Americas, or America, are the
lands of the Western
hemisphere or New World, comprising
the continents of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions.
America may be ambiguous in English,
as it is more commonly used to refer to
the United States of
The Americas cover 8.3% of the Earth's
total surface area (28.4% of its land area) and contain about 13.5%
of the human population (about 900 million people).
South America broke off from the west of the supercontinent Gondwanaland
around 135 million years ago
), forming its own continent. Starting
around 15 Ma
, the collision of the
and the Pacific Plate
resulted in a series of
volcanoes along the border that created a number of islands. The
gaps in the archipelago of Central
filled in with material eroded off North America and
South America, plus new land created by continued volcanism. By 3
Ma, the continents of North America and South America were linked
by the Isthmus of Panama
forming the single landmass of the Americas.
crossed the Bering land bridge
comparatively late in
prehistory. Discoveries in Siberia's Altai Mountains have led some anthropologists to theorise that humans were
largely prevented from crossing to Alaska due to large numbers of
finds establish the widespread presence of the Clovis culture
in North America and South
America around 10,000 BCE. Whether this is the first migration of
humans into North America and South America is disputed, with
holding that humans arrived in North America and South
America as early as around 40,000 BCE.
migrated into the Arctic
section of North America in another wave of
migration, arriving around 1000 CE. Around the same time as the Inuit migrated
into North America, Viking settlers began
arriving in Greenland in 982 and Vinland shortly
The Viking settlers quickly abandoned Vinland,
and disappeared from Greenland by 1500.
Large-scale European colonization of
began shortly after the voyages of Christopher Columbus
starting in 1492.
The spread of new diseases brought by Europeans and Africans killed
most of the inhabitants of North America and South America, with a
crash of Native Americans
occurring in the mid-sixteenth
century, often well ahead of European contact. Native peoples and
European colonizers came into widespread conflict, resulting in
what David Stannard
has called a
indigenous populations.Staff. A review
of American Holocaust: The
Conquest of the New World
), on the website of the Oxford University Press (the
publishers) 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
seeking economic opportunities. Millions of individuals were
forcibly transported to the Americas as slaves
or indentured servants
The earliest known use of the name America
particular landmass dates from April 25, 1507. It appears first on a
small globe map with twelve time zones, and then a large wall map
created by the German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller in Saint-Dié-des-Vosges in France. An accompanying book, Cosmographiae Introductio,
explains that the name was derived from the Latinized version of the Florentine explorer Amerigo
Vespucci's name, Americus Vespucius, in its feminine
form, America, as the other continents all have feminine
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. Waldseemüller may
have been misled by the Soderini
, claimed by some to be a forgery, which implies that it
was discovered first by Amerigo Vespucci. 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 had discovered and colonized the
Indies he had set out looking for) and could not protest
alternate proposal, 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
Map of America by Jonghe, c.
The gold-rich district of Amerrique was
purportedly visited by both Vespucci and Columbus, for whom the
name became synonymous with gold.Another theory, first proposed by a
Bristol antiquary and naturalist, Alfred Hudd, in 1908 was that
America is derived from Richard
Amerike (Richard ap Meurig), a Bristol merchant of Welsh
descent, who is believed to have financed John Cabot's voyage of discovery from England to Newfoundland in 1497.
northernmost point of the Americas is Kaffeklubben
Island, which is the northernmost point of land on
Earth. The southernmost point is the islands of
Thule, although they are sometimes considered part of
Antarctica. The easternmost point is Nordostrundingen. The westernmost point is Attu Island.
The mainland of the Americas is the longest north-to-south landmass
on Earth. At its longest, it stretches roughly 14,000
kilometres, (just under 8700 miles) from the Boothia
Peninsula in northern Canada to Cape Froward in Chilean
Patagonia. The westernmost point
of the mainland of the Americas is the end of the Seward
Peninsula in Alaska, while Ponta do Seixas in northeastern Brazil forms the mainland's
western geography of the Americas is dominated by the American
cordillera, with the Andes running along
the west coast of South America and the Rocky Mountains and other Pacific Coast Ranges running the
western side of North America. The 2300 km long
(1429 mile long) Appalachian Mountains run along the east coast of North America from
Alabama to Newfoundland.
North of the Appalachians, the Arctic Cordillera
runs along the eastern
coast of Canada.
Between its coastal mountain ranges, North America has vast flat
areas. The Interior Plains
over much of the continent with low relief. The Canadian Shield
covers almost 5 million km²
of North America and is generally quite flat. Similarly, the
north-east of South America is covered by the flat Amazon Basin
. The Brazilian Highlands on the east coast
are fairly smooth but show some variations in landform, while
further south the Gran Chaco and Pampas are broad
With coastal mountains and interior plains, the Americas have
several large river basins
the continents. The largest river basin in South America is that of
, which has the highest
volume flow of any river on Earth. The largest river basin in North
America is that of the Mississippi
, covering the second largest
on the planet. The second largest
watershed of South America is that of the Paraná
River, which covers about 2.5 million km².
