(from Arabic kafir, "infidel"), the territories along the southeast coast of Africa that were colonized by the Portuguese and British. The term referred more specifically in the 19th century to those lands inhabited by the Xhosa-speaking peoples of the Transkei and Ciskei. Now considered pejorative, the term Kaffir was used in the 19th century as a synonym for Xhosa. In 1847, during the Cape Frontier Wars, the British government annexed the territory between the Keiskama and Kei rivers (inhabited by the Ngqika group of the Xhosa peoples, the Thembu, and the Mfengu) as the crown colony of British Kaffraria. After 1857 this area was opened to white settlement and was reluctantly incorporated by Cape Colony in 1865.
Learn more about Kaffraria with a free trial on Britannica.com.