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Europe covers about 10,180,000 square kilometres (3,930,000 sq mi), or 2% of the Earth's surface (6.8% of land area).

Politically, Europe is divided into about fifty sovereign states of which the Russian Federation is the largest and most populous, spanning 39% of the continent and comprising 15% of its population.

It includes all states except for Belarus, Kazakhstan and Vatican City.

Further European integration by some states led to the formation of the European Union, a separate political entity that lies between a confederation and a federation.

There have been attempts to connect Eurṓpē to a Semitic term for "west", this being either Akkadian erebu meaning "to go down, set" (said of the sun) or Phoenician 'ereb "evening, west", which is at the origin of Arabic Maghreb and Hebrew ma'arav. Barry, professor in Princeton University's Near Eastern Studies Department, finds the mention of the word Ereb on an Assyrian stele with the meaning of "night, [the country of] sunset", in opposition to Asu "[the country of] sunrise", i.e. The same naming motive according to "cartographic convention" appears in Greek Ἀνατολή (Anatolḗ "[sun] rise", "east", hence Anatolia).regʷos, meaning "darkness", which also produced Greek Erebus.

Most major world languages use words derived from Eurṓpē or Europa to refer to the continent.

Further from the sea, seasonal differences are more noticeable than close to the coast.Yet the non-oceanic boundary between Europe and Asia—a concept dating back to classical antiquity—is arbitrary and amounts to a historical and social construct.The primarily physiographic term "continent" as applied to Europe also incorporates cultural and political elements whose discontinuities are not always reflected by the continent's current overland boundary with Asia.The first recorded usage of Eurṓpē as a geographic term is in the Homeric Hymn to Delian Apollo, in reference to the western shore of the Aegean Sea.As a name for a part of the known world, it is first used in the 6th century BC by Anaximander and Hecataeus.

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