In an unrelated context, the term is also used in ancient history and archaeology to divide the Fertile Crescent into the "Asiatic" or "Western Asian" cultures as opposed to ancient Egypt. As a geographic concept, Western Asia includes the Levant, Mesopotamia, Anatolia, Iran, the Armenian Highlands, the South Caucasus, the Arabian peninsula as well as the Sinai Peninsula, making Egypt a transcontinental country. Although the term "Western Asia" is mostly used as a convenient division of contemporary sovereign states into a manageable number of world regions for statistical purposes, it is sometimes used instead of the more geopolitical term "Middle East", for example by the Government of Canada.
The term is used pragmatically and has no "correct" or generally agreed-upon definition. The National Geographic Style Manual as well as Maddison's The World Economy: Historical Statistics (2003) by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) only includes Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Palestinian territories (called West Bank and Gaza in the latter), Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, UAE, and Yemen as West Asian countries. In contrast to this definition, the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) in its 2015 yearbook also includes Armenia and Azerbaijan, and excludes Israel (as Other) and Turkey (as Europe). Unlike the UNIDO, the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) excludes Iran from Western Asia and include Turkey, Georgia, and Cyprus in the region. In the United Nation's geopolitical Eastern European Group, Armenia and Georgia are included in Eastern Europe, whereas Cyprus and East Thracian Turkey are in Southern Europe. These three nations are listed in the European category of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
National members of West Asian sports governing bodies are limited to Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Syria, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. The Olympic Council of Asia's multi-sport event West Asian Games are contested by athletes representing these thirteen countries. Among the region's sports organisations are the West Asia Basketball Association, West Asian Billiards and Snooker Federation, West Asian Football Federation, and the West Asian Tennis Federation.
"Western Asia" was in use as a geographical term in the early 19th century, even before "Near East" became current as a geopolitical concept. In the context of the history of classical antiquity, "Western Asia" could mean the part of Asia known in classical antiquity, as opposed to the reaches of "interior Asia", i.e. Scythia, and "Eastern Asia" the easternmost reaches of geographical knowledge in classical authors, i.e. Transoxania and India. In the 20th century, "Western Asia" was used to denote a rough geographical era in the fields of archaeology and ancient history, especially as a shorthand for "the Fertile Crescent excluding Ancient Egypt" for the purposes of comparing the early civilizations of Egypt and the former.