What does it mean to be a “3rd World” nation? Is the U.S. a “1st” World Nation? Are there any “2nd” World Nations? What is this 1st, and 3rd thing all about?
My interpetation of the phrase (I’m sure someone will come in here with exacts) was that there are three different types of nations. Developed nations (like the US), Developing nations (I think this would refer to some South American countries, I don’t have a real good example) and undeveloped nations (this would probably refer to a lot of African countries). The third world countries are the undeveloped nations. So I suppose first world nations would be the developed countries, and the second world countries would be the nations currently developing.
The phrase is of cold war origins, and comes from the French phrase Le Tiers Monde - the “second world” no longer exists, as it reffered to the Communist Bloc countries.
yabob has it right. The most common designations used these days are “developed” and “developing” countries. “Developing” has a strangely optimistic ring to it, as if “development” were inevitable (or pessimistic, if “development” refers to some neoliberal model). Sometimes the categories “developed,” “less developed,” and “least developed” are used. The United Nations has categorized 49 countries as “least developed.”
Correct. The “First World” originally meant the industrialized democracies of North America, Western Europe, and Australasia; the “Second World” was the industrialized Communist countries of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. The “Third World” was everybody else - undeveloped, and often non-aligned.
By extension, sometimes the term “Fourth World” has been used for the least developed countries, some of which, like Somalia, Afganistan, and Liberia, have actively gone backwards.
As usual, Cecil has already addressed this: