Meaning 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 local 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 Gã or Gãgã.

Historian Carl Christian Reindorf confirmed this etymology, proposing a link between the martial qualities and migratory behavior of the local ants and those of the Ga people.

The link between the ethnonym 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.

The Ga used the reference to the invasive species of dark-red swarming ants to connote military prowess and their ancient conquest of Guang speakers residing in the Accra Plains.

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