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World map showing the Americas
CIA political map of the Americas
The Americas are the lands of the Western hemisphere or New World consisting of the continents of North America<ref>United Nations Statistics Division- Standard Country and Area Codes Classifications (M49). United Nations Statistics Division.</ref> and South America with their associated islands and regions. The Americas cover 8.3% of the Earth's total surface area (28.4% of its land area) and contain about 14% of the human population. The term the Americas is a relatively recent alternative to the term America, which is ambiguous as it may refer to either this entire landmass or just the United States of America.




Archeological finds establish the widespread presence of the Clovis culture in North America and South America around 10000 BCE.<ref>David S. Whitley and Ronald I. Dorn (1993). "New Perspectives on the Clovis vs. Pre-Clovis Controversy". American Antiquity: 626-647. </ref> Whether this is the first migration of humans into North America and South America is disputed, with alternative theories holding that humans arrived in North America and South America as early as 40000 BCE.

The Inuit migrated into the Arctic section of North America and South America in another wave of migration, arriving around 1000 CE.<ref>Canadian Inuit History. Canadian Museum of Civilization.</ref> Around the same time as the Inuit migrated into North America and South America, Viking settlers began arriving in Greenland in 982 and Vinland shortly thereafter.<ref>Vinland. Canaduan Museum of Civilization.</ref> The Viking settlers quickly abandoned Vinland, and disappeared from Greenland by 1500.<ref>The Norse settlers in Greenland - A short history. Greenland Guide - The Official Travel Index.</ref>

Large scale European colonization of the Americas began shortly after the voyages of Christopher Columbus in 1492. The spread of new diseases brought by Europeans and Africans killed most of the inhabitants of North America and South America. Early European immigrants were often part of state-sponsored attempts to found colonies in the Americas. Migration continued as people moved to the Americas fleeing religious persecution or seeking economic opportunities. Many individuals were forcibly transported to the Americas as slaves or indentured servents.


File:Ct000725C-wh012 5-Universalis cosmographia secundum Ptholomaei traditionem et Americi Vespucii alioru-m-que lustrationes..gif
World Map of Waldseemüller which first named America (in the map over Paraguay). Germany, 1507

The earliest known use of the name America for this particular landmass dates from 1507. It appears on a globe and a large map created by the German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller in Saint-Dié-des-Vosges. An accompanying book, Cosmographiae Introductio, explains that the name was derived from the Latinized version of the explorer Amerigo Vespucci's name, Americus Vespucius, in its feminine form, America, as the other continents all have Latin feminine names.

Vespucci's role in the naming issue, like his exploratory activity, is unclear. Some sources say that he was unaware of the widespread use of his name to refer to the new landmass. Others hold that he promulgated a story that he had made a secret voyage westward and sighted land in 1491, a year before Columbus. If he did indeed make such claims, they backfired, and only served to prolong the ongoing debate on whether the "Indies" were really a new land, or just an extension of Asia. Christopher Columbus, who had first brought the region's existence to the attention of Renaissance era voyagers, had died in 1506 (believing, to the end, that he'd discovered and colonized part of India) and could not protest Waldseemüller's decision.

Map of America by Jonghe, c. 1770.

A few alternative theories regarding the landmass' naming have been proposed, but none of them has achieved any widespread acceptance.

One alternative, first advanced by Jules Marcou in 1875 and later recounted by novelist Jan Carew, is that the name America derives from the district of Amerrique in Nicaragua. The gold-rich district of Amerrique was purportedly visited by both Vespucci and Columbus, for whom the name became synonymous with gold. According to Marcou, Vespucci later applied the name to the New World, and even changed the spelling of his own name from Alberigo to Amerigo to reflect the importance of the discovery.

Another theory, first proposed by a Bristol antiquary and naturalist, Alfred Hudd, in 1908 was that America is derived from Richard Amerike, a merchant from Bristol, who is believed to have financed John Cabot's voyage of discovery from England to Newfoundland in 1497 as found in some documents from Westminster Abbey a few decades ago. Supposedly, Bristol fishermen had been visiting the coast of North America for at least a century before Columbus' voyage and Waldseemüller's maps are alleged to incorporate information from the early English journeys to North America. The theory holds that a variant of Amerike's name appeared on an early English map (of which however no copies survive) and that this was the true inspiration for Waldseemüller.


America and Americas

In many parts of the world, America in the singular is commonly used as a name for the United States of America; however, (the) Americas (plural with s and generally with the definite article) is not and is invariably used to refer to the lands and regions of the Western hemisphere. Usage of America to also refer to this collectivity remains fairly common.

While many in the United States of America generally refer to the country as America and themselves as Americans,<ref>Burchfield, R. W. 2004. Fowler's Modern English Usage. (ISBN 0-19-861021-1) Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press; p. 48.</ref> many people elsewhere in the Americas resent what they perceive as appropriation of the term in this context and, thus, this usage is frequently avoided.<ref> "American." The Oxford Companion to the English Language (ISBN 0-19-214183-X); McArthur, Tom, ed., 1992. New York: Oxford University Press, p. 35.</ref><ref name="oxfcdn">"America." Oxford Guide to Canadian English Usage. (ISBN 0-19-541619-8) Fee, Margery and McAlpine, J., ed., 1997. Toronto: Oxford University Press; p. 36.</ref> In Canada, their southern neighbour is seldom referred to as "America" with "the United States", "the U.S.", or (informally) "the States" used instead.<ref name="oxfcdn" /> English dictionaries and compendiums differ regarding usage and rendition.[1][2]


English usage

Whether usage of America or the Americas is preferred, American is a self-referential term for many people living in the Americas. However, most of the English-speaking world (including Canada) uses the word to refer solely to a citizen, resident, or national of the United States of America. Instead, the word pan-American is used as an unambiguous adjective to refer to the Americas.

