (region) wikipedia page:

It is believed the Portuguese borrowed Guineus from the Berber term Ghinawen (sometimes Arabized as غِنَاوَة Guinauha or Genewah ) meaning “the burnt people” (analogous to the Classical Greek Aithiops , “of the burned face”).[5] The Berber terms “aginaw” and “Akal n-Iguinawen[6] mean “black” and “land of the blacks”, respectively.

They give this citation:

“World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Guinea: Overview”. Minority Rights Group International. Retrieved 24 May 2016.

This all leads in circles! I can’t find a genuine dictionary that has any of these words! The closest I can get is aynaw, “mute”. People are quoting each other without checking. (WOLD -)

Actually, I think that is a bad citation on wikipedia. I can’t find evidence that the website Directory they cited ever mentioned the term aginaw. The oldest instance captured by internet archive only says this:

The name Guinea possibly originates from a Portuguese corruption of the Berber Akal n Iguinawen, ‘land of the black people’.

I did find that the List of country-name etymologies wikipedia page makes the same claim but cites a different source:

Bovill, Edward Wm. The Golden Trade of the Moors: West African Kingdoms in the Fourteenth Century . Weiner (Princeton), 1995.

This book contains the following footnote on page 117:

*The name Guinea is usually said to have been a corrupt form of the name Ghana, picked up by the Portuguese in the Maghrib. The present writer finds this un­acceptable. The name Guinea has been in use both in the Maghrib and in Europe long before Prince Henry’s time. For example, on a map dated about 1320 by the Genoese cartographer Giovanni di Carignano, who got his information about Africa from a fellow-countryman in Sijilmasa, we find Gunuia, and in the Catalan atlas of 1375 Ginyia. A passage in Leo (1896, III, 822) points to Guinea having been a corrupt form of Jenne, less famous than Ghana but nevertheless for many cen­turies famed in the Maghrib as a great market and a seat of learning. The relevant passage reads: ‘The kingdom of Ghinea . … called by the merchants of our nation Gheneoa, by the natural inhabitants thereof Genni and by the Portugals and other people of Europe Ghinea.’ But it seems more probable that Guinea derives from aguinaou, the Berber for negro. Marrakech has a gate, built in the twelfth century, called the Bab Aguinaou, the Gate of the Negro. (Delafosse, Haut- Senigal-Niger, II, 277-8).

So to me it seems like aginaw is just an alternative spelling to aguinaou. Have you tried looking for that term instead?

Yeah, nothing but personal names…nothing in any dictionary. Aynaw is already in Wiktionary (and several other wordlists), so it seems more reliable.

I think it’s not prudent to rely on the spelling given in any source, when discussing a language that (at least at the time this word arises) was non-literate, and (even today) is not consistently linked to just one system of writing. When most of the speakers don’t write, and those who do write disagree on the best way of doing so, spelling is going to be inconsistent.

I would be happy to find the word in any spelling, as long as it was in a good dictionary. Aynaw (mute) is the closest I can get.

Hello, the Libo-Berber and Amazigh languages ​​are included in the Tifinagh script.
ⴰⴳⵏⴰⵡ agnaw

But not only that script, and that is part of what I meant; you offer Tifinagh, another offers a Latin script, and we end up with different spellings for the same word.

If “mute” made some sense, it would be worth considering … but it seems to make no sense.

It does. “Mute” can also mean “foreigner who doesn’t speak the language”. “Niemiec” has this double meaning in Polish, and a similar word exists in most Slavic languages. So this could also happen in Africa…

It’s probably not sourced from any online dictionary, since we tend to mistrust them (we use a few, but typically only for niche subjects where no better alternative exists.) But here’s a Google Books result with the same etymology: Administrative Subdivisions of Countries: A Comprehensive World Reference ... - Gwillim Law - Google Books

The spelling for non-Latin alphabets is often inconsistent from dictionary to dictionary as different systems get used, so it’s not at all unusual not to find the exact word in transliteration. Moreover a lot of African languages contributed words into English hundreds of years ago, and the original words might not be the same anymore even in the source language.