Talk:Western Hemisphere

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What is the population?[edit]

What is the population of the Western Hemisphere, and any is it not included? (talk) 05:01, 26 September 2010 (UTC)

Error in history[edit]

Apparently my recent error caused an error; I presume the revision that was most recent when I edited, somehow got lost. If you look at the most recent diff [1], you will see an entire parenthesis added by me; however, I didn't actually add any of that text, but merely the quotation marks around "western". — Timwi 14:04, 26 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Is it not just a political expression from USA ?[edit]

I think that using this expression in the meaning of the American continent is a very specific United Statian expression (that should be precised that it is not international english). I have never heard it used by english or australian peoples. I personnally think it is just a way to mean all America (the continent) while continuing to call the United States just "America". In the same time, since USA is now the economic leader of the western civilisation (countries of European culture), it widely use the term "western" to speak only about everything that is United-statian and not what is European. In that sence, using the term western hemisphere centers the western civilisation over the United States and include all America (the continent ) in the sphere of influence of that country. In fact I found it quite clear that this expression is not at all used as a geographic one, but is just a polital tool to marginalise Europeans from their own civilisation.

Actually, I never even heard of the term in this sense before I read this article. And I've done a lot of travelling and talking to people from all over the world, including from the US. Maybe I've always 'misinterpreted' it (taking it literally). But Wikipedia is rather dominated znbgSJRYVGJby people from the US. Anything to do with the America/USA/'the Americas' is very hard to get right because it constantly gets frustrated by editors from the US. It was even hard to change this article so that it would first state what 'western hemisphere' means and then to explain that it also has another meaning, even though I put both in the first sentence. I'm surprised that the suggestion that America is a continent hasn't been attacked yet. (maybe I shouldn't have said this .... :) ) DirkvdM 07:11, 11 August 2005 (UTC)
I agree with the first speaker; this is the sense in which American politicians use it all the time, leaving me baffled whether Americans actually know what the term "really" (i.e. geographically) means. Also you don't have the travel all that far to encounter it! Just watch or read the media. (talk) 20:05, 21 March 2012 (UTC)

I disagree with the first poster, because America is the United States, it isn't North America and South America as he is trying to make it out to be. The United States has always been called America, which is why its people are called Americans. We are not called United States-ers. Yet, for some reason there is this small, deep, insane cult-lke people that are trying to tag that name to mean everything in North America and South America; and that just isn't so. America is not a continent as the poster is saying, you sound silly. The two continents are North America and South America. Like most things in the world, some people find it easier to have short-cuts when they write or say things. In this case, you may see the term the Americas. That means someone is referring to North America and South America together, and they didn't want to take the time to write or say North America and South America; -get it? the Americas, that's all it means. However, when you say America, you are referring to the United States; no ifs, ands, or buts about it. When you say the Americas, that is any location or country within North America or South America; and one of those locations could, yes, be America. As far as the countries that are in North America or South America, their names are what they are -whether it be Brazil, Chile, Mexico, or Cuba, and they are in the Americas, if I care to use that term. But they are not America, and there's nothing wrong with that. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:37, 23 May 2012 (UTC)

Well, yes and no, because the term "America" can refer to either the USA as a shorthand or the Americas. There is a difference in the main usage in different parts of the world. Often it doesn't matter since context makes it clear what is meant ("America has won the most medals at the Olympic games" - we don't add up for continents. "You can cross America via the Panama Channel" - well, most certainly it's not the USA what's meant here. Only sometimes confusion can arise - what is the largest city in America? Depends what you're meaning. So no, while where you are, America may always refer to the USA, that isn't true for everywhere else. Not even in the English speaking world. Also see the respective articles on Wikipedia on that topic. --Ulkomaalainen (talk) 22:52, 26 August 2012 (UTC)

What is a hemisphere?[edit]

Now, Northern and Southern Hemispheres make sense, because they always stay pretty much in the North and South. As for East and could that possibly be, since something that is 'West' one minute is 'East' the next, due to the earth's rotation?

A sphere is a ball-shaped object. Hemi means half. So a hemisphere is half a ball. The Earth is sort of a ball, so a hemisphere is in this sense one half of the Earth. That's what the word means, litterally. Indeed, where the line is drawn (through Greenwich) is euro-centric. But regarding America as the western hemisphere is, I assume, based on that (on what else?), so that is equally euro-centric. So this article is just plain wrong. What is presented as a suggestion (between brackets even) is actually the basic truth. The rest is a misinterpretation. At least, that's what logic dictates. And what my dictionary says. DirkvdM 20:30, 2005 Jun 8 (UTC)

What, exactly, is wrong about the article in your opinion? And what exactly does your dictionary say? -- My dictionary ( says for "hemisphere": "the northern or southern half of the earth divided by the equator or the eastern or western half divided by a meridian", which does not contradict the article as far as I can see. Chl 23:30, 8 Jun 2005 (UTC)
This is one of those times when I firmly support presenting the common use along with the "technical use" (in quotes because I don't think geologists bother with the rather useless term). If it's generally accepted that Western Hemisphere means the Americas, then we need to say so. It's not Wikipedia's job to reform the language. -- Dpark 17:05, 11 Jun 2005 (UTC)
Indeed. But the question is what comes first. It is unlikely that someone came up with the term 'western hemisphere' (out of the blue) and then realised that, hey, that term already has another meaning that almost (but not quite) coincides with his definition. Of course this is the other way around. So in my proposal (below) I folowed that order and put the literal meaning first. I think you've got geology and geography mixed up. But first of all it's a geometric term, which can be applied to the Earth. You talk about not reforming the language, but my proposal comes largely from a sickly linguistic purism :) DirkvdM 05:55, 2005 Jun 12 (UTC)

I am Dutch, and so is my dictionary (van Dale, the de facto 'official' Dutch dictionary), which goes a bit further by specifying the meridian; "Hemisphere: each of the halves of the Earth's or celestial sphere". It then goes on to first specify the eastern and western hemispheres (so that is not just an analogy, as the article suggests) as separated by the prime meridian. No reference to the 'Old' and 'New' World. follows suit in its definition of hemisphere (adding that it can also mean the inhabitants of that hemisphere), but in its definition of western hemisphere it seems to deviate by saying it comprises North and South America. However, it doesn't say it doesn't comprise anything else. I'm not sure if that is intentional, but it does leave the option open. Maybe I'd better explain what I mean by writing a proposal for the article (the related articles might then get a similar treatment):

The term Western Hemisphere can mean either the half of the Earth west of the prime meridian or the major landmass on that half, namely the continent America (aka the Americas).

The word hemisphere literally means 'half ball' and in geography the term is used to divide the Earth in two halves. The most obvious dividing line is the equator, creating the northern and southern hemisphere. If a meridian is used (actually two meridians at opposite sides of the Earth), you get a western and an eastern hemisphere. However, which meridian is to be used is rather arbitrary. Usually the zero meridian is used, which runs through Greenwich to define the international date line at the other side of the Earth at the 180° line of longitude. Still, one might argue that this is a eurocentric choice. If the 180° line of longitude were taken as the line of reference, the terms would be reversed and the western hemisphere would coincide largely with Eurasia and Africa rather than America. Note that this problem does not exist with the northern and southern hemisperes because they have absolute reference points, the north and south poles.

The terms are also used to designate the people living in that hemisphere and thus the terms eastern hemisphere and western hemisphere have received the more geopolitical than geograhical meanings of old world and new world. So, in this sense, western hemisphere has come to mean the Americas, excluding parts of Africa, Europe and Asia from the definition. The term eastern hemisphere is not commonly used in this sense.

This seems not only more correct but also a lot clearer to me.

I'm not sure about calling the distinction geopolitical. It's not really about politics is it? If it's just another name for America, then it's still geographical, right? Anyway, aren't the terms northern and southern hemisphere also used in a similar sense, designating rich and poor countries (which is also flawed, by the way)? And who uses the term western hemisphere for America? I never heard of it in this sense (and I'm over 40, university educated and well travelled, so it's not for lack of experience). Is this a US thing? What about inhabitants of Latin America? And the British Isles (for linguistic reasons)? If that usage is typical for a specific part of the world, then that should be pointed out in the text.

I now wonder if the articles on the eastern and western hemispheres should not be merged. They are rather short and there's a fair bit of overlap. Maybe even merge all four hemispheres? DirkvdM 09:02, 2005 Jun 9 (UTC)

No reactions after a month, so I've put my text in the article. This will probably inspire reactions, so I haven't yet done any of the meging I suggested. Actually, I'm not sure now about merging with the eastern hemisphere because that would create an article with a double header. Unless all the geographical hemisperes are merged into one article called Hemisphere (geography). DirkvdM July 9, 2005 19:08 (UTC)

Although this might sound counter-intuitive, it is absurd to write a wikipedia article based solely on the literal meaning of a word; etymology does not necessarily dictate meaning and usage. I just checked and and both of them agree: western hemisphere denotes the half of the earth comprising No. and So. America and surrounding waters. I think that the omittance of any other landmass is intentional, and I also think that you cannot assume an implied ambiguity of definiton (in contrast to connotation) in, of all things, a dictionary.
A quick google search for western hemisphere will bring up a number of web sites that use the term western hemisphere to denote the Americas, such as a US Government website, containing a map of the Americas (Europe and Africa omitted), as well as a lesson plan on the western hemisphere, which also makes no mention of the parts of Europe and Africa that may or may not be in the western hemiphere. And of course there is the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network, Conserving shorebirds across the Americas.
Note also that the previous version of the article did in fact state that the western hemipshere included The Americas (not America i.e. the US), as well as surrounding islands. I'm not sure what point you're trying to make by bringing up the British Isles and Latin America.
I think the word hemisphere in northern hemisphere and southern hemisphere can and should be taken literally due to the fact that the notion of an equator is well-defined, and that the dichotomy carries with it some explanatory power. If I say "I am in the northern hemisphere," then I know that any shadows that I see will move clockwise as the day passes. If I say "I am in the southern hemipshere and it is december," then it's safe to say that I'm not wearing a winter coat. The terms eastern hemisphere and western hemisphere have no such explanatory power (that I can immediately see) when you consider the literal meaning of hemisphere. Furthermore these hemispheres, as you have pointed out, are not well-defined! And their definitions as a geological divide are in fact arbitrary!
For this article to consist of, for the most part, a discussion of the western hemisphere's literal meaning is not only misleading, but somewhat silly. I think that more emphasis should be placed on its actual usage (which can be inferred from the aforementioned google search and dictionary defintions). seliopou 06:29, 29 July 2005 (UTC).Give to HAITI a rasom of live.

It's not solely based on the literal meaning. The explanation in the second paragraph starts with it, but that's just a starting point to come to the other meaning (which is mentioned at the top). By the way, the dictionary you mention actually supports the literal meaning. It says 'comprises', which doesn't mean it doesn't comprise anything else.
Where did I bring up the British Isles and Latin America?
As you point out (with exclamation marks!), I state those those things that needed to be stated. I just wanted to make the story clearer. The main reason I did this is that in the Netherlands, and I suppose in many other contries, the term does not mean 'America'. Actually, it doesn't mean anything because it isn't used. Hence the explanation. So what is 'actual usage'? What you are referring to is mentioned in the top. What else can one say about it? If you just state that, you've got a (incomplete) dictionary entry. The point of an encyclopedia is to explain. DirkvdM 19:50, 29 July 2005 (UTC)

Search for "British Isles" on the talk page and you will see where you mention them.
Again, your argument based on the meaning of comprise is not valid. I can say that the United States comprises fifty states. By your interpretation, the statement "The United States includes Canada" would be a true statement, if all I knew of the U.S. was that it comprises fifty states. We are dealing with a dictionary definition, which is, by definition, definitive.
Reading the previous version of this page, I don't see why you think it is incomplete. It mentions everything that you have mentioned, but draws slightly more attention to its actual usage, as opposed to etymology and literal meaning, which you have chosen to emphasize as its actual meaning (you have also admitted on this talk page that this may have been your own mistaken interpretation). I've provided you with two recognized and authoritative entities that use the term "western hemisphere" to denote North and South America (here and here).
Having said that, I feel as if the page should be reverted to the original version.
Oh, and please indent your responses :-). -seliopou 01:03, 15 August 2005 (UTC)
seliopou is right. If the intended meaning of "comprise" in the definition were "include", then the definition would have just used the latter instead of using a less common definition of the former and allowing ambiguity. "Comprise" generally means "made up of", and if you see it in a dictionary you can assume that's what they mean because dictionary writers strive above all to be precise and unambiguous.
But if that's not good enough for you, look at the definition of "Eastern Hemisphere" - it's supposed to be "The half of the earth comprising Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia." I think it's fair to assume that the eastern and western hemispheres are disjoint, so since the Eastern Hemisphere includes Europe and Africa, they must not be part of the Western. So the Western Hemisphere consists precisely of the two Americas and nearby land masses.
Note also that the article is about the Western Hemisphere, not the western hemisphere - the proper noun, not the phrase. So in fact, the first sentence of the article as it is now isn't even true because while "western hemisphere" might mean the half of the Earth west of the prime meridian, "Western Hemisphere" doesn't. Whatever you might think the definition of the term should be based on the meanings of the words it comprises is irrelevant. The term has an accepted meaning which the article should be based on. The old version had enough discussion about possible ambiguities in geometrically determining the two hemispheres anyway. Pubbawup 05:24, 15 August 2005 (UTC)
I haven't been following this and accidentally stumbled upon the revert. Anyway, I still think the build-up of my version is clearer. First make clear the different meanings of the word, then give an etymological explanation and then some 'afterthoughts'. There are three aspect in play here; the content (which is largely the same in both versions), the build-up (which I wanted to improve) and the wording, which can cause some controversy (but let me not get ahead of things).
So I've tried to adapt my version more in accordance with the old version. I've also added a demographic bit I'm not too sure about. But since it's the structure I'm mainly interested in, if anyone wants something changed, could you possibly adapt my version, in stead of reverting it?
Is there no better alternative for 'capitalised'? Such as Western Hemisphere (as a phrase) is a geopolitical term.... Or as a single term? The terminology is on the tip of my tongue, but it doesn't quite surface.
One more thing. The old version states that there is no physically-based boundary for the Western Hemisphere. First, this should not be capitalised, by Pubbawup's reasoning. Secondly, there is no physically-based boundary for the northern/southern hemisphere either. The equator is also a geometric superposition, which just happens not to be so ambiguous. And the way the eurocentricity is explained is a bit odd. DirkvdM 08:40, 2 September 2005 (UTC)

Spheres and balls[edit]

Actually in a strict mathematical sense a sphere and a ball are two different things: the former being hollow. However, this is geography not mathematics, I guess. Jimp 25Nov05

Doesn't sphere simply not specify what's inside (and could thus be non-hollow). Also, a ball can be 'empty' too, like a football (if you don't count the air). Anyway, the term is 'hemisphere', so the very subject of the article would then be a misnomer. That is, however, too much of a technicality to mention, I'd say. And to pick your nits, so to say, it's geometry, not mathematics, right? DirkvdM 10:32, 25 November 2005 (UTC)

Current definition of Western Hemisphere[edit]

Since Cape Dezhnev, Russia the eastmost point of Sibiria has the longitude 169°43' West, Cape Dezhnev – in the false current system – well belongs to the western hemisphere. This article, i.m.h.o., should respect that and not try to redefine a new improbable "15/32-sphere".

Also see: The hexadecimal Earthgrid, Hexadecimal time and the discussion Hexadecimal metric system.

Paul Martin 15:54, 20 December 2005 (UTC)

I don't think it's trying to define the phrase, the article is reflecting the ways people use the term. We may not agree with a usage, but if it exists in widespread usage, it should be reflected, in context of course. - DavidWBrooks 16:58, 20 December 2005 (UTC)

What does this mean "people": private persons, journalists, politicians or geographer?
I think the term "western hemisphere" is in at first a geographical term. Therefore the definition of the geographers should be authoritative, first exposed and illustrated. Since "hemi" says "half", and Greenwich is presently the recognised Meridian Zero, the western hemisphere goes from Greenwich to 180°W.

Then, the "geopolitical term" is term of the times of the Cold War, and meaned the "Western World" from the Iron Curtain to Hawaii, including generally also Australia and New Zealand etc. "The Americas and nearby islands" can't be called Hemisphere, because that's only about 3/8 of the world. The Americas are the Americas. But this is not identical with the "western hemispere".

After, we can inser one or two phrases treating abusive or improper use by some journalists or politicans.

At last, we can note, that the Bering Strait since ever has been considered as a kind of natural West–East line. World maps, generally, go from about 169°W to 169°W, with a center at about 11° Est. (Today some prefer 11°15' Est of Greenwich.)

Paul Martin 19:26, 22 December 2005 (UTC)

I agree with putting the literal meaning first. But I wrote it the way it is now to avoid getting completely reverted (having learned from irritating experience). When people have grown up with a certain meaning of a word then it is very difficult to make them accept another meaning. And since most editors on the English Wikipedia are from the US (for various logical reasons) they will not easily accept a different meaning as the first interpretation. But if you're not afraid of revert wars, then feel free and do your worst. :) DirkvdM 11:52, 23 December 2005 (UTC)
If a certain usage is widely accepted by lots of people, then shouldn't it be prominent in an encyclopedia, even if you don't use it/like it? - DavidWBrooks 13:49, 23 December 2005 (UTC)
It's not a matter of liking the usage or not. I always prefer a logical ordering, with the literal and/or original meaning first and then the derived meaning. That's also more chronologically correct. As for who uses it and what for is debatable. As I understand it, only in the US is it used in the sense of 'America' (or 'the Americas' as that's called in the US - another one of those troublesome terms). I only recently learned this meaning. Actually as far as I know the term is rarely used around here (Netherlands), but I'd interpret it in the literal sense and I suppose most people will. The Dikke van Dale (the de facto official Dutch dictionary) gives only the literal meaning of eastern and western hemisphere being separated by the zero meridian. I wouldn't go so far as to call the US usage abusive or improper, as Paul does, but it is a less logical term used only in a small part of the world (however big you might feel yo uare :) ). As far as I know, that is. Can you give examples of the usage of the term elsewhere? DirkvdM 08:40, 24 December 2005 (UTC)
How about this usage from the International Planned Parenthood Federation - as you can see on the map of their regions [2] (hope that insanely long URL works!) Or search "Western Hemisphere" inside the UN Web side; i think you'll find it often used as shorthand for "the Americas". - DavidWBrooks 14:56, 24 December 2005 (UTC)
I think you'll find that both of those organisations use American English. I've certainly never heard the term used by non-AE speakers. And my dictionary (Oxford Concise) does not list the term "Western Hemisphere", but under "Hemisphere" it lists as one of the meanings "A half of the earth, usually as divided into northern and southern halves by the equator, or into western and eastern halves by an imaginary line passing through the poles", so like DirkvdM has encountered, Oxford only notes a strictly literal usage of the term. I think we can safely conclude that the usage meaning "the Americas" is limited to American English. RMoloney (talk) 17:33, 24 December 2005 (UTC)

(I'm not indenting my response further because excess indenting gets ridiculous!) This is an interesting discussion ... and it sounds as if the article would be fine if it was flipped, with the literal world-as-ball definition first, and a secondary paragraph explaining how it can also be used as a synonym for "New World". - DavidWBrooks 17:42, 24 December 2005 (UTC)

By the way, it's interresting to see what Wikipedias in other languages say.

The Dutch article is rather short, just giving the literal definition, but then adding "Although many European contries are reconned to be part of the Western World, they are largely situated in the Eastern Hemisphere".
The Spanish article seems inspired by the English one, but adapted; it consists of three parts, first a short intro that gives both meanings, with the literal meaning first, then the longest bit that appears to be a translation from the English article and then finally a few lines about the geopolitical meaning. Interresting note: despite its shortness, the intro finds place to take a stab at the 'Americanism' (or should I say US-ism?) of calling the American continent 'the Americas'. Of course, especially the Spanish are offended by the suggestion that 'their America' is not America.
The Portuguese article contains only two lines, giving only the literal meaning.
The French article is very short. The intro gives the literal meaning and is followed by a one-line section that gives the geopolitical meaning.
I don't speak Polish, but the Polish article consists of three short paragraphs, with 'America' mentioned only in the last one. Interrestingly, it also makes a reference to the Monroe Doctrine.
Considering the size of the German Wikipedia it is surprising there is no article on the subject. May I conclude on a limb that Germans don't consider it a sufficiently important term.

Trivium: In my search for info on the subject on the German site I found an interresting map in the dateline article. Apparently, the US gave the dateline a huge dent to include the Philippines in the first half of the 20th century (until they regained independence). :) DirkvdM 08:58, 4 January 2006 (UTC)

Modernity is when precisely?[edit]

The article says "Usage has shifted in modernity". But modernity is a very vague term. To an architect 'modern' may refer to modernism (20th century) and to a biologist to modern man (last ten thousand years? (don't know really)). In order to preevent confusion by people filling the word in differently I suggest either dropping it or (preferably) filling it in. When did the usage change to mean America? DirkvdM 08:43, 4 February 2006 (UTC)

I would say that "Usage has shifted in modernity" is just flat wrong, and moreover that those using the term "Western hemisphere" have *never* (ok, hardly ever) applied it to anything other than the Americas. The term originated in the 16th C with that meaning, and the yellow map on the right of the article showing Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and Spain as part of the western hemisphere looks like something the Flat Earth Society might have dreamed up. The very concept of London's West End being part of the western hemisphere was impossible prior to 1884 when the Prime Meridian was west of Africa.

The root misconception here is to consider the concept as being tied more or less precisely to the first or prime meridian. Now that *is* a much more precise notion to whoever uses it, although the history of its usage between the 2nd century BC and 1884, when it finally settled down within meters of the old Bradley Longitude in Greenwich, is a fascinating tale recounted online at, see also the book Einstein's Clocks. Prior to 1884 the concept had both national incarnations tied to the principal observatories of individual countries (starting with Hipparchus in the 2nd C. BC) as well as international incarnations largely concentrated around the Canary Islands (starting with Marinus of Tyre and Ptolemy in the 2nd C. AD) and later the Azores (starting in the 16th C.), at various dates and according to various authorities.

So during the four centuries between 1492, prior to which the present concept of "western hemisphere" was impossible, see below, and 1884, there were eminent grounds for defining it precisely as "points west of the prime meridian" without harming its intended general referent as the Americas.

