Congo is a name shared by two neighbouring countries in Central Africa, largely drained by the Congo River, and usually distinguished by their full official names and occasionally by adding their capital cities. The name was also used in prior political entities. It also refers to the African subregion drained by the Congo River, located between the Gulf of Guinea and the African Great Lakes.
"The Congos" may be used to refer to both countries. The adjective "Congolese" (as in "Congolese music" or "Congolese culture") can refer to either or both countries.
- The Republic of the Congo (ROC), also known as Congo-Brazzaville (and locally as "Brazza"), is the smaller of the two countries and lies to the west. It was long a French colony, most of the time called Middle Congo (or part of an entity Middle Congo-Gabon), informally also known as French Congo, and since 1886 part of French Equatorial Africa. On 3 January 1970 it became officially the People's Republic of Congo; since 15 March 1992 it has been known simply as the Republic of the Congo.
- The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC, sometimes also referred to as DR Congo or in French RDC), or Congo-Kinshasa, is the larger of the two countries and lies to the east. It was once claimed as the personal property of King Leopold II of Belgium, when it was known as the Congo Free State, and later a Belgian colony when it was renamed the Belgian Congo. It was known as Zaire from 1971 to 1997; during this time the other Congo came to be known simply as "Congo".
Historically geographic uses of Congo and the alternate spelling "Kongo" include:
- The Kingdom of Kongo, a Central African kingdom, dating back before the 1400s, that was eventually divided by European colonizers into:
- Belgian Congo, former colony of Belgium in the present-day area of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
- French Congo, former French colony in the present-day area of the Republic of the Congo (ROC), also known as Middle Congo, one of the four territories of French Equatorial Africa (with Gabon, Oubangui-Chari and Tchad).
- Portuguese Congo, the presently Angolan exclave of Cabinda, between the ROC and DRC