March 03, 2013
occidental (adjective)
\ahk-suh-DEN-tul\ Hear it!
What does it mean?
1 : of, relating to, or located in the West : Western2 : of or relating to Western things
How do you use it?
Although California is the most occidental of the 48 continental United States, its coast was one of the first places to be visited by Europeans.
Are you a word wiz?

The origins of the word "occidental" are closely related to a natural event. Think about what the word means, then guess which of the following natural events played the greatest role in the development of "occidental."

Recalling that the sun sets in the west hopefully guided you to choose C. In ancient times, sailors had few precise maps or instruments to guide them on their voyages. They found their way by watching the positions of the sun and stars. "Occidental" (which means "Western") and its opposite "oriental" (which means "Eastern") are two words that owe much to sun-based navigation systems. "Occidental" derives from the Latin verb "occidere," which meant "to fall" or "to set." Originally, sailors used "occidental" to name the direction where the sun set. "Oriental" comes from the Latin "oriri," which means "to rise"; sailors used it for the direction in which the sun comes up.
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