Learn more about AmericasWestern hemisphere or New World consisting of the continents of North America 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.
 Naming of America
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 and most probably a tale.  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.
However, as Dr. Basil Cottle (Author, Dictionary of Surnames, 1967) points out, new countries or continents are never named after a person's first name, always after their second name (with the exception of some places named after the first names of monarchs or princes, such as Carolina). Thus, America should really have become Vespucci Land or Vespuccia if the Italian explorer really gave his name to the continent. 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.
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.
A third earlier possibility, hardly known to western historians, may be a medieval Arabian origin of America's name from 11th century. In that time Spain was under the rule of Moorish moslems, and among them important military leaders were Wadha El-Ameri (1009-1013) and Zohair Al-Ameri (1018-1041), both arabized seafarers native from Adriatic islands of Dalmatia. In 11th century they organized the Moorish oceanic expeditions across Atlantic to oversea 'Westlands' (in Moorish Ard-Maykola); these expeditions then were described also by the medieval Arabian historians Al-Idrisi (1099-1166)
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. 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">Fee, Margery and McAlpine, J. 1997. Oxford Guide to Canadian English Usage. (ISBN 0-19-541619-8) Toronto: Oxford University Press; p. 36.</ref> English dictionaries and compendiums differ regarding usage and rendition.
 English usage
Whether usage of America or the Americas is preferred, American is a self-referential term for many people living in all of 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. The word pan-American is used instead as an 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" />
 Portuguese usage
In Portuguese the adjective americano refers commonly to the whole of the Americas. Dictionaries such as Aurélio (1999) also include americano as referring to "U.S. citizens and things" as the third meaning in usage list. The second one refers to americano as being a fan of one of many soccer teams that have America as part of their names.
Normally the adjective norte-americano is used when referring to the United States. In more formal language estadunidense can also be used instead. More recently the usage of americano as referring to people and things from the United States has grown in areas with deeper influence of U.S. culture (especially Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo), but it is not considered the norm in other parts of the Portuguese-speaking world.
The landmass itself is called América. More recently As Américas (the Americas) has been growing in usage in areas more influenced by the United States culture (as mentioned above). This usage has not yet been added to Portuguese dictionaries, and it is considered to be an Anglicism.
 Spanish usage
Calling a U.S. citizen simply americano or americana in Spanish is considered offensive by many Latin-Americans (estadounidense for both males and females is the correct Spanish word). Sometimes "gringo" or "yanqui" is used but those terms tend to be disrespectful. In Spanish, americano or americana is used to refer to people from the American continent, much like europeo or europea is used for those living in Europe. The term norteamericano or norteamericana technically refers to any person living in North America but is also commonly used to describe U.S. citizens (even by people in Mexico and Central America). Often context clues are needed to know if a speaker is referring to a U.S. citizen or any person living in North America.
 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 technically refers to the continents; 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 étatsunien, or étasunien, although this usage is rather rare.
The American population, is made up of the descendants of three large ethnic groups and their combinations:
- 1. the native inhabitants of the Americas, being Amerindians, Eskimos, and Aleuts;
- 2. Europeans, mainly Spanish, English, Irish, Portuguese, French, Africans, Italian, German and Dutch. There are also more
- 3. recent immigrants, such from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Central, South, and Eastern Asia.
The majority of the people live in Latin America, named for its dominant languages, Spanish and Portuguese, both of which (as well as French) 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 the Canadian province of Quebec, and along with English is an official language in New Brunswick, Ontario and in the U.S. state of Louisiana. Due to heavy immigration from Latin America to the south, Spanish has become widely spoken in much 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, and parts of Honduras, 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.
- Spanish - spoken by approximately 360 million in many nations, regions, islands, and communities throughout both continents.
- English - spoken by approximately 325 million people in the United States, Canada, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, The Bahamas, Bermuda, Guyana and many islands of the Caribbean.
- Portuguese - spoken by approximately 185 million in Brazil
- French - spoken by approximately 12 million in Canada (majority 7 million in Quebec, and Acadian communities in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia); the Caribbean (Haiti, Guadeloupe, Martinique); French Guiana; and Acadiana (a francophone area in southern Louisiana, United States).
- Quechua - native language spoken by about 9.5 million speakers in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, northern Chile, and northwest Argentina.
- Haitian Creole - creole language, based in French and various African languages, spoken by 7.8 million in Haiti.
- Guaraní (avañe'ẽ) - native language spoken by approximately 6 million people in Paraguay, and regions of Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil.
