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.
also north-west, Old English norþwest (adv.) "to a point or in a direction between north and west;" from north + west. As a noun, "region or locality lying in the northwest of a country," and adjective from late 14c.
In U.S. geography it was at first, the territory that later became Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and northeastern Minnesota (1787); after about 1853 the term was applied to the unorganized territory north of Nebraska, west of Minnesota, and east of the Rockies. Pacific Northwest, describing Oregon and Washington, is by 1874. Related: Northwestern; northwesterly; northwestward (late 14c.).
Northwest Passage as the name of an at-first hypothetical sea route from the Atlantic to the Pacific by the northern coasts of North America, first attested c. 1600. The Northwest Ordinance (1787) was an act of Congress to organize the territory beyond the Appalachian Mountains between the Great Lakes and the Ohio River.
Emigrants from Europe have brought the peculiarities of the nations and countries from whence they have originated, but are fast losing their national manners and feelings, and, to use a provincial term, will soon become "westernized." [J.M. Peck, "A New Guide for Emigrants to the West," Boston, 1837]
In reference to Europeanizing of Middle Eastern or Asian places and persons, from 1867. Related: Westernized; westernizing.