What word does your mother always say?
Latin Africa (terra) "African land, Libya, the Carthaginian territory," fem. of Africus, from Afer "an African." Originally only in reference to the region around modern Tunisia, it gradually was extended to the whole continent. Derivation from Arabic afar "dust, earth" is tempting, but the early date seems to argue against it. The Middle English word was Affrike.
Note: Africa has been the home of great civilizations, particularly in Egypt, along the Mediterranean Sea. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, European nations colonized much of the continent (see colonialism). In the twentieth century, the colonies became independent countries.
Note: Africa south of the Sahara is sometimes called sub-Saharan Africa.
Note: Sub-Saharan Africa has been hit especially hard by HIV/AIDS, drastically decreasing the life expectancy of much of the population.