History and Culture of Guinea Conakry. The origin of the word "Guinea" is unclear. The name came into use among European shippers and map makers in the seventeenth century to refer to the coast of West Africa from Guinea to Benin. Guinea Conakry History and Culture Information and Travel Guide. Vacation package Book. Some Guineans claim that the word arose from an early episode in the European-African encounter. In Susu, the language spoken by the coastal Susu ethnic group, the word guinè means "woman." When a group of Europeans arrived on the coast they met some women washing clothes in an estuary. The women indicated to the men that they were women. The Europeans misunderstood and thought the women were referring to a geographic area; the subsequently used the word "Guinea" to describe coastal West Africa. The French claimed the coast of present-day Guinea in 1890 and named it French Guinea ( Guinée française ) in 1895. Neighboring colonies also bore the name "Guinea." The British colony of Sierra Leone to the south was sometimes identified as British Guinea, and to the north, Portugal's colony was named Portuguese Guinea. After Guinea gained independence, the first president, Sekou Touré, named the country the People's Revolutionary Republic of Guinea. The second president, Lansana Conté, changed the official name to the Republic of Guinea. The capital city is Conakry, and the country often is referred to as Guinea-Conakry to distinguish it from other nation-states with the same name.