The name Nubia is derived from that of the Noba people, nomads who settled the area in the 4th century CE following the collapse of the kingdom of Meroë. The Noba spoke a Nilo-Saharan language, ancestral to Old Nubian. Old Nubian was mostly used in religious texts dating from the 8th and 15th centuries. Before the 4th century, and throughout classical antiquity, Nubia was known as Kush, or, in Classical Greek usage, included under the name Ethiopia (Aithiopia).
Historically, the people of Nubia spoke at least two varieties of the Nubian language group, a subfamily that includes Nobiin (the descendant of Old Nubian), Kenuzi-Dongola, Midob and several related varieties in the northern part of the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan. Until at least 1970, the Birgid language was spoken north of Nyala in Darfur, but is now extinct. However, linguistic evidence indicates that the languages spoken in the ancient Kerma Culture (present-day southern Egypt and northern Sudan) in Nubia, belonged to the Cushitic branch of the Afroasiatic languages.