It’s no surprise that many of our place names are relatively new to English. Some (like Far East) were born during British colonization, but “Near East” and “Middle East” are more modern than that.
The word “east” is derived from the Sanskrit word “usās” meaning “dawn” or “morning.” From the perspective of Europe and Asia, this makes sense because the sun rises in the east. Conversely, the word “west” comes from the word for “evening” from the Sanskrit word “avah” meaning “to go down.” These words are all relational and dictate the space around the speaker. Our words for geography reveal where we are.
Language can dictate how we perceive the world around us. Learn about a language that does not have words for “left” and “right” here.
So, what about those three confusing phrases: Far East, Middle East, and Near East?
The simplest of these slippery phrases is the Far East. First recorded in 1616, the phrase “Far East” came into common usage in the 1800s because of British colonial expansion to eastern Asia. The term was used to describe all British colonies east of India. Today, it still refers to China, Japan and other countries on the eastern rim of Asia, but its use has declined steadily in the latter twentieth century.
First used in 1856, the term “Near East” was defined specifically against the Far East and referred to the region in Asia that’s west of India. Today, the region of the Near East is imprecise and overlaps with the Middle East. It typically refers to southwest Asia, particularly Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other nations of the Arabian Peninsula. It is not as commonly used as “Middle East.”
So where is the Middle East? Well, it depends on who you ask. The phrase “Middle East” was first used in 1876 as a synonym for “Mesopotamia,” which literally meant “between rivers” in Ancient Greek, specifically between the Tigris and Euphrates in modern-day Iraq. Over time, it has come to describe the region stretching from Egypt and Sudan in Africa to Turkey in the north to Iran. Oddly, in Asia, what we call the “Middle East” is called “Western Asia.” If you look at a map, that makes sense.
How did the Red Sea, Yellow Sea and Black Sea get their names? Find out here.
What we say about places also shapes what we think about them. The typical English definitions of East do not include Russia, the largest country east of Europe. Similarly, the ways we describe geographic regions are often influenced by political or religious affiliation. These distinctions can contradict each other, though. For example, in early 2011, the political revolutions known collectively as the “Arab Spring” pointed out the contradictions between the “Middle East” and the “Arab World,” which are sometimes used synonymously by journalists but actually refer to different geographies, nations, and cultural groups. Libya, for instance, is not in the Middle East, but it is in the Arab World.
Here’s a more minute example. In New York City, two of the boroughs, Brooklyn and Queens, are actually the western edges of Long Island. However, because they are part of “New York City” in terms of a municipality, it would be absurd to refer to them as “Long Island.”
Oddly, in linguistic terms, the world seems to stop just east of Japan. Even in China, they refer to the United States as the “West.” Though, technically, North America is “east” of China, it is considered part of the cultural West.
(Why is America called America? Learn about it here.)
What do you think about this geographic terminology? Do you use contradictory distinctions?
Wow! After reading that, I feel like the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz as he attempts to help Dorthy figure out which way they should go! Nice! Thanks Dictionary.com!
IN THE BIBLE IT SAYS THAT THE WORLD WILL END ON DECEMBER 2012
[...] ‘East’ or the right side of the Map — Dependent on the Hemisphere or directional selection on the GPS — where is often the DELTA Gap. — If one can use a Compass — not mathematically speaking — After all it’s direction — not Regional issues we are seeking — or is that double tweaking? — Thus East is East and West is West — Near or Far or Middle — Where is the Center of that Universe? – Gestalt at Rest. — The hypothalamus of the Riddle. –>>L.T.Rhyme [...]
I’m confused… Oh, wait.. Maybe I’m not.
@mary torres so loved
i want to travel THE WORLD THAT WOULD BE ALSOME I CAN LIKE MEET NEW PEOPLE AND there style of living
Mary Torres, you are wrong. It absolutely DOES NOT say that the world will end in December 2012! Tell me where. I am a steadfast Christian and that is a LIE! Do not put words in God! Go to BibleGateway and type John 1. The Bible version is King James Version(KJV). DO not put words in God’s mouth. God has NEVER revealed the Second coming of Christ, not even to Jesus. Do not lie on the Internet! You can never take that back!
the United states is possibly seen as being “west” of China, because the sun rises and sets there after China.
When I was at school we had an area called “top lawn” that wasn’t at the top of the site and, er, wasn’t a lawn
we like the city at the school attacked this look change dress like thing
you as free for the sister some thing mother open door get miss up oniya
ok that you had right now see her again do you see her loser house love songs that you go by yeah you so upset not dance no songs lost
a dog guy payed childrend look out thing
is already not decmber so we get to wait
west is the compare she said
mary torres so loved please read the Bible properly. The Bible does not day the world will end 2012.if you really know let me know, which book which verse. thanks
Well, if you’re using the International Date Line, then that makes sense, as it runs between Asia and North America. The next question must be, is Australia East or West?
