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Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

also westernisation, 1873, noun of action from westernize (v.). Earliest reference is to Japan.\n\n[The mikado's] late rapid and radical progress in westernization (to evolve a word that the Japanese will need) justifies great expectations of him.

[Coates Kinney, "Japanning the English Language," "The Galaxy," July-Dec. 1873]


alt. The process of assimilation, by a society, of the customs and practices of western culture. n. The process of assimilation, by a society, of the customs and practices of western culture.


Westernization ( USA) or Westernisation ( UK) (see spelling differences), also Europeanization/ Europeanisation or occidentalization/occidentalisation (from the Occident, meaning the Western world; see "occident" in the dictionary), is a process whereby societies come under or adopt Western culture in areas such as industry, technology, law, politics, economics, lifestyle, diet, clothing, language, alphabet, religion, philosophy, and values. Westernization has been an accelerating influence across the world in the last few centuries, with some thinkers assuming westernization to be the equivalent of modernization, a way of thought that is often debated. The overall process of westernization is often two-sided in that Western influences and interests themselves are joined with parts of the affected society, at minimum, to change towards a more Westernized society, in the hope of attaining Western life or some aspects of it. To assume, however, Western societies are not affected or changed by this process and interaction with non-Western groups is misleading.

Westernization traces it roots back to Ancient Greece, the birthplace of Western culture. As Ancient Greece flourished, a new Empire was emerging namely Roman. The Roman Empire would take on the first process of Westernization as it was heavy influenced by Greece and created a new culture based on the principles and values of the Ancient Greek society. The Romans emerged with a culture that would lay the new foundations of Europe and create the new western identify based on the Greco-Roman society.

Westernization can also be related to acculturation and enculturation. Acculturation is "the process of cultural and psychological change that takes place as a result of contact between cultural groups and their individual members." After contact, changes in cultural patterns are evident within one or both cultures. Specific to westernization and the non-Western culture, foreign societies tend to adopt changes in their own social systems relative to Western ideology, lifestyle, and physical appearance, along with numerous other aspects, and shifts in culture patterns can be seen to take root as a community becomes acculturated to Western customs and characteristics – in other words, westernized. Westernization can include Americanisation and Europeanisation, with historical versions including Romanisation, Hellenisation, Francisation, and Germanisation. Other trends include Islamisation, Japanisation, Africanisation, and Sinicisation.

The phenomenon of westernization does not follow any one specific pattern across societies as the degree of adaption and fusion with Western customs will occur at varying magnitudes within different communities. Specifically, the extent to which domination, destruction, resistance, survival, adaptation or modification affect a native culture may differ following inter-ethnic contact.

Usage examples of "westernization".

Thus it wished to extirpate the Western technology and economic forms as well as the other aspects of the Westernization of Russia.

This was one area in which Westernization made little headway in Japan, and even today many Japanese continue to live, as they have for centuries, in houses consisting chiefly of sparsely furnished rooms with matted floors upon which to sit and sleep.

Islamic facts, too, as are journalism, Westernization, and intellectual societies.

Chinese continued to regard Westernization as the necessary vehicle of change.

Kemal, champion of Westernization and the secular Turkish state, would remain true to those principles to the end, dying at fifty-seven of cirrhosis of the liver.

Inhabitants of Rennell Island, a traditional Polynesian island that did not become Westernized until the 1930s, told me that Westernization yielded the wonderful side benefit that the island became quiet.