The word Asia entered English, via Latin, from Ancient Greek Ασία (Asia; see also List of traditional Greek place names). This name is first attested in Herodotus (about 440 BC), where it refers to Asia Minor; or, for the purposes of describing the Persian Wars, to the Persian Empire, in contrast to Greece and Egypt. Herodotus comments that he is puzzled as to why three different women's names are used to describe a single land mass (Europa, Asia and Libya, referring to Africa), stating that most Greeks assumed that Asia was named after the wife of Prometheus but that the Lydians say it was named after Asias, son of Cotys who passed the name on to a tribe in Sardis.
Even before Herodotus, Homer knew of a Trojan ally named Asios, son of Hyrtacus, a ruler over several towns, and elsewhere he describes a marsh as ασιος (Iliad 2, 461). The Greek term may be derived from Assuwa, a 14th century BC confederation of states in Western Anatolia. Hittite assu- "good" is probably an element in that name.
Alternatively, the ultimate etymology of the term may be from the Akkadian word (w)aṣû(m), cognate of Hebrew יצא, which means "to go out" or "to ascend", referring to the direction of the sun at sunrise in the Middle East, and also likely connected with the Phoenician word asa meaning east. This may be contrasted to a similar etymology proposed for Europe, as being from Semitic erēbu "to enter" or "set" (of the sun). However, this etymology is considered doubtful, because it does not explain the fact that the term "Asia" first came to be associated with Anatolia, which actually lies west of the Semitic-speaking areas