The imagined destruction of the Earth in Dec. 2012 is referenced to the Mayan long calendar. Nowhere in The Bible is that prophecy or date mentioned. Feel free to quote chapter and verse to refute.
Since the egotistical Romans felt that the rest of the world revolved around them, they gave the name Mediterranean to the puddle at their doorstep. The name means “center of the world.”
“thinking”i wonder which bible is that…?”suprise”@marry
“The word “east” is derived from the Sanskrit word “usās” meaning “dawn” or “morning.” From the perspective of Europe and Asia, this makes sense because the sun rises in the east.”
Where in the world would you need to be for the sun to rise anywhere other than the east?
Interesting and informative. Thanks.
- Someone from the Far East
Geography is interesting in that no matter where you are, it’s all relative to someone else. This is one of the most concise “hotword”s I’ve seen. Good job, author.
@madde m thank you very much !
@eva no @ and all of u guys and girl no i seen it on the history chanel not the bible
@u guys sorry thats what i ment to say plese dont be made at me
@ dont tell me what to do you ant my momma TRICK
LAST POST 4 nshera
although yes the the bible in gods wolds bible it dose say that have you ever watch the movie 2012 ?
CRACK HEADS THIS DAYS
i all was read bible at church do you read bible because i want to know you do read at church so we know author is about. you can ask me ready now are you going to ask me please do it so we know author good jod thing to do.
‘The word “east” is derived from the Sanskrit word “usās” meaning “dawn” or “morning.” From the perspective of Europe and Asia, this makes sense because the sun rises in the east. Conversely, the word “west” comes from the word for “evening” from the Sanskrit word “avah” meaning “to go down.” These words are all relational and dictate the space around the speaker.’
Cognate, yes; “derived from, no. This is really pretty poor quality research.
weird very werid
“East” isn’t derived from the Sanskrit word “usas,” rather the two words are both independently derived from the same Indo-European root, aus- “to shine,” especially “dawn.” See http://www.etymonline.com.
Mary refers to the Bible Code, not the actual text.
@Religious People : Go away with your stupid religious comments. Infecting every blog with religious garbage only proves that your stupid religion shouldn’t be taken seriously.
Iran part of Middle East? Sorry, I don’t think I’ve heard it referred to as such.
Btw : Is this a different version of an older blog (or did you copy this from something else?).
the good job author hotword matter to you that bible at church
Both Pakistan and Afghanistan are considered Middle Eastern countries by today’s standards. Their commonalities and shared Islamic religion further validate their grouping among the Middle Eastern countries.
Um, the sun rises in the East no matter where you are. Same with setting in the West. Even in Australia and Antarctica.
So no, our words don’t describe where we are so much as the describe our ignorance of where other people are.
YES IT DOSES WAHT YOU BE READING ?
Enjoyed reading about this. I had a similar question about the term ‘Eurasia’. As a former geography study in the US, I thought the answer was a no brainer, this is the supercontinent of Europe and Asia, which sometimes is convenient to clump together as a single term. However, I got in a disagreement with a fellow American student, who was confident this term referred roughly to the area where the country of Turkey is. Or that is to say, the area where Europe and Asia meet (thus having no exact boundaries). After an informal survey of several friends, it seemed there was a roughly 50/50 split on these 2 definitions. Any chance of clearing this one up?
PS – As someone with roots in the “middle east”, but from the US, and also with family in the UK. The terms have all been a bit ambiguous and contentious. For example, In England, I found “Asia/Asian” means someone from South Asia, such as Indian, Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc. But in American, Asian would more certainly be East Asian. Because the Middle East is such an ambiguous term. I will sometimes try to use the term West Asian. Which I think seems at least a bit more geographically accurate, and I think helps to remind people Asia is more than just East Asia.
-A Westerner of Middle Eastern roots living in East Asia
The bible is clear, no one knows not even the son of man knows when the world will come to an end. Only the Creator knows when the world will come to an end. Be prepared.
“The typical English definitions of East do not include Russia, the largest country east of Europe”. Not strictly true, I’m afraid.
Russia occupies approximately 40% of Europe. The part of Russia that’s east of Europe is in Asia.
