1864, name given by English zoologist Philip L. Sclater (1829-1913) to an ancient continent or land bridge, now sunk in the Indian Ocean, connecting Africa, Madagascar, India, and Southeast Asia, which he hypothesized to explain the geographical distribution of mammals around it, especially the lemur, hence the name (with -ia). The premise was considered scientifically untenable by 1880 and the phenomena now are accounted for otherwise, but Lemuria in some ways by chance anticipated Gondwanaland (1896) in the continental drift model.

Earlier Lemuria was the name of the Roman feast of the Lemures, evil spirits of the dead in Roman mythology. The head of each household ritually exorcised them every 9th, 11th, and 13th of May. Related: Lemurian