Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Western lands or regions; the west.
  • n. The countries of Europe and the Western Hemisphere.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The part of the horizon where the sun last appears in the evening; that part of the earth towards the sunset; the west; – opposed to orient. Specifically, in former times, Europe as opposed to Asia; now, also, the Western hemisphere.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The part of the horizon where the sun last appears in the evening; that part of the earth towards the sunset; the west; -- opposed to orient. Specifically, in former times, Europe as opposed to Asia; now, also, the Western hemisphere.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The region of the setting sun; the western part of the heavens; the west: opposed to orient.
  • n. [cap. or lowercase] With the definite article, the west; western countries; specifically, those countries lying to the west of Asia and of that part of eastern Europe now or formerly constituting in general European Turkey; Christendom. Various countries, as Russia, may be classed either in the Occident or in the Orient.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. the countries of (originally) Europe and (now including) North America and South America
  • n. the hemisphere that includes North America and South America

Etymologies

Middle English, from Old French, from Latin occidēns, occident-, from present participle of occidere, to set (used of the sun); see occasion.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Old French occident, from Latin occidentem ("western sky, part of the sky in which the sun sets"), from occido ("go down, set") (Wiktionary)

Examples

Comments

Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • In my understanding, the original meaning of the word was to set, as in the sun, just as Orient comes from to rise, as in the sun. The sun rises in the east (orient) and sets in the west (Occident). Turkey was known as the Orient (by Romans) and as Anatolia (by Greeks, the word coming from the Greek for east). Eventually, it moved further east, until it reached china.

    August 21, 2008

  • so is South America. Yet when a person takes Western Lit, I doubt there is much from South America in his book or in the pedagogy. The America Columbus discovered seems to be, in the minds most people here in the US, to be that land mass in North America.

    August 21, 2008

  • And why is Western Hemisphere used instead of "the Americas"? Parts of Europe and Africa are in the Western Hemisphere.

    August 21, 2008

  • We say, "Western Literature," not, "Occidental Literature." Why?

    August 21, 2008

  • Thank you, mollusque.

    August 21, 2008

  • It refers to the setting sun, which falls toward the western horizon. From occidens, present participle of occidere to fall towards, set, die.

    August 21, 2008

  • opposite of orient. I love this word. It comes from the Latin meaning to kill or to slay. In pre-Columbian thought, people believed a ship would drop off the edge of the world if it went beyond the horizon. One might really die or be slain if one fell off the edge of the earth! So going west will result in an occidental event. If I am wrong about this word, please correct me. Any other ideas?

    August 21, 2008