Where does the word “Utopia” come from and What does Utopian mean in Latin?

Sir Thomas More was a contemporary of Christopher Columbus and of Amerigo Vespucci and was well informed upon the discoveries of the former and the alleged discoveries of the latter.

Accordingly, in a book published in 1516, he represents that the island which furnished the setting for his story was an actual western island, described to him in 1514 by its discoverer, a supposed companion of Vespucci.

It was, he said, a place of ideal charm, but especially was inhabited by a people who had perfected an ideal social, political, and economic system.

More called this wonderful but nonexistent island, Utopia, and Greek scholars had no difficulty in discerning it to mean “no place,” from ou, not, and topos, place.

His book, first published in Latin, achieved great popularity and was soon translated into the chief languages of Europe.

The name of the fictitious island is now applied to any place where life appears to be ideal, and utopian now describes anything regarded as ideal but visionary.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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