Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The ancient Romans used the name Africa terra --- "land of the Afri" (plural, or "Afer" singular) --- for the northern part of the continent, corresponding to modern-day Tunisia. The origin of Afer may be the Phoenician afar, dust; the Afridi tribe, who dwelt in Northern Africa around the area of Carthage; Greek aphrike, without cold; or Latin aprica, sunny.
So-named after the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci (who styled himself Americus Vespucius in Latin), who, following his four voyages to the Americas, first developed the idea that the newly discovered western lands were in fact a continent. In recognition thereof, the German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller named the new continent after the Italian explorer's first name. (See also Naming of America.)
A few alternative theories regarding the continent's naming have been proposed, but none of them have any widespread acceptance. One alternative first proposed by a Bristol antiquary and naturalist, Alfred Hudd, was that America is derived from Richard Amerike, a merchant from Bristol, England who is believed to have financed John Cabot's voyage of discovery to Newfoundland in 1497. Waldseemüller's maps appear to incorporate information from the early British journeys to North America. The theory holds that a variant of Amerike's name appeared on an early British map (of which however no copies survive) and that this was the true inspiration for Waldseemüller. (See more at Richard Amerike).
Originally from Greek antarktikos, from anti + arktikos "arctic". Literally "opposite the Arctic". Arktikos comes from Arktos, the Greek name for the constellation of the Great Bear Ursa Major, visible only in the Northern Hemisphere.
In early Classical times, the term "Asia" referred only to the small region known today as Anatolia (a part of Turkey). Eventually however, the name came to denote the much larger land area with which we associate it today.
The etymology of Asia can only be guessed at. The strongest possibility is that it derives from a borrowed Semitic root "Asu", which means varyingly 'rising' or 'light', of course a directional referring to the sunrise, Asia thus meaning 'Eastern Land'.
From the Latin, 'Unknown Southern Land' (Latin - Terra Australis Incognita)
The term "Europe" referred once to only a small land area, roughly that part of Thrace that is now part of Turkey. Through the centuries however, it came to denote the whole land mass with which we are familiar today.
The ultimate etymology of the Greek term "Europa" is unknown. One stronger possibility is that it derives from the ancient Sumerian and Semitic root "Ereb", which carries the meaning of "darkness" or "descent", a reference to the region's western location in relation to Mesopotamia, the Levantine Coast, Anatolia, and the Bosporus. Thus the term would have meant the 'land of the setting of the Sun' or, more generically, 'Western land'.
Ancient civilization offers a folk-etymology: In Greek mythology Europa was the beautiful daughter of a Phoenician king named Agenor, or Phoenix. As Zeus saw her, he transformed himself into a gentle white bull and approached her and her playing friends. She climbed onto the bull's back and it began so swim off to Crete, where she fell in love with the then-changed-back Zeus and had three sons with him (Minos, Rhadamanthus and Sarpedon, the first two of which constitute, together with Aeacus, the three judges of the underworld).
By Cartographic Feature
Main article: list of country name etymologies
Main article: List of subnational name etymologies
- List of generic forms in British place names
- Etymological list of counties of Romania
- Etymological list of counties of the United Kingdom
- German placename etymology
- Maghreb toponymy
- Place names in Irish
Main article: List of street name etymologies
Main articles: List of river name etymologies, List of sea name etymologies
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