The ethonym of Accra.

The word Accra is derived from the Akan word Nkran meaning “ants”, a reference to the numerous anthills seen in the countryside around Accra. The name specifically refers to soldier ants, and was applied to both the town and people by the Twi speakers.

The name of Accra in the Ga language is Ga or Gaga, the same name as that of the Ga people and a cognate with Nkran. The word is sometimes rendered with the nasalised vowels as  or Gãgã. Historian Carl Christian Reindorf confirmed this etymology, proposing a link between the martial qualities and migratory behaviour of the local ants and those of the Ga people. The link between the ethonym and ants was explicitly reflected in the recognition of anthills as sacred places. Often ringed by sacred fences (aklabatsa), the tall red mounds dotting Accra’s hinterland were seen as microcosms of human community and as nodal points between the known world and the world of the dead.

While the Ga used the reference to the invasive species of dark-brown swarming ants to connote military prowess and their ancient conquest of Guang speakers residing in the Accra Plains, the Akan-speaking appropriation and translation of this metaphor had a less than generous meaning. Instead of viewing Ga speakers as a formidable military force, the Akan-speaking term “Nkran” cast Ga peoples as pests or nuisances to be controlled or exterminated.

The name Ga is actually a cognate of the name Akan, one of a few words in which [g] corresponds to [k] in Akan. Ga also gave its name to the Ga districts surrounding Accra.

The name Accra was given to Nkran by Europeans. An earlier spelling used by the Danes was Akra.

Accra is the capital and largest city of Ghana, covering an area of 225.67 km2(87.13 sq mi) with an estimated urban population of 2.27 million as of 2012. It is organized into 10 local government districts – 9 municipal districts and the Accra Metropolitan District, which is the only district within the capital to be granted city status. “Accra” usually refers to the Accra Metropolitan Area, which serves as the capital of Ghana, while the district within the jurisdiction of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly is distinguished from the rest of the capital as the “City of Accra”. In common usage, however, the terms “Accra” and “City of Accra” are used interchangeably.

Accra stretches along the Ghanaian Atlantic coast and extends north inland. Originally built around three different settlements, including a port (Jamestown), it served as the capital of the British Gold Coast between 1877 and 1957. Once merely a 19th-century suburb of Victoriaborg, Accra has since transitioned into a modern metropolis; the city’s architecture reflects this history, ranging from 19th-century architecture buildings to modern skyscrapers and apartment blocks.

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