Definition of Third World in English:

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Third World

Pronunciation: /ˈˌTHərd ˈwərld/


(usually the Third World)
The developing countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
Example sentences
  • That is the case with regard to many states in the Third World, especially sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Few people knew more about Africa or the Third World in general than he did.
  • It is really important to take every opportunity to develop links with activists in the Third World.


Translation of French tiers monde first used in the 1950s to distinguish the developing countries from the capitalist and communist blocs.

  • world from Old English:

    The ancient root of world meant ‘age or life of man’. The first part is the same as were- in werewolf ( see wolf)—it means ‘man’—and the second part is related to old. The Anglo-Saxons first used world to mean ‘human existence, life on earth’ as opposed to future life in heaven or hell. America was first called the New World in 1555, and Europe, Asia, and Africa the Old World at the end of that century. Olde worlde is a ‘fake’ antiquated spelling for old-fashioned things intended to be quaint and attractive, and dates only from the 1920s. The developing countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America were initially known as the Third World in the 1950s by French writers who used tiers monde, ‘third world’, to distinguish the developing countries from the capitalist and Communist blocs. The first use in English came in 1963. The best of all worlds or of all possible worlds is from Candide (1759) by the French writer Voltaire. It is a translation of a statement by the ever-optimistic Pangloss, ‘Everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds’. The character of Pangloss, who remained constantly cheerful despite all the disasters that happened to him and his travelling companions, is a satire on the views of the German philosopher Leibniz, who believed this philosophy. See also optimism, oyster, whim, wife

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: Third World

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