The country name Djibouti has no etymology listed on both Etymonline and Wiktionary. I do know that's it named after the city for sure, but where did that come from?

I tried to research it, but all I could find was an unreliable forum listing it as named after a French general (Somalinet.com) and an unhelpful Quora answer ambiguously and without detail explaining it as either Egyptian or Afar.

I don't have the OED; what does that say? Is there any reliable research on this? Thanks.






  • 3
    The question does not seem to be about English.
    – Drew
    Mar 2, 2017 at 2:38
  • 2
    Of course it is! "Djibouti" is the preferred English term for referring to the country. Anyway, all etymologies eventually lead out of English. Mar 2, 2017 at 2:38
  • 4
    What is the etymology of the English term Jacques Tati for referring to the filmmaker Jacques Tati?
    – Drew
    Mar 2, 2017 at 2:40
  • 1
    Let's not squabble over semantics. Dictionary.com, the Free Dictionary, and several others all list it in their definitions. Mar 2, 2017 at 2:41
  • 1
    A good edit, for example, to appease the gods, would be to include a dictionary link from Etymonline showing there is no entry for Djibouti. And deleting the mini rant would be a nice idea too.. :)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 2, 2017 at 18:47

1 Answer 1


There is no reliable etymology on this name. The following African Heritage site offers the two more common assumptions about its origin:

  • The first one is based on an ancient Issa legend whereby the name Djibouti (Jab Bouti) came from a fabulous animal Bouti which used to live in those areas and was a ferocious beast killing goats, and sheeps, and terrorizing people. After a relentless hunt, the men defeated the beast, and named the area Jab Bouti or the Bouti’s defeat.

  • The second version comes from the Afar people. The Afar named the current region of Djibouti Gabod (plateaux or uplands). The Arab sailors called it Gabouti, and later on, the French turned it into Djibouti.

  • Wikipedia's only (unsourced) claim is ""Land of Tehuti", after the ancient Egyptian moon god." Given sailors had been visiting since at least the 2nd millennium BC it's not an unlikely exonym, and seems more likely than the "beast defeat" folk etymology.
    – lly
    May 11, 2019 at 23:52
  • The second one isn't even an etymology. What do the Afar have to do with the Arab sailors? and where did the sailors' name come from?
    – lly
    May 11, 2019 at 23:53

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