Last time the world ended I slept through it. The world is going to end on December 21, 2012, I will drink lots of coffee on the 20th so I don’t miss it this time again. I can’t wait for the 23rd of December to find out when the next end-of-the-world will be maybe I’ll set up a somewhat tail gate party to celebrate it. Only winners will be around after the 21st; therefore, you are all losers prior to the 21st. Interesting what you may infer from my imply.
How do you get ‘east’ from ‘usas?’
Geography is my favorite subject to study other than languages, English being the most beloved:-) Thus, I have enjoyed reading this article although I thought Israel was classified as Mid-East as opposed to Near East. I have to agree with some of the other comments that mentioned how the Bible does not predict the end of the world [age]. Please be careful not to misquote Sacred Scripture and to think twice before writing something of such drastic nature. Thank you!
i was wrong the the bible does NOT say that world will end on December 2012. Sorry,
Nshera is right @mary torres so loved. Don’t ever say stuff if you don’t know is fact. You can not take it back.
But Jesus will come back soon and that I am glad of.
sorry ingnor the it was a acedent.
Sorry I was wrong. The Bible does NOT say that the world will end on December 2012.
The sun always rises in the east, regardless where on earth you are.
im confused….actually i get it never mind
middle east should be another continent
mary torres so loved——–THE WORLD WILL NOT END!!!!!!!! THE MAYANS JUST STOPPED WRITING THE CALENDAR!!!!! IT’S OKAY, YOU WON’T DIE……………………………..i hope
So if Middle East does not accurately describe the exact location, why would we change it to Western Asia as mentioned? We should reflect the true description, not the perception.
well… the world isn’t ending in december, the bible doesn’t say that, and for all i care, north is whatever way i’m facing at the time.
geogaphy is interestingin that no matter where you are,love hotword
What? “West” and “east” do NOT come from Sanskrit, just look at the etymological notes at this very site! Both words come from Old English sources, and which in turn come from Proto-Germanic *wes-t- and *aus-to-, which come from Proto-Indo-European *wes- and *aus-.
They are COGNATES with Sanskrit avah and uṣás, which means that the Sanskrit words come from the same origin of the English words, that is, Proto-Indo-European .
Who writes these etymological curiosities? They should at least check what the very dictionary they volunteer or work at says!
According to this article, the countries east to India are known as “Far East” and the countries west to India are known as “Near East”. Could anyone tell me, where actually India lies. Is it known as “Just East”? Roman of British, people from ancient empires wished to arrange the globe as they wanted.
lol Australia would be neither, it would be south
I think of the Middle East as including countries as far West as Morocco and as far West as Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula. Essentially, my definition of the Middle East is also the popular definition of the Arab world. It just depends who you talk to. I’m a college student, and a lot of my classes on the “Middle East” also include Turkey and Iran which, of course, are not part of the Arab speaking world. However, politically (I’m a Foreign Affairs Major) those two countries are heavily involved in the politics of the Arab World. In my Middle Eastern Studies Seminar (capstone for the Middle Eastern Studies Major and not overtly political — it’s supposed to be a more holistic examination of the Middle East) we’ve spent the past couple of weeks on Iran.
I find myself classifying things more based on politics than anything else. ‘The West’ includes Europe, the Americas (though thinking about it, I realize I don’t really classify some of the dictatorships in South and Central America as the ‘West.’ Cuba, for example.) Australia, and, perhaps, Israel. Though I am a little conflicted about Israel. They proclaim themselves to be an enclave of the West in the Middle East, however, so I will add them to the list. For me ‘the West’ is synonymous with ‘Democracy’ and liberal principles. Language means so much and it’s interesting to think about how much it affects out thought process. Even words that are supposed to be relativistic to geographic location have political implications.
Archon: A better translation of “Mediterranean” might be “in the midst of land,” as it is a mostly-landlocked sea. It’s China who puts herself at the center of the world; the Chinese name “Zhongguo” literally means “Middle Country.”
Editors: Regarding Sanskrit origins of these words: Your own dictionary reads: “related to … Sanskrit usās…” and “cf. Skt. ushas ‘dawn’…” Similar with “west.”
Most European words (these included) are in no sense “derived from” Sanskrit; more accurately, Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, and Germanic languages all derive from a common reconstructed ancestor called “Proto-Indo-European.”
That was sloppy writing.
@ marry torres
READ THE BIBLE PROPERLY!!!! IT DOES NOT SAY THAT!!!!!!!!
and to the rest of you guys, I LIKE TRAINS!
I’m from the east lol
ppl are going gaga over the mayan calendar thing.. but the Bible does not state a time or date of the end of the world. its only based on events..
