a republic in western africa, south of niger and between togo and nigeria. Its capital is porto-novo. It was formerly called dahomey. In the 17th century it was a kingdom in the southern area of africa. Coastal footholds were established by the french who deposed the ruler by 1892. It was made a french colony in 1894 and gained independence in 1960. Benin comes from the name of the indigenous inhabitants, the bini, now more closely linked with southern nigeria (benin city, a town there). Bini may be related to the arabic bani, sons.