Europe is a continent with a rich history and a smorgasbord of different cultures and lifestyles. It’s no wonder then that many of us consider Europe to be a continent of great importance and historical significance and that we should look at it with a certain reverence. Hence the nickname ‘The Old Continent’.
Actually the technically accurate nickname for Europe is ‘Vieux Continent’ which is the French term; ‘vieux’ of course meaning ‘old’. Another similar term is ‘The Old World’, though this also incorporates Africa and Asia. In the French the term is often used in place of the word ‘Europe’ and many people actually just translate the phrase as Europe ignoring the real translation. This is to say that the French use it more as a term of endearment almost/turn of phrase, rather than meaning anything typical by it.
The ‘Old Continent’ is a term that is then used less commonly in English speaking countries, though when it is used it is likely done so more in reference to the relative age of Europe and its lengthy history when compared to say America.
So just how old is Europe? Well, while Neanderthal man appeared in Europe around 150,000 years ago, and the European countries went through numerous significant historical changes following that, the continent was not actually first known as ‘Europe’ until the Hellenes began using the name ‘Europe’ to describe territories West of the Aegean Sea. It was then during the Roman Empire that the Romans adopted this name as ‘Europa’ and used it to describe the whole of the European continent as distinct from Asia (which is technically an ‘older continent’).
Of course the precise form of Europe would change many times after that point and continues to change today, as a political entity though the countries we consider ‘European’ have been known as such for some time and significantly longer than America. Which may explain it’s moniker of ‘The New World’.