Angola Glossary

Here are some names, places, and terms concerning Angola that might be helpful to you. Click on a letter to get where you’re going, or simply browse for a while.


A small ethnolinguistic group in southern Angola and northern Namibia. The Ambo resisted Portuguese dominance until their defeat in 1915. As a result, the Portuguese forbid any missionaries, settlers, or traders to enter that region, severely limiting its economic development.
Officially called the People’s Republic of Angola, Angola is a large nation on the southwest coast of Africa. The country has endured 500 years of Portuguese colonization, 14 years of war for independence, and 27 years of civil war. The end of the war has now opened the door to rebuild what has been lost.
Black Angolans who, during colonial times, were granted citizenship by the Portuguese. This required significant adoption of the Portuguese culture and language. All blacks who were not “assimilated” were known as indígenas. When the distinctions were abolished in 1961, less than 1% of all black Angolans were assimilados.

A large ethnolinguistic group extending from Northwestern Angola into the DRC and the Republic of Congo. Traditionally, the Bakongo tribes were united under their monarchy in Mbanza Kongo, and formed quite a powerful empire. Though the Portuguese effectively put an end to Bakongo power, residual Bakongo nationalistic feelings have played a significant role in subsequent history. The Bakongo people speak Kikongo, and comprise approximately 13% of Angola’s population.
A large group of African peoples that share related languages. The black-skinned Bantu settled most of Sub-Saharan Africa between the 13th to 16th centuries, displacing the brown-skinned Khoisan (Bushmen) peoples. Angola’s population is perhaps 95% Bantu. Outside of Angola, Bantu tribes also comprise the vast majority of Sub-Saharan Africans; a few of the well-known are the Zulu, Xhosa, and Swahili.
The province surrounding Luanda Province. The capital is Caxito.
A coastal province in central Angola. The capital city, also called Benguela, was founded by the Portuguese in 1617 and has long served as the gateway into the central highlands.
A province in the central highlands. The capital city, Kuito, was devastated during the civil war.

A province of Angola, sometimes called the Cabinda enclave. Located to the north of Angola and separated from the rest of Angola by the Congo River and a narrow strip of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This province is rich in oil and has a long standing movement for its own freedom. Its capital is Cabinda.
See Bakongo, Congo River, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Republic of the Congo.
Congo River
This river, the eighth longest in the world, flows through central Africa, providing this tropical rainforest area with water, food, and transportation. The river flows into the Atlantic Ocean at the northern border of Angola, making the northern part of the country fertile and lush. Oil reserves have been found offshore near the mouth of this mighty river.
Cuando Cubango
Located in the southeast corner of Angola, this sparsely populated province was termed by the Portuguese the “land at the end of the earth.” Its capital is Menongue.
Cuanza Norte
A province just west of Luanda. The provincial capital is N’dalatando.
Cuanza Sul
A coastal province south of Luanda. The capital is Sumbe.
One of the southernmost provinces of Angola. The capital, Ondjiva, is near the border of Namibia.

Portuguese convicts that were exiled to Angola rather than imprisoned. At the end of the 1800s, over half of the white population in Angola were degradados.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
The country that borders Angola to the north and east. The DRC is a very large country with a long and violent history. It suffered under the oppressive rule of Belgium until 1960. It then came under the power of the equally ruthless President Mobutu. The country is still divided by internal strife. The DRC has played host to thousands Angolan refugees, and was friendly with the FNLA during the early phases of Angola’s wars.
Diamonds were discovered in Angola during the Portuguese rule. After the Portuguese left the country, production stopped for a time. UNITA forces moved into the diamond regions (Lunda Norte and Lunda Sul especially) and, through Zaire (DRC), were able to sell the diamonds on the black market to fuel their war. At the end of the civil war, the Angolan government quickly began developing its diamond sector and production is now at over 2 million carats/year and could rise to as much as 6 million carats/yr.

Frente Nacional de Libertação de Angola (National Front for the Liberation of Angola). Originally a liberation movement led by Holden Roberto and backed by the Chinese. Became one of the important players in the civil war, despite their lack of military involvement.

