I'm wondering why Middle East is not called Central East. And why Central Asia is sometimes referred to as Middle Asia (as I read on Wikipedia).

I've looked up the difference between middle and centre here: https://ell.stackexchange.com/questions/83300/difference-between-center-and-middle

But it doesn't explain the difference between middle and central when it comes to regional naming. Just like in America, I read that they have Middle America and Central America. Also, in Indonesia, we have Central Java, but not Middle Java.

I think they're somehow different, but I can't tell how.

1 Answer 1


Because (in the thinking of the people doing the naming) the Middle East is not 'central' to anything. It's a 'middle' amount of distance away.

In the days we are talking about the 'East' (i.e. anywhere east of Europe) was divided into three areas - the Near East (Turkey, Greece etc.) the Far East (India, China etc.) and the area in between them - called the Middle East because it is midway between 'near and 'far'. It's not 'central' because Europe is the centre (at least according to the people doing this naming). Instead it's a 'middle' distance away.

'Near East' and 'Far East' have fallen out of frequent usage, probably as being too blatantly Eurocentric. Only 'Middle East' remains in common usage.

Central Java, by comparison, really is in the centre of Java, right between East Java and West Java.

  • 2
    +1, but to complete your answer, you might explain the difference between Central America (geography) and Middle America (sociology).
    – ab2
    Commented May 30, 2016 at 19:55
  • Although possibly offensive to some people, Far East is still fairly common in the US. Commented May 31, 2016 at 1:33
  • I would love to get more explanation actually. But this one is the most satisfying so far.
    – Safira
    Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 2:23

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