Europe, Etymology

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Europe ( or ) is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally divided from Asia by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting the Black and Aegean Seas. "Europe" (pp. 68–9); "Asia" (pp. 90–1): "A commonly accepted division between Asia and Europe ... is formed by the Ural Mountains, Ural River, Caspian Sea, Caucasus Mountains, and the Black Sea with its outlets, the Bosporus and Dardanelles."


In ancient Greek mythology, Europa was a Phoenician princess whom Zeus abducted after assuming the form of a dazzling white bull. He took her to the island of Crete where she gave birth to Minos, Rhadamanthus, and Sarpedon. For Homer, Europe (, '; see also List of Greek place names) was a mythological queen of Crete, not a geographical designation.

The etymology of Europe is uncertain. One theory suggests that it is derived from the Greek εὐρύς (eurus), meaning "wide, broad" and ὤψ/ὠπ-/ὀπτ- (ōps/ōp-/opt-), meaning "eye, face, countenance", hence ', "wide-gazing", "broad of aspect" (compare with glaukōpis (γλαυκῶπις 'grey-eyed') Athena or boōpis (βοὠπις 'ox-eyed') Hera). Broad has been an epithet of Earth itself in the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European religion. Another theory suggests that it is based on a Semitic word such as the Akkadian erebu meaning "to go down, set" (in reference to the sun), cognate to Phoenician 'ereb "evening; west" and Arabic Maghreb, Hebrew ma'ariv (see also Erebus, PIE *h1regʷos, "darkness"). However, Martin Litchfield West states that "phonologically, the match between Europa's name and any form of the Semitic word is very poor".

Whatever the origin of the name of the mythological figure, Εὐρώπη is first used as a geographical term in the 6th century BC, by Greek geographers such as Anaximander and Hecataeus. Anaximander placed the boundary between Asia and Europe along the Phasis River (the modern Rioni) in the Caucasus, a convention still followed by Herodotus in the 5th century BC. But the convention received by the Middle Ages and surviving into modern usage is that of the Roman era used by Roman era authors such as Posidonius, Strabo and Ptolemy,

who took the Tanais (the modern Don River) as the boundary.

The term "Europe" is first used for a cultural sphere in the Carolingian Renaissance of the 9th century. From that time, the term designated the sphere of influence of the Western Church, as opposed to both the Eastern Orthodox churches and to the Islamic world. The modern convention, enlarging the area of "Europe" somewhat to the east and the southeast, develops in the 19th century.

Most major world languages use words derived from "Europa" to refer to the "continent" (peninsula). Chinese, for example, uses the word (歐洲); a similar Chinese-derived term is also sometimes used in Japanese such as in the Japanese name of the European Union, , despite the katakana being more commonly used. However, in some Turkic languages the originally Persian name Frangistan (land of the Franks) is used casually in referring to much of Europe, besides official names such as Avrupa or Evropa.

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External Links

  • WikipediaCouncil of EuropeEuropean UnionThe Columbia Gazetteer of the World Online"Introducing Europe"

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