Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Moor, one of the most confusing terms in ethnology. Mauharta (whence the Greek and Latin Mauri, Mauritania) was a Phoenician word meaning "Westerns," originally applied by the Carthaginians to the Hamitic (Berber) aborigines of the Atlas region, stretching west of Carthage. Later it was transferred in its modern forms (Maures, Mori, Moors) to the Arabs and Berbers of the same region indifferently, and then in a vague way to all Africans, and especially to Mohammedan Africans - the mediaeval Arabs and Berbers being all Mohammedans. Then all Africans being popularly "Negroes," a Moor became a Negro, or at least a person of black colour (as in "Blackamoor"), and "the Moor of Venice," supposed to be a black (though in the original merely a swarthy Arab or Berber of the Barbary States), one of those Mohammedan "renegades" often employed in the service of the Christian Powers. The colour idea became fixed, and in the popular fancy a Moor is still a Negro; but locally the word has partly recovered its original meaning, and in the Atlas regions it is now commonly applied to the "civilised" Arabo-Berber urban populations in contradistinction to the wild hillmen and the nomads of the desert. In this more correct sense it travelled round the Continent, with the Portuguese, for whom the civilised Mohammedan peoples of the east coast were all "Mauros"; and at present the half-caste Moslem Arab communities of Malabar, Ceylon, and Malaysia are similarly called Moors or Moormen by the Dutch and English. In Ceylon especially they are numerous, settled chiefly on the northern coastlands, where they have a monopoly of the local retail trade. Other applications of the word as by the French to some of the Senegal peoples, generally find their explanation in the fact that those thus designated present social and religious features analogous to those of the present Manritanian populations.