Old English west (adv.) "in or toward the west, in a westerly direction," from Proto-Germanic *west- (source also of Old Norse vestr, Old Frisian, Middle Dutch, Dutch west, Old High German -west, only in compounds, German west), which is of uncertain origin. Perhaps from PIE *wes-, reduced form of *wes-pero- "evening, night" (source also of Greek hesperos, Latin vesper "evening, west;" see vesper). Compare also High German dialectal abend "west," literally "evening." French ouest, Spanish oeste are from English.
As an adjective from late 14c.; as a noun from late 12c. West used in geopolitical sense from World War I (Britain, France, Italy, as opposed to Germany and Austria-Hungary); as contrast to Communist Russia (later to the Soviet bloc) it is first recorded in 1918. West Coast of the U.S. is from 1850; West End of London is from 1776; West Side of Manhattan is from, 1858. The U.S. West "western states and territories" originally (1790s) meant those just west of the Alleghenies; the sense gradually extended as the country grew. To go west "die" was "common during the Great War" [OED, 2nd ed.], perhaps from Celtic imagery or from the notion of the setting sun. In U.S. use, in a literal sense "emigrate to the western states or territories," from 1830.
mid-13c., "(one's) native land;" c. 1300, "any geographic area," sometimes with implications of political organization, from Old French contree, cuntrede "region, district, country," from Vulgar Latin *(terra) contrata "(land) lying opposite," or "(land) spread before one," in Medieval Latin "country, region," from Latin contra "opposite, against" (see contra-). The native word is land.
Also from c. 1300 as "area surrounding a walled city or town; the open country." By early 16c. the word was applied mostly to rural areas, as opposed to towns and cities. Meaning "inhabitants of a country, the people" is from c. 1300.
INTERVIEWER [Steve Rossi]: "Would you say you're the best fighter in the country?
PUNCH-DRUNK BOXER [Marty Allen]: "Yeah, but in the city they murder me."
As an adjective from late 14c., "peculiar to one's own country (obsolete); by 1520s as "pertaining to or belonging to the rural parts of a region," typically with implications of "rude, unpolished."
Country air "fresh air" is from 1630s. First record of country-and-western as a music style is by 1942, American English. Country music is by 1968. Country club "recreational and social club, typically exclusive, located in or near the country" is by 1886. Country mile "a long way" is from 1915, American English. Country-mouse is from 1580s; the fable of the mouse cousins is as old as Aesop. Country road "road through rural regions" is from 1873.
type of inflatable life jacket, 1940, military slang, in reference to the screen name of the buxom U.S. film star (1892-1980).
Caribbean islands explored by Columbus, 1550s, reflecting the belief (or hope) that they were western outliers of the Indies of Asia. Related: West Indian, which is from 1580s in reference to the native inhabitants, 1650s in reference to European settlers there, and 1928 in reference to people of West Indian ancestry.
19c. British idiom for "die, be killed" (popularized during World War I), "probably from thieves' slang, wherein to go west meant to go to Tyburn, hence to be hanged, though the phrase has indubitably been influenced by the setting of the sun in the west" [Partridge]. Compare go south.
in reference to the former Jordanian territory west of the River Jordan, 1967.