In addition, some Canadians resent being referred to as Americans because of mistaken assumptions that they are U.S. citizens or an inability—particularly of people overseas—to distinguish Canadian English and American English accents.<ref name="oxfcdn" />

Spanish usage

In Spanish, América is the name of a region considered a single continent composed of the subcontinents of Sudamérica and Norteamérica, the land bridge of Centroamérica, and the islands of the Antillas. Americano/a in Spanish refers to a person from América in a similar way that europeo or europea refers to a person from Europe. The terms sudamericano/a, centroamericano/a, antillano/a and norteamericano/a can be used to more specifically refer to the location where a person may live.

Citizens of the United States of America are normally referred to by the term estadounidense instead of americano or americana. However, the term norteamericano may refer to a citizen of the United States contrary to the geographical definition of this words, so the context may be needed to determine to where the speaker is referring. The term is primarily used to refer to citizens of the United States, rarely those of other North American countries.<ref>Diccionario Panhispánico de Dudas:Norteamérica</ref>

Portuguese usage

In Portuguese, the word americano refers to the whole of the Americas. But, in Brazil and Portugal, it is widely used to refer to the citizens of the United States. Sometimes "norte-americano" is also used, but "americano" is the most common term employed by people and media at large, while "norte-americano" (North American) is more common in books. The most correct term, "estadunidense" (used more frequently in Brazil than in Portugal, something like "United Statian"), and "ianque" - the Portuguese version of "Yankee" - are rarely used.

"América", however, is not that frequently used as synonym to the country, and almost exclusively in current speech, while in print and in more formal environments the US is usually called either "Estados Unidos da América" (i.e. United States of America) or only "Estados Unidos" (i.e. United States). There is some difference between the usage of these words in Portugal and in Brazil, being the Brazilians less prone than the Portuguese to apply the term América to the country. A well-known example of such use is the translation of the title of Alain Resnais' movie "Mon Oncle d'Amérique": "O Meu Tio da América".

French usage

In French, as in English, the word Américain can be confusing as it can be both used to refer to the United States, and to the American continents. The noun Amérique sometimes refers to the whole as one continent, and sometimes two continents, southern and northern; the United States is generally referred to as les États-Unis d'Amérique, les États-Unis, or les EU. However, the usage of Amérique to refer to the United States, while technically not correct, does have some currency in France. The adjective américain is most often used for things relating to the United States; however, it may also be used for things relating to the American continents. Things relating to the United States can be referred to without ambiguity by the words états-unien, étasunien or étatsunien, although their usage is rare.



The population of the Americas is made up of the descendants of eight large ethnic groups and their combinations.

The majority of the people live in Latin America, named for its dominant languages, Spanish and Portuguese, both of which are descended from Latin. Latin America is typically contrasted with Anglo-America where English, a Germanic language, prevails: namely, Canada and the United States (in Northern America) have predominantly British roots and are quite different in terms of linguistical, cultural, and economic situation from other countries in the Americas.


Various languages are spoken in the Americas. Some are of European origin, others are spoken by indigenous peoples or are the mixture of various idioms like the different creoles.

The dominant language of Anglo-America, as the name suggests, is English, though French is also official in Canada and is the predominant language in Québec, and along with English is an official language in New Brunswick and in the U.S. state of Louisiana. Due to heavy immigration from Latin America to the south, Spanish has become widely spoken in parts of the United States and is one of the official languages in the U.S. state of New Mexico. High levels of immigration have brought great linguistic diversity to Anglo-America, with over 300 languages known to be spoken in the United States alone, but most languages are spoken only in small enclaves and by relatively small immigrant groups.

The dominant language of Latin America is Spanish, though the largest nation in Latin America, Brazil speak Portuguese. Small enclaves of French- and English-speaking regions also exist in Latin America, notably in French Guiana and Nicaragua's Mosquito Coast, respectively, and Haitian Creole, of French origin, is dominant in the nation of Haiti. Native languages are more prominent in Latin America than in Anglo-America, with Nahuatl, Quechua, Aymara and Guaraní as the most common. Various other native languages are spoken with lesser frequency across both Anglo-America and Latin America. Creole languages other than Haitian Creole are also spoken in parts of Latin America.

The nations of Guyana, Suriname and Belize are generally considered not to fall into either Anglo-America or Latin America due to lingual differences with Latin America and geographic and cultural differences with Anglo-America; English is the primary language of Guyana and Belize, and Dutch is the primary language of Suriname.

Most of the non-native languages have, to different degrees, evolved differently from the mother country, but are usually still mutually intelligible. Some have combined though, which has even resulted in completely new languages, such as Papiamentu, which is a combination of Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch (representing the respective colonisers), native Arawak, various African languages and, more recently, English. Because of immigration, there are many communities where other languages are spoken from all parts of the world, especially in the United States, Brazil, Argentina and Canada, four very important destinations for immigrants.




Multinational organizations in the Americas

See also




External links


Original Source

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