a republic in W Africa, on the Bight of Benin, a section of the Gulf of Guinea: in the early 19th century a powerful kingdom, famed for its women warriors; became a French colony in 1893, gaining independence in 1960. It consists chiefly of coastal lagoons and swamps in the south, a fertile plain and marshes in the centre, and the Atakora Mountains in the northwest. Official language: French. Religion: animist majority. Currency: franc. Capital: Porto Novo (the government is based in Cotonou). Pop: 9 877 292 (2013 est). Area: 112 622 sq km (43 474 sq miles) Former name (until 1975) Dahomey
a former kingdom of W Africa, powerful from the 14th to the 17th centuries: now a province of S Nigeria: noted for its bronzes
former West African kingdom, from the Bini people, whose name is perhaps related to Arabic bani "sons." Though now the people is associated with Nigeria, the name was taken 1974 by the former nation of Dahomey.