A Look at the Etymology of Continents
Aug 23, 2008 Other 2523 Views
Etymology is the study of the origin of a word. Etymologists use different methods to derive the origin of a word. This helps to have a better understand of a language's history and the many transformations that occurred in the language over time. Cultural and historical changes are seen through new words absorbed into a language and changes made to existing words. Whenever new lands were discovered, there were given names according to the land form. Very often these names came from other language, for example the English language has borrowed place names from other languages.
An interesting etymological study is the study of the origins of the name of continents. The word continent comes from the Latin word terra continens meaning continuous land.
Here's a look at the etymology of the seven continent names.
The word Africa comes from the word "Africa terra" meaning the land of the afri. This word was used by the ancient Romans to refer to the northern part of the continent, which in today's times is Tunisia.
The continent of America was named after the Italian explorer "Amerigo Vespucci", who was in turn named after Saint Americus of Hungary.
Antartica got it's name from the Greek word "antarktikos". The word antarktikos, is a combination of the Greek words "anti" and "arktikos", which means "opposite the Arctic".
Arctic come from the word "Arktikos" which comes from Arktos, the Greek name for the constellation of the Great Bear Ursa Major, visible only in the Northern Hemisphere.
The origin of the word Asia can only be guessed at. Most likely, it comes from the borrowed Semitic root "Asu", which means varyingly 'rising' or 'light', of course a directional referring to the sunrise, Asia thus meaning 'Eastern Land'.
The word Australia is derived from the Latin word "Australis", meaning of the South.
The name Europe cokes from the word "Europe", which is a compund word meaning "broad-faced" (referring to the Earth), eurus (PIE *wer-, "broad") meaning "broad" and ?ps (PIE *okw-, "eye") meaning "face".