How Did Asia Get Its Name?

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The name of the continent of Asia was derived from a word in Ancient Greek and was used in Herodutus' Histories in 440 B.C. It is speculated that the name was in use long before its first appearance in text, but may have initially referred to only a small area of land on the eastern end of the Aegean Sea in an area referred to as Assuwa by the Hittites.

The origin of the name Asia may have roots that lie further back in history with possible derivations which are Aegean, Akkadian or Phoenician in nature. The Aegean word "Asis" was first used to refer to the eastern shore of the Aegean Sea. A potential Akkadian root is in the word "asu" which may mean "light" or "rising", which is thought to refer to the sunrise which rises from the east. The Phoenician word "asu," meaning "east," is another possible root for the Greek usage of Asia. When combined, the two meanings of "Asu" would mean that Asia refers to "the land of the sunrise."

The Romans also adopted the usage of "Asia" and further divided the continent into two provinces, "Asia Minor" and "Asia Major." Asia shares its name with a female deity in Greek legend.