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North America is a continent in the Earth's northern hemisphere and almost fully in the western hemisphere, bordered on the north by the Arctic Ocean, on the east by the North Atlantic Ocean, on the southeast by the Caribbean Sea, and on the south and west by the North Pacific Ocean; South America lies to the southeast. It covers an area of about 24,480,000 square kilometres (9,450,000 sq mi), or about 4.8% of the planet's surface. As of July 2002, its population was estimated at more than 514,000,000. It is the third largest continent in area, after Asia and Africa, and is fourth in population after Asia, Africa, and Europe.
South America is a continent situated in the western hemisphere and, mostly, the southern hemisphere, bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east by the Atlantic Ocean; North America and the Caribbean Sea lie to the northwest. As part of the Americas, like North America, South America is named after Amerigo Vespucci, who was the first European to suggest that the Americas were not the East Indies, but a New World unknown to Europeans. South America has an area of 17,840,000 km² (6,890,000 sq mi), or almost 3.5% of the Earth's surface. As of 2005, its population was estimated at more than 371,000,000. South America ranks fourth in area (after Asia, Africa, and North America) and fifth in population (after Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America).
The Americas are the lands of the Western hemisphere consisting of the continents of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions. The term is a relatively recent, less ambiguous alternative to the term America, which may refer to either the entire landmass or the United States of America. The former, and original, usage to describe what is sometimes considered a single continent or supercontinent is deprecated for clarity, for which the Americas is used to collectively refer to the landmass and various regions of it. When used to describe a single landmass, analogous terms to America or (the) Americas are Eurasia, which consists of Europe and Asia collectively, and Eurafrasia, which is Eurasia and Africa.
Naming of America - The earliest known use of the name America for the greater 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. 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. Thus, America should really have become Vespucci Land or Vespuccia if the Italian explorer really gave his name to the newly discovered continent. Christopher Columbus, who had first brought the continents' existence to the attention of Renaissance era voyagers, had died in 1506 (believing, to the end, that he'd discovered and conquered 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 proposed by a Bristol antiquary and naturalist, Alfred Hudd, 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. 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.
Another theory, 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.
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.
America/Americas - Throughout the world, America in the singular is commonly used as a colloquial 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 those in the United States of America generally refer to the country as America and themselves as Americans, many individuals 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. Numerous 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 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. This may be due, at least in part, to the fact that the phrase "United States" does not easily translate into an adjective or descriptive noun in English. In addition, many 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 and American accents.
Spanish usage - While Spanish-speaking peoples in Latin America use the word estadounidense (literally, "United-States-ian" or "of the United States"), calling someone a "United States-man" or "United States'er" or other such constructions sounds awkward in English. This has led to the use of the word American. Nevertheless, calling a U.S. citizen simply americano or americana in Spanish is considered offensive in some areas of Latin America. Some Latin Americans, however, will use "americano" or "americana" to refer to people from the United States in colloquial speech while still considering themselves "American", just as Germans or Spaniards would consider themselves "European".
Ethnology - The population of the Americas is made up of the descendents of three large ethnic groups and their combinations: the native inhabitants of the Americas, being Amerindians, Eskimos, and Aleuts; Europeans, mainly Spanish, English, Irish, Portuguese, French, Italian, German and Dutch; and black Africans. There are also more recent immigrants, such as from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Central and Eastern Asia.
The majority of the people live in Latin America: most of Latin America is Spanish-speaking, with Portuguese-speaking Brazil as the major exception. 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.
Languages - Various languages are spoken in the Americas. Some are of the European origin, others are spoken by indigenous peoples or are the mixture of various idioms like the different creoles.
Spanish - spoken by approximately 360 million in many nations, regions, islands, and communities throughout the two continents.
English - spoken by approximately 325 million people in the United States, Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, The Bahamas, Belize, Bermuda, Guyana and many islands of the Caribbean.
Portuguese - spoken by approximately 185 million in Brazil
French - spoken by approximately 12 million in Canada (mainly in Quebec), the Caribbean (Haiti, Guadeloupe, Martinique); in French Guiana; and in Acadiana (a francophone area in southern Louisiana, United States).
Antillean Creole - spoken by approximately 1.2 million in the Eastern Caribbean (Guadeloupe, Martinique, Dominica, Saint Lucia) and French Guiana.
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.
Nahuatl - native language of central Mexico with 1.5 million speakers.
Mapudungun (or Mapuche) - native language spoken by approximately 440,000 people in Chile and Argentina.
Cree - Cree is the name for a group of closely-related Algonquian languages spoken by approximately 50,000 speakers across Canada
Inuit - native language traditionally spoken across the North American Arctic and to some extent in the subarctic in Labrador.
Aymará - native language spoken in the Andes, especially in Bolivia.
Dutch - spoken in the Netherlands Antilles, Aruba, and Suriname
Quiché and other Maya languages - native languages spoken in Guatemala and southern Mexico.
Quechua - native language spoken in southern Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, northern Chile, and northwest Argentina.
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.
^ Burchfield, R. W. 2004. Fowler's Modern English Usage. (ISBN 0-19-861021-1) Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press; p. 48.
^ a b Fee, Margery and McAlpine, J. 1997. Oxford Guide to Canadian English Usage. (ISBN 0-19-541619-8) Toronto: Oxford University Press; p. 36.
"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.
Use of the word American
American: the many uses of the word American
João Pessoa, known as the city where the sun comes first, is the easternmost point of the Americas, at 34º 47' 38" west longitude and 7º 9' 28" south latitude.
The Naming of America
Organization of American State
America noviter delineata / M. Merian, fecit. 1633 Map of North and South America, hosted by the Portal to Texas History.