Where does the word Europe come from?

If you answered that it was named after a woman with a big face, the goddess Europa, the ancient Greek word for shoreline or the ancient Phoenician word for ‘land of the setting sun’, you are – at least partly – correct. 

FIND OUT MORE:
To mark European Day of Languages (26th of September) we have answered this and several other questions about European languages, below.

European Day of Languages

  • Where does the word Europe come from?
  • What is the European Day of Languages?
  • How many languages are there in Europe?
  • What are the oldest languages in Europe?
  • How many European languages does Rosetta Stone teach?


Where does the word Europe come from?

The exact etymology of the word Europe is not certain, but these are the most commonly given answers to the question. For the Phoenicians, Europe was the land where the sun set – everywhere West of them. The Greek goddess Europa certainly featured in the ancient myths and though the size of her face is not certain, the ancient Greek words for wide and face suggest it’s a possibility (eurys and ops). The Greek word for shoreline or mainland also could be at the route of what we still call Europe.

What is the European Day of Languages?

The European Day of Languages is a chance to celebrate the cultural and linguistic diversity of Europe. Every 26th of September, schools, museums and communities mark the occasion with events and celebrations all over the continent. Now in its 20th year, the day is a good opportunity to celebrate all the richness of Europe and, of course, a great opportunity to start learning one of Europe’s many languages!

How many languages are there in Europe?

More than you might think. There are actually well over 200 languages spoken on the continent of Europe, though many of these are not national languages or ones you would expect to have to learn unless you were very local to the area. The European Union has 24 official languages.

What are the oldest languages in Europe?

Part of the mission of the European Day of Languages is to raise awareness about the shrinking diversity of languages on the continent.  Some of Europe’s oldest languages are also some of the most endangered ones. It’s hard to measure the age of a language, but those European languages thought to be the most ancient include Basque, Gaelic, Greek and Lithuanian.

How many European languages does Rosetta Stone teach?

Twelve of the 24 languages Rosetta Stone teaches are European. Dutch, French, German, Greek, Irish (Gaelic), Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, English. With Rosetta Stone Unlimited you can access all of them in just one account.

Explore 24 languages in one account

About the Author Simon Goodall

Language learner, teacher and contributing author to the Rosetta Stone magazine