Europe: Chasing the origins of its name

June 22, 2020
Names bind us to ideas of things. It is just another means to comprehend the universe. But, names are not hurled randomly. Europe, for example, as we know it, has a very interesting history as to how it actually came to be called "Europe".
There are a number of theories around the name "Europe". Let's start with Greek mythology, where Europa, the Phoenician princess, was kidnapped by Zeus. Well, since it was abduction done by a god, don't expect anything ordinary. Zeus turned into a bull, and when Europa took a liking to it, and sat on its back, he just took off, to far Crete! And then they fell in love, and had three sons together, including Minos, the one who built the labyrinth of the Minotaur! If you are a fan of Greek mythology, be sure to gently tuck this bizarre story at the back of your head.

That was from mythology. In the other theory, some scholars have also linked the name "Europe" to the Semitic Akkadian language. According to them, Europe had its origin in this language once spoken in Mesopotamia, where gharoobor erebu meant sunset. This will again need some explanation. For a Middle Eastern, the lands to the west, like Europe, are where the sun sets. Hence, this theory. This is supported by the supposed origin of the word asu, used to contrast with erebu, and believed to be the origin of Asia! It won't hurt to know a bit more, will it?
Again, let's separate the idea of Europe from the geographical location with which we are familiar. When Ptolemy made the world map in 2nd century CE, he mentioned Europe, which formed a part of the world. The world was divided into three parts by the Greeks back then. Coming to linguistics, for there's one more theory, the Greek words eurys meant wide, and ops meant face, from which the present day name originated! The broad European shoreline might have attributed to this, again, when seen from the seafarers' perspective.

If you ever get a chance to visit Europe, don't forget to give the other tourists a taste of your general knowledge (You're welcome!), and give your tour guide a run for his job!

Post Written by - Lopamudra

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