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Vintage portrait of Somali Woman in the olden days

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Origin of the Name Somali

Irir Samaale, the oldest common ancestor of several Somali clans, is generally regarded as the source of the ethnonym Somali. The name "Somali" is, in turn, held to be derived from the words soo and maal, which together mean "go and milk" — a reference to the ubiquitous pastoralism of the Somali people. Another plausible etymology proposes that the term Somali is derived from the Arabic for "wealthy" (dhawamaal), again referring to Somali riches in livestock.

An Ancient Chinese document from the 9th century referred to the northern Somali coast — which was then called "Berbera" by Arab geographers in reference to the region's "Berber" (Cushitic) inhabitants — as Po-pa-li. The first clear written reference of the sobriquet Somali, however, dates back to the 15th century. During the wars between the Ifat Sultanate based at Zeila and the Solomonic Dynasty, the Abyssinian Emperor had one of his court officials compose a hymn celebrating a military victory over the Sultan of Ifat's eponymous troops.


Ethnic Somalis speak Somali language known as Af-Soomaali, a branch of Cushitic language that belongs to the larger Afro-Asiatic language phylum. It is specifically a Lowland East Cushitic language along with its nearest relatives, the Afar and Saho languages. Somali is the best documented of the Cushitic languages, with academic studies of it dating from before 1900.
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Somalia πŸ‡ΈπŸ‡΄


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