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West is one of the four cardinal points . The adjective for this is western . This direction points parallel to the equator , against the rotation of the earth , i.e. towards sunset . Therefore, in many languages, decline is equated with the West (see also Occident and Occident ).

Poetic or no longer in use ways of speaking for the West are: evening or towards sunset . With regard to the westerly wind, the following is common: It is blowing a west or a violent west .

Mythology and symbolism

In ancient Greek, Dysis , goddess of the sunset , also a Roman Hore , stands for the west, since her task was, among other things, to guard a western gate.

In Nordic mythology , the four dwarfs Norðri, Suðri, Austri and Vestri wear the skull of Ymir , from which the Assir built the vault of heaven, Vestri is the dwarf of the west.

In China , the rooster branch (酉yǒu ) and the trigram swamp (兌duí ) symbolize the west direction.

The west in a figurative sense

In intellectual history, the concept of the Occident had developed for Europe , in which evening marks the direction of the compass "west" as the location of sunset, in contrast to the Orient in the east, where the sun rises. Since the times of classical Greece , the “West” (Europe) has been culturally delimited from the “East”, the Orient ( Asia ). Edith Hamilton is an important advocate of this view .

In the ethnic , historical and technical-historical sense, “West” denotes the whole of Europe, which has Indo-European origins, was shaped by Greco - Roman culture and Christian religion, and can point to a common history .

After 1938 the language of the “ democratic West” or the Western powers emerged as a contrast to the non-democratic states of Central and Eastern Europe .

In the political and cultural sense, the West is mainly understood to mean Western Europe and North America , which were most strongly influenced by the Renaissance , Reformation and Enlightenment , as well as revolutions and various movements of emancipation . However, the states of Central and Eastern Europe are currently becoming more and more similar politically and economically to Western Europe, for example by joining the European Union .

In post-war German history , “the West” was also used as the term for West Germany , the parts of Germany assigned to the Western powers as a western zone after the Second World War . The Federal Republic of Germany emerged from it. Today, the term “ Wessi ” is derived from it, a joking to pejorative term for residents of the Federal Republic of Germany during the GDR .

See also


  • Loren Baritz: The Idea of ​​the West. In: The American Historical Review. 66, 3, 1961, pp. 618-640.
  • Alastair Bonnett: The Idea of ​​the West: Culture, Politics and History. Basingstoke / New York 2004, ISBN 1-4039-0035-3 .
  • James G. Carrier (Ed.): Occidentalism: Images of the West. Oxford 1995, ISBN 0-19-827978-7 .
  • Anselm Doering-Manteuffel: How western are the Germans? Americanization and Westernization in the 20th Century. Göttingen 1999, ISBN 3-525-34017-6 .
  • Christopher GoGwilt: The Invention of the West: Joseph Conrad and the Double-Mapping of Europe and Empire. Stanford 1995, ISBN 0-8047-2401-6 .
  • Patrick Thaddeus Jackson: Civilizing the Enemy: German Reconstruction and the Invention of the West. Ann Arbor 2006, ISBN 0-472-06929-2 .
  • Thomas C. Patterson: Inventing Western Civilization. New York 1997, ISBN 0-85345-960-6 .
  • Heinrich August Winkler: What does a western community of values ​​mean? In: Heinrich August Winkler: Forever in Hitler's shadow? Notes on German history. Munich 2007, OCLC 473774707 , pp. 180-201.
  • Heinrich August Winkler: History of the West. Volume 1: From the beginnings in antiquity to the 20th century. Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-406-59235-5 .

Web links

Wiktionary: West  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations