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Names of the Levant: Wikis


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The Levant

Over recorded history, there have been many names of the Levant, a large area in the Middle East. These names have applied to a part or the whole of the Levant. On occasion, two or more of these names have been used at the same time by different cultures or sects. As a natural result, some of the names of the Levant are highly politically-charged. Perhaps the least politicized name is Levant itself, which simply means "where the sun rises" or "where the land rises out of the sea", a meaning attributed to the region's easterly location on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea.


Egyptian Names

The ancient Egyptians called the Levant Qdem, Retjenu or Djahi.


A long time before and during the early Hebrew settlements in the region, the land was called Canaan (first recorded in Assyrian Akkadian as Kinahnu), and its indigenous people were the Canaanites. The Phœnicians, who spoke a Canaanite language at their Mediterranean ports, also called themselves and their land Canaan.


In ancient times, the Greeks called the whole of Canaan Phoenicia. Today, the general consensus associates the Phoenician homeland proper with the northwest coastal region of the Levant, centered at Phoenician cities such as Ugarit, Tyre, Sidon, and Byblos. Today, this place is usually equated with modern Lebanon and the coast of modern Syria. Also there is a modern town in Turkey called Finike which is thought to have derived by the Lycians who traded with Phoenicians in ancient times.


For over a hundred years, the Kingdom of Israel (United Monarchy) under David and Solomon ruled the majority of the Land of Israel, though not most of the Phœnician and Philistine coastal lands. After Solomon's death it was split into northern Kingdom of Israel and southern Kingdom of Judah. Today the modern State of Israel controls some of this area. The concept of "Greater Israel" refers to a larger area that is supported by some nationalists.

Assyria and Syria



During Persian rule of the Middle-east, the Greeks and Romans came to call the region Syria, believed to have been named after Assyria and the Aramaic language they spread over the entire region. Herodotus used the combined name "Syria Palaistinē". "Greater Syria" refers to a larger area that is supported by some nationalists.

Philistia and Palestine


  • Canaanite: פלשת p.l.ʃ.t
  • Greek: Παλαιστίνη, Palaistinē - from Hebrew: פְּלִשְׁתִּים [pəliʃtiˑm]
  • Hebrew
  • Latin: Palæstina - from Greek


  • Arabic فلسطين [filastˁiːn] - from Latin
  • Greek: Παλαιστίνη, Palaistinē - same word as Philistia
  • Hebrew
  • Latin: Palæstina - same word as Philistia
  • Turkish: Filistin

Palestine derives from Philistia and its Philistine people, first recorded by the ancient Egyptians as a member of the invading Sea Peoples or Peleset. Though originally applied only to the southwest coast where the Philistines lived, later Herodotus called the whole area "Syria Palaistinē". The Romans used it to refer to the southern part of the region, and the name was carried on as a province name by the Byzantines and Arabs. However, after Greek times it is usually reserved for only the southern portion of the Levant.

†As a side note, Standard Hebrew has two names for Palestine, both of which are different from the Hebrew name for ancient Philistia. The first name Palestina was used by Hebrew speakers in the British Mandate of Palestine; it is spelled like the name for Philistia but with three more letters added to the end and a Latin pronunciation given. The second name Filastin is a direct loan from the Arabic form, and is used today specifically to refer to the modern Palestinians and to political aspirations for a Palestinian state.


  • Arabic: الشام [ʔaʃːaːm]

The name ash-Sham comes from an Arabic root meaning "left" or "north" — became the name of the Levant, and its capital of the time Damascus, under the Caliphate.


Medieval Italians called the region Levante, akin to the words levity and levitate, after its easterly location where the sun "rises"; this term was adopted from Italian and French into many other languages including Turkish, in which it is Levent.


Frankish Crusaders called the Levant Outremer in French, which means "overseas." In France, this general term was colloquially applied more specifically to the Levant because of heavy Frankish involvement in the Crusades and the foundation of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem and other Latin settlements scattered throughout the area.

Holy Land

  • Arabic: الأرض المقدسة, Al-Ard Al-Muqadasa
  • Greek: Άγιοι Τόποι, Hagioi Topoi, literally: "Holy Places"
  • Hebrew

The Holy Land is a term used in Judeo-Christian tradition to refer to the holy sites of the Levant — especially Shiloh, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth — but is also often used to refer to the Levant (and historical Canaan) as a whole. Note that this term in Islam refers not only to the Levant, but to the Arabian region of Hijaz where the holy cities of Mecca and Medina are located.

See also Names of Jerusalem.

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