The word oriental is quite widely used. But its counterpart, occidental is not so popular, at least I don't hear it so often.

What's more, my contact with English is mostly by technical documentation, or documentaries, where many words considered sophisticated are widely used. How would it sound like for an average native speaker, if I would use the term occidental for example in occidental countries?


It would probably sound strange, and some people would probably not even understand it, at least partly because its use is rapidly declining:

First Ngram

If we compare occidental to western (using countries to filter out irrelevant results), we see that western is far more widely used than occidental:

Second Ngram

You are far more likely to be understood if you use western.

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    "Most people would probably not understand it"? Really? What kind of people? – tchrist Mar 7 '13 at 19:40
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    @tchrist The same people who can't tell its from it's, or then from than. – ctype.h Mar 10 '13 at 2:26

"Occident" and "occidental" are more dated than sophisticated. The term usually used nowadays is "western". "Occident(al)" might still be used appropriately in certain technical literature (anthropology?), or in the name of a publication or place, where it originated probably no later than the early 1900s.

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The word "occidental" is less common than just "Western". If you use it, you might sound sophisticated, but you might sound pretentious or just foreign.

I'd recommend "Western countries" or "the West" rather than "occidental countries".

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    Also it would sound weird and probably would not be understood, even by most very educated people. They'd probably first (in the US at least ) think 'Occidental College?' – Mitch Jan 29 '13 at 18:02
  • @Mitch Interesting! I'm surprised by "probably would not be understood, even by most very educated people". It certainly does sounds outmoded to me, but not so much that I'd expect it to be unfamiliar to many native speakers, let alone most. I imagine that if confusion resulted, it would be because the word sounds so similar to "accident", which is a much more common word. – snailplane Mar 10 '13 at 2:21
  • I would bet that a very large slice of the American pie would not know that orient and occident have anything to do with one another. Even my spellchecker doesn't like it. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Aug 9 '16 at 14:57

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