- Aymará - native language spoken by about 2.2 million speakers in the Andes, especially in Bolivia.
- Quiché and other Maya languages - native languages spoken by about 1.9 million speakers in Guatemala and southern Mexico.
- Nahuatl - native language of central Mexico with 1.5 million speakers.
- Antillean Creole - spoken by approximately 1.2 million in the Eastern Caribbean (Guadeloupe, Martinique, Dominica, Saint Lucia) and French Guiana.
- American Sign Language - An estimated 500,000 to 2 million people within the Deaf Community use ASL as thier primary language through out The United States
- Mapudungun (or Mapuche) - native language spoken by approximately 440,000 people in Chile and Argentina.
- Navajo- native language spoken by about 300,000 speakers in the Southwest U.S. on the Navajo Nation (Indian reservation), Arizona. The tribe's isolation until the early 1900s provided a language used in a military code in World War II.
- Dutch - spoken in the Netherlands Antilles, Aruba, and Suriname by about 210,000 speakers.
- Pennsylvania Dutch - Some descendants of the Pennsylvania Dutch in the Northeast U.S. speak a local form of the German language which dates back to the 17th and 18th centuries. They number about 85,000.
- Inuit - native language spoken by about 75,000 across the North American Arctic and to some extent in the subarctic in Labrador.
- Cree - Cree is the name for a group of closely-related Algonquian languages spoken by approximately 50,000 speakers across Canada
- Welsh - In Argentina, two towns of Trelew and Rawson were settled by Welsh immigrants in the late 19th century and the Welsh language remains spoken by about 25,000, including the towns' older residents.
- Cherokee- native language spoken in a small corner of Oklahoma, U.S by about 19,000 speakers. The use of this language has rebounded in the late 20th century. It is known to possess its own alphabet, the Cherokee syllabary.
- Gullah- a creole language based on English with strong influences from West and Central African languages spoken by the Gullah people, an African American population living on the coastal region of the U.S. states of South Carolina and Georgia.
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.
 Mutinational organizations in the Americas
- Organization of American States
- American Capital of Culture
- Organization of Ibero-American States
- South American Community of Nations
- Rio Group
- North Atlantic Treaty Organization
- North American Free Trade Agreement
- Free Trade Area of the Americas
- Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas
- Alliance for Progress
- Association of Caribbean States
- Central American Parliament
- School of the Americas
 See also
- List of American countries
- Former American countries - for a list of former American countries.
- History of the Americas
- Americas (terminology)
- Use of the word American
- New World
- La Merika
- Middle America
- North America
- Central America
- South America
- British North America
- European colonization of the Americas
- Decolonization of the Americas
- Latin America
- French America
- New Spain
- "Americas". The Columbia Gazetteer of the World Online. 2006. New York: Columbia University Press.
- "Americas". Encyclopædia Britannica, 15th ed. 1986. (ISBN 0-85229-434-4) Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
- Burchfield, R. W. 2004. Fowler's Modern English Usage. (ISBN 0-19-861021-1) Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
- Fee, Margery and McAlpine, J. 1997. Oxford Guide to Canadian English Usage. (ISBN 0-19-541619-8) Toronto: Oxford University Press.
- Pearsall, Judy and Trumble, Bill., ed. 2002. Oxford English Reference Dictionary, 2nd ed. (rev.) (ISBN 0-19-860652-4) Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
- What's the difference between North, Latin, Central, Middle, South, Spanish and Anglo America? Geography at about.com.
 External links
- The naming of America: fragments we've shored against ourselves by Jonathan Cohen
- Organization of American States
- America noviter delineata, a 1633 map of North and South America made by Matthaeus Merian
Antigua and Barbuda • Argentina • Bahamas • Barbados • Belize • Bolivia • Brazil • Canada • Chile • Colombia • Costa Rica • Cuba • Dominica • Dominican Republic • Ecuador • El Salvador • Grenada • Guatemala • Guyana • Haiti • Honduras • Jamaica • Mexico • Nicaragua • Panama • Paraguay • Peru • Saint Kitts and Nevis • Saint Lucia • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines • Suriname • Trinidad and Tobago • United States • Uruguay • Venezuela
Denmark: Greenland • France: Guadeloupe • Guiana • Martinique ∙ Saint-Pierre and Miquelon • Netherlands: Aruba ∙ Netherlands Antilles •
UK: Anguilla ∙ Bermuda ∙ British Virgin Islands ∙ Cayman Islands ∙ Montserrat ∙ Turks and Caicos Islands •
U.S.: Puerto Rico ∙ U.S. Virgin Islands
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