What's the origin of "Third World"? What are the first and second worlds?

What’s the origin of “Third World”? What are the first and second worlds?

Europe (“the old world”) is the first world, The Americas (“the new world”) is the second world.


No ?!?

What then? It’s not explained in the article, and this is the explanation I have heard.

Look again.

“The Third World is thought to hold a position vis-a-vis the First and Second Worlds (the developed capitalist and Communist countries, respectively) comparable to that of the Third Estate (the commoners) with the First and Second estates, i.e., the clergy and the nobility.”

As far as i know the term ‘third world’ stems from market type which is dominant within the country. A third world country is agriculture based and relies on imports of technology (ie most of africa). Second world countries are the manufactuers, ie China, and don’t need as many imports as can usually sustain itself through agriculture aswell. First world countries, such as england and europe, have used up the majority of their natural resources so have to import alot of them but are usually self relient on the agriculture front and export technology.
the above is obviously a generalisation and misses out on alot of the sublties of the classing system

You need to provide some usage cites for this assertion. It may be true that with the demise of the USSR, the old sense of Second World countries was made obsolete. Especially since few ever used the locution. Third World was a regular usage; First and Second Worlds were rarely used.

But I haven’t heard Second World now take on this new sense. If it has, I would be interested to see where, when, and how it is used.

i obtained most of my previous definition from a book called ‘the crysanthium and the sword’ (or something like that) which is about the progression of Japan from the classification of a third world country (at the end of the 19th century) to the first world country it is today. it was written in the late 50’s by an american woman, who’s name escapes me, i hope that helps. I’m no longer in possesion of this book so i can’t give you any more details i’m afraid. (i hope you don’t think i’m trying to avoid any debate)


That would be The Chrysanthemum and the Sword : Patterns of Japanese Culture, by Ruth Benedict, originally published in 1954.

Since she was writing before the popular usage of First, Second, and Third Worlds was established she could have been using an earlier and now obsolete sense of the term, or she was using it in in idiosyncratic sense. Either way, it is not the way the term has been used since.

http://www.wordorigins.org/wordort.htm#third world