The Orient is the East, traditionally comprising anything that belongs to the Eastern world, in relation to Europe. In English, it is largely a metonym for, and coterminous with, the continent of Asia, divided into the Far East, Middle East, and Near East.
The term Oriental is sometimes used to describe people or objects from the Orient.
The term "Orient" derives from the Latin word oriens meaning "east" (lit. "rising" < orior " rise"). The use of the word for "rising" to refer to the east (where the sun rises) has analogs from many languages: compare the terms "Levant" (< French levant "rising"), "Vostok" Russian: Восток (< Russian voskhod Russian: восход "sunrise"), "Anatolia" (< Greek anatole), "mizrahi" in Hebrew ("zriha" meaning sunrise), "sharq" Arabic: شرق (< Arabic yashriq يشرق "rise", shurūq Arabic: شروق "rising"), "shygys" Kazakh: шығыс (< Kazakh shygu Kazakh: шығу "come out"), Turkish: doğu (< Turkish doğmak to be born; to rise), Chinese: 東 (pinyin: dōng, a pictograph of the sun rising behind a tree) and "The Land of the Rising Sun" to refer to Japan. Also, many ancient temples, including pagan temples and the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, were built with their main entrances facing the East. This tradition was carried on in Christian churches. To situate them in such a manner was to "orient" them in the proper direction. When something was facing the correct direction, it was said to be in the proper orientation.
Another explanation of the term stems from Rome during the Roman Empire, specifically the Eastern Roman Empire, or the "Roman Orient", during the Byzantine Empire. Although the original East-West (or Orient-Occident) line was the Italian Peninsula's East Coast, around 600 AD this would shift to the City of Rome. Any area below the City of Rome was considered the Orient, as well as the ethnicities inhabiting the land, such as Dalmatian Italians, (modern Neapolitans along with Sicilians, Tunisians, Moroccans, Greeks, etc.), as well as everything East of Southern Italy, hence the Italian name "Italia nord-orientale" (in English Northeast Italy) for Le Tre Venezie (the 3 Venices) located above the Roman latitude line separating it from modern Abruzzo; the beginning of the Orient in the East, while Lazio is its beginning in the West of the Italian Peninsula.
The opposite term "Occident" derives from the Latin word occidens, meaning west (lit. setting < occido fall/set). This term meant the west (where the sun sets) but has fallen into disuse in English, in favor of "Western world".
In the later Roman Empire, the Praefectura Praetorio Orientis, the Praetorian prefecture of the East, included most of the Eastern Roman Empire from the eastern Balkans eastwards; its easternmost part was the Diocese of the East, the Dioecesis Orientis, corresponding roughly to the region of Syria. Over time, the common understanding of "the Orient" has continually shifted eastwards, as European people traveled farther into Asia. It finally reached the Pacific Ocean, in what Westerners came to call "the Far East". These shifts in time and identification sometimes confuse the scope (historical and geographic) of Oriental Studies. Yet there remain contexts where "the Orient" and "Oriental" have kept their older meanings (e.g., "Oriental spices" typically are from the regions extending from the Middle East to sub-continental India to Indo-China). Travelers may again take the Orient Express train from Paris to its terminus in the European part of Istanbul, a route established in the early 20th century.
In European historiography, the meaning of "the Orient" changed in scope several times. Originally, the term referred to Egypt, the Levant, and adjoining areas. as far west as Morocco. During the 1800s, India, and to a lesser extent China, began to displace the Levant as the primary subject of Orientalist research. By the mid-20th century, Western scholars generally considered "the Orient" as just East Asia, Southeast Asia, and eastern Central Asia. As recently as the early 20th century, the term "Orient" often continued to be used in ways that included North Africa. Today, the term primarily evokes images of China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and peninsular Southeast Asia. Throughout the history of the changing sense of the term, "the Orient" was never equivalent to Asia as a whole. "The Orient" being largely a cultural term, large parts of Asia—Siberia most notably—were excluded from the scholarly notion of "the Orient".