The “Moors” of Europe

Variants of the term “Moor” have been used by many Europeans since ancient times as a general description for indigenous Africans. Contrary to popular belief, the term is not synonymous with “Islamic” or any specific Arab or African religion, civilization, or ethnicity.

The origin of the English term, “Moor,” is the Greek word, “μαυρο” or “mavro” which literally means “black, blackened or charred” and has long been used to describe black or very dark things such as, “Mavri Thalassa” which refers to the Black Sea or “mavri spilia” which means “black cave.” Ancient Greeks used the term to describe the complexion of Africans and (even today, some Greeks use “mavro” to refer to Africans, although in a pejorative manner).

The artist, Christopher Wren (1632-1723), specifically entitled this painting, “Le Maure”, French for “The Moor”

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