Asia’s name comes from ancient Greek, where the term was applied to what is now Anatolia after first just describing the east bank of the Aegean Sea. The term was later applied to lands further and further east, and Anatolia was differentiated by calling it “Asia Minor.”
The Romans called modern-day Tunisia, the part of Africa closest to them, “Africa terra”, or “land of the Afris,” after a tribe from northern Africa, near Carthage. As with Asia, the name applied to a small part of the continent was progressively applied to the whole, sped by middle-ages exploration of Africa.
America, both North and South, were most likely named for Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci, who himself was named for Hungary’s Saint Emeric. Vespucci’s explorations of the coasts of modern-day Venezuela and Brazil led him to propose these unknown lands were actually part of a new continent, which proved to be quite correct.
Antarctica, from the Greek “antarktike” means the opposite to the Arctic, with this continent being on the other side of the globe as the Arctic. “Arctic” comes from “Arktos,” or “bear” in Greek, since the bear constellations, Ursa Minor and Major, are seen in the Northern Hemisphere and point to the North Star.
When English explorer Matthew Flinders first sailed around Australia, the maps printed after his journey called it “Terra Australis” (“Southern Land”), although “Australia,” which the navigator himself preferred, eventually won out as the common name.
Three prominent theories about Europe’s name:
-That it came from “erebu” an Akkadian word meaning “sunset,” since Europe was west, toward the sunset, from Mesopotamia where the word originated.
-That is is named for the Greek goddess Europa.
-That it comes from the Greek words for “wide” and “eye,” or “wide gazing” since Europe’s shoreline would have looked comparatively very wide to Greek mariners.
Thousands of islands in the Pacific Ocean are part of what is called Oceania, a term which often includes Australia and the submerged continent of Zealandia. “Okeanos” was the name of the great water body which ancient Greeks believed surrounded the Earth.