While reading my text book, I came across the terms "Western Europe" and "West India". This strikes a question: Why do we use "Western" Europe and not use "West" Europe? The term "West India" also begs the same question. I have been searching for an answer to it for a long time, but failed. Please shed some light on the problem.


2 Answers 2


There is no single reason why, for example, western Europe came to be identified as Western Europe whereas eastern Africa came to be identified as East Africa. These are simply the names which were popularized. They will not follow any predictable pattern, and must simply be learned or looked up.

Indeed, you cannot expect consistency even among neighboring regions, and this is true not only of the cardinal directions, but of any number of other geographic modifiers, like Middle / Mid- vs Central. Consider the following:

  • West Michigan but Northern Michigan
  • East Side and West Side Vancouver, but South Vancouver
  • the Highlands, Lowlands, and Southern Uplands of Scotland
  • Upstate Delaware but Lower Delaware

Also see What is the difference between 'east Indian' and 'eastern Indian'?


"western", "northern", "southern", and "eastern" are all adjectives. They all mean "situated in, directed towards, originating from, or facing the"

"West India" is a name "West Indies or West India was the namesake of several companies of the 17th and 18th centuries, including the Danish West India Company, the Dutch West India Company, the French West India Company, and the Swedish West India Company."

  • In English, the adjectives often become part of the name of the official town or locality (Upper Providence, Nether Providence, Upper Merion, Lower Merion) or of a broadly recognized but unofficial region: Lower Delaware, the Upper Peninsula, etc.
    – TimR
    Jun 12, 2017 at 10:57

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