But after 1884, who, besides the author of this article and its quaint map, has insisted on the easternmost boundary of the western hemisphere chasing the Prime Meridian into the heart of London and putting Oxford University and Cambridge University in different hemispheres? This is the only possible "shift in modernity" of the original usage of "western hemisphere," but it is an illogical shift and moreover one in the direction opposite to that implied in the article.

Post 1884 it is pointless to insist on any connection between the western hemisphere and the prime meridian. The more accurate statement here would be that the 1884 move of the Prime Meridian to Greenwich invalidated whatever connection *might* have previously existed between the eastern limit of the western hemisphere and its meaning throughout its four or five centuries of existence as always denoting the Americas.

That the term "Western hemisphere" originated in the 16th century (give or take a few years on either side) can be established definitively as follows. First, it is no later than 1624: the OED traces the term "Western Hemisphere" to the English poet John Donne, who in 1624 in Sermon xvii line 167 refers to "The Western Hemisphere the land of Gold and Treasure; The Eastern Hemisphere the land of Spices and Perfumes." Second, it is no earlier than 1492, since "western hemisphere" as denoting the Americas requires (a) an understanding of the earth as a sphere, (b) knowledge of the Americas as a significant land mass, and (c) being east of the Americas (in order to view the Americas as lying to the west). These three requirements could not have been met simultaneously prior to 1492, this being the year of both the first globe of the earth (made by the German astronomer Martin Behaim working in Portugal) and the first successful expedition founded on the premise of a spherical earth (led by the Italian navigator Christopher Columbus sailing from Spain).

Any sources pinning the origin of the concept down to a smaller interval than 1492-1624 would be very welcome!

(See #First use of the term below. Nurg 05:57, 9 September 2006 (UTC))

The "western hemisphere" concept, capitalized or not, would thus appear to be of 16th century English origin (the English preacher Donne being the earliest cited source) and to have found little acceptance other than in English-speaking cultures (consistent with its use in the US and Canada and nonuse in non-English-speaking cultures).

That "western hemisphere" is more widely used than "eastern hemisphere" obviously cannot be blamed on Donne, and is more likely the result of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans providing a convenient right and left boundary respectively for the former which has no counterpart for the latter short of taking it to be bounded by the same oceans but swapped left and right. Donne's reference to "spices and perfumes," combined with the usual European meaning of "oriental," suggest that Donne had Asia in mind. On the other hand there does seem to be a sentiment in some quarters for including Europe in the "eastern hemisphere", perhaps by application of the principle of excluded middle: maybe splitting the earth into three mutually exclusive hemispheres, western, middle (European), and eastern, bothers some literal-minded people.

The bottom line would seem to be a general sense that "western hemisphere" as denoting the Americas is less ambiguous than "eastern hemisphere," and therefore safer to use.

Question for residents of Mexico as a non-English-speaking country, and Quebec to the extent that English is not its dominant language: does "western hemisphere" occur as commonly in Mexican or Quebecois culture as in English-speaking parts of the Americas? And what of South America?

This is not to say that the concept of "western hemisphere" is non-controversial in England. The 17th C. English physician Sir Thomas Browne gives both cultural and geographic reasons for rejecting the concept as fundamentally incoherent, see especially the last few paragraphs. Vaughan Pratt 05:00, 30 May 2006 (UTC)

Your note nicely summarizes a year or two of debate about this article - there's a disagreement between what might be called the political/social interpretation and the geographical/literal interpretation. It started out as the former, switched to the latter, and now is sort of muddling along between. - DavidWBrooks 14:14, 30 May 2006 (UTC)
Your "those using the term "Western hemisphere" have *never* applied it to anything other than the Americas." is false. The first person I asked, a US citizen, tells me that she was taught that the western hemisphere included western Europe. And it only takes one counter-example to blow a claim of *never* (emphasis yours) out of the water.

Should we redirect or merge this page to "The Americas"?[edit]

--Greasysteve13 02:49, 5 June 2006 (UTC)

No; they are different in some minds, as the long debate above incidates. - DavidWBrooks 10:12, 5 June 2006 (UTC)
Okay. Its just that my reasoning was that people never say Western Hemisphere when speaking of places outside the Americas. If we were to take into acount an actual hemisphere (for specifically containing the Americas) we should include the varying locations of where the ambiguos hemisphere begins and ends.--Greasysteve13 01:56, 6 June 2006 (UTC)

We definitely should not. The Americas are a part of the Western Hemisphere and saying they are the same is ludicrous for several reasons. The first reason is parts of other continents are in the Western Hemisphere but not in the Americas. Some of Western Europe, Western Africa, Eastern Russia and Oceanic islands (such as Tonga and Samoa) are in the Western Hemisphere but are not in the Americas. Secondly parts of the Aleutian Islands, which are in America, are not in the Western Hemisphere. Thirdly, if the Western Hemisphere only consisted of the Americas, everything else would be in the Eastern Hemisphere. The Americas only cover ≈8% of the Earth so this would make the Eastern Hemisphere 11.5 times larger than the Western Hemisphere. A hemisphere is supposed to cover HALF of the Earth not a mere 8%. Fourthly, the Western Hemisphere includes most of the Atlantic Ocean, most of the Pacific Ocean, some of the Arctic Ocean, some of the Southern Ocean and a portion of Antarctica which are not part of the Americas. Fifthly. the Americas only cover a small portion (≈16%) of the Western Hemisphere. Theultimateboss123 (talk) 14:21, 18 August 2017 (UTC)

The term Eastern Hemisphere is not commonly used in a geopolitical sense.[edit]

This is contraticed in on the "Eastern Hemisphere" page--Greasysteve13 01:59, 6 June 2006 (UTC)

  • Indeed it is. I suggest the Eastern Hemisphere article be changed since I have never heard it beang used in any geopolitical sense anywhere, probably because it compasses too many very different regions: all of Africa, Europe and Asia and Australia. --Odoakerston 09:20, 25 August 2006 (UTC)

First use of the term[edit]

In reply to Vaughan (above), the first person to use the term "Western Hemisphere" may have been Peter Martyr d'Anghiera. Eviatar Zerubavel (Terra Cognita: The Mental Discovery of America. 2003. p. 76) says 'by October 1494, Peter Martyr had already placed the newly discovered lands ... in what he came to call the "Western Hemisphere."' Zerubavel's citation for this is Thacher, John B. Christopher Columbus. 1903. vol. 1. p. 65. Martyr had earlier used the terms "new hemisphere" on 13 Sept 1493 and "new world" on 1 Nov 1493 (see New World) (Edmundo O'Gorman. The Invention of America. 1961. p. 83-85 citing Martyr's Epistolary / Epistolario / Opus epistolarum). Nurg 05:57, 9 September 2006 (UTC)

"Usage has shifted in modernity"[edit]

What on earth does this mean? That the phrase was once modern, but is no longer? Or perhaps vice versa? TharkunColl 18:49, 20 September 2006 (UTC)

I think this may be to who is considered part of the Western Hemisphere. Capra's Why we Fight; Nazis Strike has Japan, all the Pacific Islands, and Australia as part of the Western Hemisphere.--BruceGrubb (talk) 11:19, 4 November 2008 (UTC)

Stick to geography[edit]

I fixed this article to focus on the primary definition, which is geographical, while briefly mentioning possible imprecise geographical and geopolitical uses of the term. I got rid of the nonsensical distinction between capitalized and uncapitalized terms, as well as the unnecessary politicizing of a simple concept. Djcastel 20:09, 11 May 2007 (UTC)

Incorrect term[edit]

"Western hemisphere", AFAIK, is an incorrect term, used in jokes, and representing the alleged ignorance of the one using it (mainly linked to the alleged ignorance of USA citizens regarding geography). I seem to remember Homer Simpson saying something like: "Of course I know what hemisphere I belong to! The western hemisphere!". Obviously, it went implied that the hemisphere he did belong to was the northern hemisphere, and that his blatant ignorance prevented him from knowing the correct term. I don't know if WH is a colloquial term form "North America" or somesuch, but geographically it is absolutely incorrect. Spheres do have an infinite set of halves, it is true. But hemisphere only refers to the Northern/Southern distinction, which are separated by the equator (as the article explains). This makes for N/S hemisphere distinction well defined. E/W hemispheres are not well defined, as there is no well-defined meridian acting as separator (Greenwich meridian is as (in)valid as any other meridian, unlike the equator and the other circles of latitude). It is obvious that the "Eastern hemisphere" is as eastward from the "Western hemisphere" as it is westward from it. This is not true of the N/S hemispheres, and is not "fixed" if we take an arbitrary meridian as a reference, as the article says. The explanation in the article is fine, but it should be explicitly said that the term is only colloquial, not scientific in any way. — isilanes (talk|contribs) 15:35, 28 May 2007 (UTC)

Quite right, and in line with the majority opinion on this talk page. So why does the rewrite continue to reflect only the minority opinion that the Western Hemisphere is defined formally as points west of the prime meridian, rather than the majority opinion that it refers only to the Americas, which the article implies is "less proper?"

How about the following? ``The Western Hemisphere is a colloquial term introduced in the 16th century connoting the general neighborhood of the Americas (North and South). The establishment of the Prime Meridian at Greenwich in 1884 has suggested to some a more precise definition as the half of the Earth west of the Prime Meridian, centered on the 90 degree West longitude passing through Memphis, Tennessee and the Galapagos Islands. This proposal however is controversial both for its inclusion of parts of the UK, France, Spain, and Northern Africa within its Eastern border, contrary to the original meaning, and for its creation of such counterintuitive distinctions as Oxford University as a Western Hemisphere institution and Cambridge as Eastern.

Better yet, simply can the precise definition altogether as being in violation of a principle of Wikipedia: no authoritative support. It's a catchy definition that a small group is trying to push through as somehow authoritative. Granted one can always find people who are vague about the distinction between "Western Hemisphere" and "Western Civilization", just as one can always find people who are vague about the location of Korea, but (a) an article has no business promoting confusion, and (b) the prime meridian is not a rational boundary for Western Civilization either. Vaughan Pratt 19:18, 30 June 2007 (UTC)

Exactly. This is a colloquial term with no scientific (i.e. geographical) value. Planets do not have Eastern or Western hemispheres, but they do have North and South hemispheres. You can exactly locate the Northern Hemisphere of Mars, but its Western Hemisphere makes no sense, it needs an arbitrary reference meridian. Alvaro -- (talk) 11:08, 26 February 2011 (UTC)
I just realized that we have Djcastel's edit from May 2007 to thank for the article's current claim that "western hemisphere" is a geographical term, replacing the more accurate previous statement that it is a geopolitical term. As noted above the term was first used by Peter Martyr d'Anghiera in 1494 to refer to the "newly discovered" lands of North and South America. At no time have geographers proposed to change its meaning to that claimed in the Wikipedia article, which is rendering a disservice by promulgating the misleading information that it is defined as the hemisphere to the west of the Prime Meridian. Any objections to fixing this? --Vaughan Pratt (talk) 21:26, 13 July 2011 (UTC)

United States not just in the Americas[edit]

If you're going to have a list of Western Hemisphere countries not including the Americas, you'd still have to include the United States, given that some of its territory includes the state of Hawaii as well as territories such as Guam, American Samoa, etc. (talk) 21:04, 29 August 2008 (UTC)

I fully understand your point, which amounts to "all countries that contain territories that are in the Western Hemisphere but not in the Americas". I think the idea, though, is that "the Americas" and "the Western Hemisphere" are often treated as synonymous, and this list is meant to identify those countries that would be left out by treating the Western Hemisphere as though it were only the Americas. In other words, it's differencing at the country level, instead of differencing at the territory level and then rolling the difference back up to the country level. —Largo Plazo (talk) 22:56, 29 August 2008 (UTC)

Western Hemisphere Countries[edit]

There are a few list of countries in this article. But why are we forgetting the one main list that should be here? If there is one list that should definitely be on this article, this is it: "Countries of the Western Hemisphere". How could this be forgotten? For good writing and reading purposes, the only lists that should be included in the article are: 1st List) "Countries of the Western Hemisphere". This is a list of countries that have any part of their territory (no matter how big or small) within the Western Hemisphere. 2nd List) "Countries Located Entirely In the Western Hemisphere". Self explanitory -this is a list of countries whose entire territory are located in the Western Hemisphere, no part of their territory outside of it. 3rd List) "Countries Partially Outside the Western Hemisphere". This is a list of countries with a part of their territory in the Western Hemisphere and a part outside of it. So basically List 2 and 3 is a complete breakdown of List 1. A fourth list can be added if deemed appropriate: "Countries Not In the Americas but Entirely or Partially In the Western Hemisphere". But lets not forget having a list of all countries in or partially within the Western Hemsiphere; that's the name of the article. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:44, 18 May 2012 (UTC)

The suggestion that this is an American colloquialism[edit]

An IP-user wrote in his edit summary, "accuracy to intro - not used worldwide", in connection with this edit to the article, describing "Western Hemisphere" as "an American colloquial" term. I find that unlikely given:

  • the fact that the Oxford English Dictionary attests uses of this term by Englishmen John Donne and Sir T. Brown in 17th century, and
  • the proliferation of Google hits for "emisfero occidentale", "westlichen Hemisphäre", "西半球", "Западное полушарие", etc.

—Largo Plazo (talk) 19:55, 15 October 2008 (UTC)

The incorrect picture[edit]

It would be nice to have a correct map of the western hemisphere. The first map (the western hemisphere highlighted in yellow) is faulty because some small portion of Eurasia (Russia) belongs to the western hemisphere. Mountleek (talk) 22:46, 26 January 2009 (UTC)


All but one of the references for this article are dictionaries or encyclopedias - neither of which are acceptable sources for Wikipedia. I don't have time to fix that right now - but someone should. SteveBaker (talk) 19:02, 21 January 2010 (UTC)


Portugal is not in both the Western and Eastern hemispheres, it is only in Western, according to map.

Western Hemisphere → Western hemisphere[edit]

There is a move discussion at Talk:Southern Hemisphere#Requested move that calls for lowercasing "hemisphere". Such a change would apply to this article as well. Please voice your support, opposition, or general comments at the linked discussion. Dabomb87 (talk) 19:03, 3 April 2011 (UTC)

Well, writing "Western hemisphere" will be incorrect. First, the W and H would both be capitalized or both will be lower case, but not a capital W and a lower case h. Would we write North America as North america, or the South Pole as the South pole? No. Western Hemisphere is a proper noun so both W and H must be capitalized. This is because it is a place and places are always capitalized, whether you are writing Chicago, France, Great Salt Lake (not Great Salt lake), or even a street (lower case s) such as Cedar Street (capital S, same word -street). I'll write a sentence to explain what I mean:

Person 1: Which hemisphere (lower case h) will we do our research in? Person 2: Western (upper case W, meaning the Western Hemisphere) or a different answer Person 2: the western one (lower case w, being directional).

There is a lower case h written by Person 1 because the word hemisphere in that sentence is a common noun, no different than writing "Which city...", "Which county..." or "Which state...". It would be lower case. Person 2's first answer has a capital W because he responded "Western", a shorten version for him to mean Western Hemisphere, i.e. if someone asked where can they ride a streetcar, and I said San Fran, I will still capitalize those words because I am using them as a shorten version for San Francisco. In Person 2's second answer, the w will be lower case because he is using it in a directional sense, and you do not capitalize that -unless it is part of a proper noun; i.e western Samoan islands vs. Western Samoa. So to conclude, "Western hemisphere" is not correct. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:55, 18 May 2012 (UTC)

Move discussion in progress[edit]

There is a move discussion in progress on Talk:Southern Hemisphere which affects this page. Please participate on that page and not in this talk page section. Thank you. —RM bot 19:15, 3 April 2011 (UTC)

Merging of stubs?[edit]

Why was this article created, merging two distinct articles and concepts, when there was a recent discussion to rename all the earthly cardinal hemispheric articles (with lower case; see Talk:Southern_Hemisphere#Requested_move) that failed? As well, articles regarding the Northern and Southern Hemispheres were not merged, so there's dissonance here. This should have been discussed and consented to beforehand, and I may just undue the merge if a compelling consensus doesn't support it or rationale provided. Bosonic dressing (talk) 04:03, 22 May 2011 (UTC)

180th meridian[edit]

It is not clear from the article what the importance of the 180th meridian is. There is a list of countries that touch the 180th meridian without any context of why this is related to the article. After reading a couple of other articles I now realise the hemispheres are from 0 to 180 but this isn't explained. (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 23:11, 29 January 2013 (UTC)

New Zealand[edit]

The suggestion that New Zealand is part of the Western Hemisphere is often overlooked but actually ecologically and geologically completely correct.