The sun always rises in the East
@ mary torres so loved
I have no idea what Bible you read if you say that. Either the Mayans have a Bible that I never heard of, or maybe I haven’t read the Bible correctly. Feel free to post the chapter and verse if you can prove me wrong so I can find out.
Are these ppl as stupid as I think?or am I?
@mary torres so loved
The world is NOT going to end on Dec. 21, 2012. Read the Gospel of Matt. 23-24 to find out about the end times. I have firm conviction that it won’t. I turn 18 two days later.
Neither “east” nor “west” are derived from Sanskrit words. Rather, the words are cognate to each other, as both English and Sanskrit share a common ancestor (what is called Proto-Indo-European).
This is a little confusing, but yet, it does make sense.
“IN THE BIBLE IT SAYS THAT THE WORLD WILL END ON DECEMBER 2012″
for the intellectual types who post this sort of thing: the bible doesn’t say that. that’s from the mayan calendar, written hundreds of years later. in addition, the bible predates the b.c./a.d. calendar system and so there is no 2012 in the bible. and on the same topic, the world is not going to “end”. what would that entail? the bible is a book, written over the course of thousands of years, by many different people, and has been rewritten and edited to suit the political needs of the ruling class more times than anybody can pinpoint. it’s a collection of myths and folklore that can be used to manipulate people pretty effectively. it does not predict the “end of the world”. or anything else. there are some good lessons in there, to be sure, but it isn’t a history book or a book of verified facts. it’s a storybook.
Confusing, sorry to say, as usual; eg, it, the article, didn’t let us know the countries in Middle East though “Oddly, in Asia, what we call the “Middle East” is called “Western Asia.”– un4tunately, this part still doesn’t make sense & remain confused.
Learned a lot about the certain regions in Asia; however, some GAPs left behind, perhaps. Now if Nr East is the SOUTH WEST Asia and the countries belonging to it are Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Israel. Saudi Arabia and other of its community countries… then, WEST Asia… where is it, what is it and who/what countries belong to it?
The article is a kind of political–unfortunately– indirect praise of past atrocities of certain culture claiming & enjoying to be in today’s so called global community friendship; hence, perahaps it is better to avoid such that is past glory….
4give me I thought it was Usha!–that is dawn or morning in Sanskrit.
Thanks 4 using & noting Sanskrit terms for EAST/West etc; recognizing Sanskrit’s cotribution to world culture.
So, according to article what is the answer? Im not satisfied…
ok damb dig deal leave me alone already gosh !
@joan thanks for the comment!
im only 16 stop yelling at me my goodness people ! say somthing nice for once !
@john yup lol
@zach thank you that tells these people alot im right and there wrong lol haha
@marry torres… You are only 16? Based on your comments I thought you are 10 max.
@wondering what comments how old are you? are you being mean when you said that ?
O.G.T s count down started ahhh i have 9 days i go to school (ecot)
talk that talk !
talk that all you want to did you are a girl.
Ben, at the poles the sun would not rise in the east and set in the west. At the north pole it would rise in the south and set in the south, and at the south pole it would rise in the north and set in the north.
@oniya yah and what of it
how do you know my name
@oniya are you talking to me ?
@ Ben @ nate
Actually If you are standing on the north pole, the sun technically rises in the south (in March) and then sets … in the south (in late September). But you’d have to keep moving to stay at the north pole and experience a complete cycle, as the polar ice cap is in constant motion.
The south pole is exactly the opposite. The sun rises and sets in the north, and you may stand on it and not move due to the antarctic land mass. Well, technically, I guess you’d be spinning due to the earth’s rotation.
Every religion is a load of crap.
JUST MAKE UP UR MIND!!!! ARE YOU IN THE MIDDLE OR ARE U IN THE EAST? >:(
When will the world have sense?
“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace” -Hendrix
that is good for me
I am reading this article now. I am on the second paragraph. I will correct your mistakes. You’re welcome.
“East” is cognate with Sanskrit. It is not derived from Sanskrit. A big difference. Do you understand?
The etymology of the English word east can be found in any Etymological Dictionary, or in most un-abridged English dictionaries. To say that the English for ‘east’ and ‘west’ “come from” Sanskrit is like saying that you “come from” your paternal great-uncle. No, you come from your father, who comes from your grand-parents, whose BROTHER is your great-uncle.
What confuses you is that Sanskrit was written down before the oldest Germanic (where English comes from) language was written down.
As for your explanation of the rest of it (after your oh-so-erudite explanation of the etymology of East and West), as far as I’m concerned, the terms are somewhat fluid.
But I wouldn’t look to you for an explanation of anything.