The name of a province and its capital in the central highlands of Angola. It was a center of military conflict during the civil war. Huambo was formerly known as Nova Lisboa.
A province in southwestern Angola. Its capital is also called Huíla.

The opposite of assimilados. Black Angolans who, during colonial times, had no citizenship or rights. They constituted over 99% of the black population. In 1961 the distinction was abolished, and all Angolans were granted some privileges of citizenship.

The Khoisan, commonly referred to as Bushmen, are a group of peoples that includes the Khoi Khoi, San, Ovahimba, Kxoe, Kung, and Hottentots. They are the first known settlers of southern Africa, as indicated by their prehistoric rock-paintings. The Khoisan are smaller and lighter-skinned than the Bantu, whose southward migration pushed the smaller race into the interior deserts. The few Khoisan who are left live on the fringes of society.
The language of the Bakongo people. Kikongo is made up of many dialects.
The language of the Mbundu people.
The national currency of Angola.

Land Mines
Explosive devices buried in the ground that can be set off by vehicles or people passing over them. During the civil war, military forces laid down over 70 types of land mines. It is estimated that there may be as many land mines as people in Angola. The largest danger is for returning refugees, as many roads and farmlands are inundated with land mines.
The majority language of Kinshasa and Brazzaville, Lingala is spoken by many Angolans who fled north during the wars.
The capital city of Angola. It is also the name of the province surrounding the city. Founded in 1575 by the Portuguese, Luanda now has a population of over four million. According to a 1998 study by the IMF, it is the second most expensive city in the world to live in.
Lunda Norte
A province in northeast Angola. Its capital is Lukapa. Along with its southern neighbor, Lunda Sul, it has been nicknamed the “Wild West” due to the lawlessness and violence in the region resulting from illegal diamond trade.
Lunda Sul
A province located to the south of Lunda Norte (obviously). Much of the nation’s diamond mining takes place in this province. Its capital is Saurimo.
Describes those countries that share the Portuguese language. The African Lusophone countries are Angola, Moçambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, and São Tomé e Príncipe.
A theory originally developed by Gilberto Freyre that extols the praises of Portuguese colonialism in Africa. Used by some Portuguese to justify its colonialist policies.

The name of a province and its capital city in north central Angola. Also spelled Malange.
Marburg Virus
A deadly disease similar to Ebola virus. The largest outbreak of Marburg virus occurred in Angola’s Uíge province in the spring of 2005.
A socialist idealogy (named for Karl Marx) that provided the underpinnings for communism in the USSR and Cuba. The MPLA adopted a Marxist position for several decades.
A large ethnic group in Angola composed of several tribes, primarily extending from Luanda inland to the province of Malanje. They comprise about 25 percent of Angola’s population. The language of the Mbundu people is Kimbundu. Angola gets its name from the Kimbundu word for king, Ngola.
People of mixed Portuguese and African descent. Mestiços have played an important part in Angolan history, especially in Luanda.
This is Angola’s largest province and is located in the eastern part of the country. Luena is its capital.
Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola). The ruling party of Angola. Originally a liberation movement in the fight for independence, then one of the forces fighting for control of the country during the civil war. The MPLA took a Marxist stance and was backed by the USSR and Cuba until the late 1980s. It has since dropped the Marxist label.

An arid coastal province in the southwest corner of Angola. The provincial capital is also named Namibe.
The country that borders Angola to the south. Formerly known as South West Africa, it was a territory of the Republic of South Africa until 1989. Namibia served first as a staging ground for South African military support of UNITA, and later as a staging ground for MPLA military support. Many Christians in Namibia have worked to bring the gospel of Christ across the border into Angola.
Neto, Agostinho
Angola’s first president. He rose to power in the MPLA during the fight for independence, and did much to gain the support of the USSR and Cuba. Neto died in 1979 and was succeeded by Eduardo dos Santos.

See Petroleum
The largest and most homogeneous ethnic group in Angola. The language of the Ovimbundu people is Umbundu. They comprise about 37 percent of the Angolan population and are located primarily in the central highlands. The UNITA movement drew most of its support from the Ovimbundu.

