Oc·​ci·​dent ˈäk-sə-dənt How to pronounce Occident (audio)

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You may not be reflecting on the history of the word Occident as you watch a beautiful sunset, but there is a connection. Occident, which comes from Latin occidere, meaning "to fall," once referred to the part of the sky in which the sun goes down. Geoffrey Chaucer used the word in that now-obsolete sense around 1390 in The Man of Law's Tale. In an earlier work, The Monk's Tale, which was written circa 1375, he used the word in the "western regions and countries" sense that we still use. Exactly what is meant by "western" is not always the same. Originally, Occident referred to western Europe or the Western Roman Empire. In modern times, it usually refers to some portion of Europe and North America as distinct from Asia. The opposite of Occident is Orient, which comes from Latin oriri ("to rise").

Word History


Middle English, borrowed from Anglo-French, borrowed from Latin occident-, occidens "the part of the sky where the sun sets, the west," noun derivative of present participle of occidere "to be struck down, die, sink below the horizon (of the sun or other heavenly bodies)," from oc-, assimilated variant of ob- ob- + cadere "to fall" — more at chance entry 1

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of Occident was in the 14th century


Dictionary Entries Near Occident

Cite this Entry

“Occident.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Occident. Accessed 24 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


Oc·​ci·​dent ˈäk-səd-ənt How to pronounce Occident (audio)

Middle English occident "the West," from early French occident (same meaning), from Latin occident-, occidens "the West, the part of the world lying in the direction in which the sun sets, the part of the world opposite the Orient," derived from occidere "to fall, set behind the horizon," from oc-, ob- "toward, over" and cadere "to fall"

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