The notion that Europe is not truly a continent rests on a somewhat silly semantic dispute. Let's put it this way: the word 'continent' is defined by its examples. If, according to a definition of 'continent', Europe is not a continent, then that definition simply doesn't capture the ordinary use of the term. --LMS
Where are the borders of Northern Europe? I have noted that the name is often followed by the word biggest, largest or greatest; "The largest record store in Northern Europe". Does this include anything else than the Nordic countries? Is northern Germany included?
It usually means the parts of Europe where Germanic languages are spoken, or the countries that have no coast on the Mediterranean. Contrast with Southern Europe, which is where Romance languages or Greek are spoken, or that butt up against the Mediterranean.
Problem cases are France (usually considered to be straddling the divide), and much of Eastern Europe. The term is fairly vague. --PaulDrye
I'm still trying to track down the reference in Latin, but the first use of the word "Europa" to mean what WE mean by continental Europe as opposed to the peninsula opposite northern Asia Minor (Thrace, more or less) was in a vita of one of Charlemagne's great-great aunts, Gertrude of Nivelles: "from one of the best known families of Europe." --MichaelTinkler