In Ge'ez, the country's ancient Imperial language which preceded Amharic, the name Ityopya, and its English equivalent Ethiopia, are thought by some to be derived from the Greek word for Aithiopia, from Aithiops ‘an Ethiopian', meaning "of burned visage".
However, this etymology is disputed, since the Book of Aksum, a Ge'ez chronicle first composed in the 15th century, states that the name is derived from "Ityopp'is", a son of Cush, son of Ham who according to legend founded the city of Axum, though this is not mentioned in the bible.
It is not certain how old the name Ethiopia is, but its earliest recorded use in the region was as a Christianised name for the Kingdom of Aksum in the 4th century, in stone inscriptions of King Ezana.
In English, Ethiopia was historically known as Abyssinia, derived from the Arabic form of an Ethio-semitic name, Habesha. In some countries, Ethiopia is still called by names related to "Abyssinia," e.g. Turkish Habesistan and Arabic Al Habesh, meaning land of the Habesha people.
Strictly speaking, the term Habesha refers only to the Amhara and Tigray/Tigrinya people and which combined comprise about 36% of Ethiopia's population. However, in contemporary Ethiopia, the word Habesha is often used to describe all Ethiopans. Abyssinia can refer to just the North-Western Ethiopian provinces of Amhara and Tigray as well as central Eritrea, while it was historically used as another name for Ethiopia.
Ethiopia has eighty-four indigenous languages. English is the most widely spoken foreign language and is the medium of instruction in secondary schools. Amharic was the language of primary school instruction, but has been replaced in many areas by local languages such as Oromifa and Tigrinya. Ethiopia has its own alphabet, called Ge'ez or Ethiopic, and its own calendar based on the Julian system consisting of 12 months of thirty days and a thirteenth month of five days.