The discovery of offshore oil in Angola has and will have a huge impact on the country. Foreign companies, including Exxon and Texaco, have developed oil drilling in the country. Currently, oil accounts for 90 percent of the country’s GDP. It is ranked third behind Saudi Arabia and Iran in known oil reserves. Oil money provided funding for the government during the civil war, but will also be a significant factor during the rebuilding of the country. The country must learn to use its money wisely and to expand its economy so as not to be too dependent on its oil production.
A small European nation that borders Spain. Its capital is Lisboa (Lisbon). Portugal began to colonize Angola in the 15th century. The Portuguese government was overthrown by a military coup in 1974, and Angola finally received its independence from Portugal one year later.  Portugal and Angola remain well-connected economically and socially.
The language of Portugal, and also the official language of Angola. A 1996 study showed that 26% of the Angolan population speaks Portuguese as their mother-tongue, and the vast majority speak or understand Portuguese to some degree.

Republic of the Congo
A country in west central Africa. It borders the Cabinda province of Angola. It is sometimes called Congo-Brazzaville (after its capital, Brazzaville) and should not be confused with the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Roberto, Holden
The founder of the União das Populacões de Angola (UPA), which began the military hostilities of the war for independence. The UPA soon became the FNLA, and Roberto remained an influential leader of the FNLA until his death in 2007.

Salazar, António de Oliveira
The dictator of Portugal from 1932 to 1968. Salazar kept a very tight Portuguese grip on Angola, even declaring it an “overseas province” of Portugal in 1951.
Santos, José Eduardo dos
The President of Angola. A long-standing leader of the MPLA, dos Santos became Angola’s second president in 1979.
Savimbi, Jonas Malheiro
The founder and leader of UNITA until his death in 2002. Though Savimbi led a military struggle to unite the country, it was his death that finally signaled the end of the conflict and a chance for national unity.
Scorched Earth Policy
During the end of the civil war (1998-2002), the government forces (as well as UNITA at times) used this policy of forcing residents out of the rural areas and into cities, in order to isolate enemy troops. Although this policy did help lead to the death of Savimbi and the end of the fighting, the displacement of millions of people has caused a humanitarian crisis as well as an economic upheaval.
Slave Trade
The Portuguese exported slaves from Angola from the 16th to 19th centuries. It is estimated that more than 4 million Angolans were sold into slavery, most of them bound for Brazil. The slave trade severely weakened the cultural and economic integrity of the African tribes and caused resentment between people groups that lasts even to this day.
South Africa
Officially known as the Republic of South Africa, this country is the southernmost country in Africa. South Africa fueled Angola’s civil war with weapons and military support for UNITA.

Toco, Simão Gonçalves
The founder and leader of the Tocoist church. Toco broke away from the Baptist church in 1949 to start his own religious movement characterized by dramatic prophecy, high moral standards, and distrust of white people. Though oppressed by the Portuguese and Angolan governments for many years, Tocoism is now a recognized church in Angola.

A province in the north of Angola. Its capital is also called Uíge.
The language of the Ovimbundu people. Umbundu is second only to Portuguese in the number of native speakers in Angola.
União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola). Originally a liberation movement, and later the major rival of the MPLA during the civil war. Led by Jonas Savimbi until his death in 2002. Supported by South Africa and, unofficially, by the USA. It is now the largest political party in opposition to the MPLA.
União das Populacões de Angola (Union of the People of Angola). Founded by Holden Roberto, the UPA organized widespread attacks against Portuguese settlements on March 15, 1961 – the start of the war for independence. It soon changed names to become the FNLA.

A province in the northwest corner of Angola. Its capital is M’banza Congo and the mouth of the Congo River forms its northern border. (Zaire is also the former name for the country now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which borders Angola to the north.)
This country borders Angola to the east. UNITA frequently took refuge in Zambia, which strained relations between the two countries. Many Angolan refugees fled to refugee camps in western Zambia, but most returned during the first decade of the 2000s. Some who were converted to Christ in the refugee camps returned home eager to share the Gospel.