As Tom McMahon and Murray Peel have shown in books like Global Runoff: Continental Comparisons of Annual Flows and Peak Discharges (ISBN 3923381271), both New Zealand and extratropical South America resemble the northern hemisphere continents very closely in hydrology (and indeed in general ecology) but Australia and Southern Africa are quite radically different owing to the extreme age and nutritional poverty of their soils and landscapes, which are unique in having received negligible renewal from the Alpine orogeny or Quaternary glaciation.

Even in the composition of its flora at high levels (e.g. family), as shown in the series Centers of Plant Diversity, New Zealand resembles South America rather than Australia. luokehao 12:31 (UTC), 8 May 2013

Your ecological and geological criteria for membership in the Western Hemisphere are at odds with the longitude-based criterion. How do you propose to resolve that? Vaughan Pratt (talk) 08:28, 1 December 2014 (UTC)

Croatia and Fiji Are Now Parts Of Western Hemisphere[edit]

June: Fall, September: Winter, December: Spring and March: Summer is now part of Croatia and Fiji.

Summer / Winter in Western Hemisphere[edit]

winter in the Western Hemisphere lasts from the winter solstice (typically December 21) etc.....

This seems to me is correct for the Northern Hemisphere, but not for all the Western Hemisphere??

Yes, you are right. Now deleted. Grafen (talk) 17:43, 29 June 2014 (UTC)

Population of the 4 hemispheres?[edit]

What on earth is this idiotic statement?

 The population of the geographical Western Hemisphere exceeds 1 billion. Of the 4 hemispheres, only Southern Hemisphere is less populated.

That of the 4 halves of the world, one half is the smaller than the other 3 halves? We count everybody twice? (talk) 13:29, 25 October 2014 (UTC)

Is the Western Hemisphere convex?[edit]

According to the definition of the Western Hemisphere as all points on the Earth's surface having a western longitude, seemingly an unbreakable commitment of this article, the WH is indeed convex, at least based on geodesics confined to the Earth's surface.

Not everyone buys that definition however. For those contrarians, is there any alternative definition that retains the property of being convex?

I've proposed a convex boundary for the Western Hemisphere here. Have I offended anyone by either inclusion or exclusion?

This omits some of the western-most Aleutian islands. If that's a problem then the answer would be no, the Western Hemisphere does not have a convex boundary when drawn so as to exclude Russia and include all American territories.

It should be clear at a glance that if either Greenland or Iceland wants out then the answer is likewise no.

Note that Wikipedia's WP:NOR policy notwithstanding, the policy does not apply to talk pages. Vaughan Pratt (talk) 09:23, 1 December 2014 (UTC)

New Sectioning[edit]

The primary meaning of "Western Hemisphere" is the geopolitical one I have added and placed first. This is shown by the Merriam Webster's Geographical Dictionary, truly a "reliable reference", giving only the geopolitical definition. This is also the definition of the way it is used by the United States government, as referenced.

My Original Research: In addition I consulted six dictionaries at the local library, and all of the gave the same, one-and-only definition, which is the geopolitical one. They are all referenced above. I also used Google to search the London Times, the Guardian, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Sydney Morning Herald and could find no use of "Western Hemisphere" except as a synonym for Americas.

I came here because someone had used this page to learn about the Western Hemisphere and came away with the one-and-only definition on it, which is of course not the only one. They then edited a Wikipedia article to deride the primary meaning of the phrase.

I also removed instances of what I believe to be original research from the article:

  • the population claim;
  • the list of countries; and
  • tallest mountain.

I could find no references for them. I could have missed it, but until I see a reliable reference, I will continue to think this is original research.

Finally, I am aware that this is a part of the Geography Portal and the Hemispheres of the Earth. I made these changes only after hours research in two libraries, consultation with the map librarian at the University of Michigan, consultation with reference librarians at two libraries. I do not make them lightly, but with serious consideration of the world wide reach of Wikipedia. I think it important to have more than a tag at the top, and so I posted the paragraph.

Nick Beeson (talk) 21:33, 28 May 2015 (UTC)

While getting rid of the lists is probably something I would applaud - the idea that the Western Hemisphere is simply the Americas is something that is really only true of people brought up in the Americas (and perhaps only the USA). I suspect a sensible single article can be written covering the strict and the more figurative sense. Andrewgprout (talk) 00:56, 29 May 2015 (UTC)

Hemi-sphere, Trio-sphere or Tetro-sphere?[edit]

Loosely defined as it may be, the geographical and socio-political concept of "Western Hemisphere" (or "The Americas") has served its limited purpose well. Its complement the complex and contiguous "Eastern Hemisphere" - not so well.

For humans, access to the "Western" continents required difficult and dangerous migrations from their original Afro-Eastern origins. It is distinct and relatively isolated from the contiguous Euro-Asian-Afro land-mass.

The term Hemisphere is colloquial and convenient, but not precise —nor need it be exactly 180° 0′ 0.000″ nor based precisely on the arbitrary Greenwich Prime Meridian. It also tends to over-emphasize the most recent European colonial migrations (only most recent 500 years).

I question whether there been any use of "trio-sphere" or other such terms? — not that it matters, as the established informal "Western Hemisphere" has no need for such cartographic, mathematical or geographic precision. HalFonts (talk) 04:10, 29 June 2016 (UTC)

user:halFonts what exactly is it you are trying to say, I have to disagree that a hemisphere can be anything other than 180 degrees, And what is a trio or a tetro sphere and why did you bring this up its not in the article.Andrewgprout (talk) 10:58, 29 June 2016 (UTC)


Text does NOT reflect sources - at all. If I have a free moment some day I might bother correcting it but for now I don't have a free moment. (talk) 23:40, 15 May 2017 (UTC)

≤≤≤≤ — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:22, 16 November 2017 (UTC)