The total population of the Americas is 858,000,000 people per the
United Nations' Population and Vital Statistics
, and is divided as follows:
America: 2001 with 495 million and in 2002 with 501 million
(includes Central America and
- South America: 2001 with 352 million and in 2002 with 357
The population of the Americas is made up of the descendants of
seven large ethnic groups
majority of the population live in Latin
America, named for its predominant cultures whose roots lie in
Latin Europe (including the two
dominant languages, Spanish and
Portuguese, both neolatin), more specifically in the Iberian nations of Portugal and Spain (hence the
use of the term Ibero-America as a
synonym). Latin America is typically contrasted with
Anglo-America (where English, a Germanic language, is prevalent) which
comprises Canada (with the
exception of francophone Canada
rooted in Latin Europe (France): see
Québec and Acadia) and the United States.
- The Indigenous
peoples of the Americas, being Amerindians, Inuit, and
- Those of European ancestry, mainly
Spanish, British, Irish,
Italian, Portuguese, French, Polish,
German, Dutch, and Scandinavian people.
- Mestizos, those of mixed European and
- Those of Black African ancestry,
mainly of West African descent.
- Mulattoes, people of mixed Black African
and European ancestry.
- Zambos (Spanish) or Cafusos (Portuguese), those of mixed Black African
and Amerindian ancestry.
- Asian, that is, those of Eastern, South, and
Southeast Asian ancestry.
- Those from the Middle East
Both are located in North America and
present predominantly Anglo-Saxon
The most prevalent faiths in the Americas are as follows:
- Christianity (North America: 85 percent; South America: 93
- Roman Catholicism
(practiced by 89 percent of the Mexican population; approximately
74 percent of the population of Brazil, whose Roman Catholic
population of 182 million is the greatest of any nation's;
approximately 24 percent of the United States population; and more
than 40 percent of all of Canadians)
- Protestantism (practiced mostly in
United States, where half of the population are Protestant, and
Canada, with slightly more than a quarter of the population; there
is a growing contingent of Evangelical and Pentecostal movements in predominantly Catholic
- Eastern Orthodoxy (found
mostly in the United States and Canada— 1 percent of the US
citizenry; this Christian group is growing faster than many other
Christian groups in Canada and now represents roughly 3 percent of
the Canadian population)
- Other Christians and non-denominational Christians (some 1,000
different Christian denominations and sects practiced in the
- Irreligion (includes atheists and
agnostics, as well as those who profess some form of spirituality
but do not identify themselves as members of any organized
- Judaism (practiced by
2 percent of North Americans—approximately 2.5 percent of the U.S.
population and 1.2 percent of Canadians; 0.23 percent of Latin
Americans—Argentina has the largest Jewish communities in Latin America
with 200,000 members)
- Islam (2 percent of
Canadians (580,000 persons), 0.6% percent of the U.S. population
(1,820,000 persons), and 0.2% of Mexicans (<250,000 persons).=""
Together,="" Muslims="" constitute="" approximately="" 0.5%=""
of="" the="" North="" American="" population.="" cities="" with=""
high="" concentrations="" include="" Toronto, Philadelphia, Detroit, and New York City.; 0.3 percent of all Latin Americans)
Other faiths include Sikhism
; a wide variety of
indigenous religions, many of which can be categorized as animistic
; and many African and afro-derived
religions. Syncretic faiths can also be found throughout the
Languages spoken in the Americas
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
dominant language of Latin America is
Spanish, though the largest nation
in Latin America, Brazil, speaks
Portuguese. Small enclaves of
French- and English-speaking regions also exist in Latin America,
notably in French
Guiana and Belize
respectively, and Haitian
Creole, of French origin, is dominant in the nation of Haiti.
are more prominent in Latin America than in Anglo-America
, with Nahuatl
as the most common. Various
other native languages are spoken with less frequency across both
Anglo-America and Latin America. Creole
other than Haitian Creole are also spoken in parts of
The dominant language of Anglo-America, as the name suggests, is
. French is also official in Canada, where it is
the predominant language in Québec and an
official language in New Brunswick along with English. It is also an
important language in the U.S. state of
Louisiana. Spanish has become widely spoken in parts of
States due to heavy immigration from Latin America.
High levels of immigration in general 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
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, geographic
differences with Anglo-America, and cultural and historical
differences with both regions; English is the primary language of
Guyana and Belize, and Dutch is the
official and written language of Suriname.
- Spanish – spoken by approximately 310 million in many nations
throughout the continent.
- English – spoken by approximately 300
million people in the United States, Canada, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, The
Bahamas, Bermuda, Belize, Guyana, the Falklands and many islands of the Caribbean.
- Portuguese – spoken by approximately 185 million in South
America, mostly Brazil
- French – spoken by approximately 12 million
in Canada (majority 7 million in Québec—see also Québec French), and Acadian communities in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia); the Caribbean (Haiti, Guadeloupe, Martinique); French Guiana; the French islands of Saint Pierre
and Miquelon; and Acadiana (a
Francophone area in southern Louisiana, United States).
- Quechua – native
language spoken by 10–13 million speakers in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, northern Chile, and
- Haitian Creole – creole language, based in French and various
African languages, spoken by 6 million in Haiti and the Haitian Diaspora in Canada and the United
(avañe'ẽ) – native language spoken by approximately 6 million
people in Paraguay, and regions of Argentina, Bolivia, and Brazil.
- Chinese languages are spoken
by at least 5 million people living mostly in the United States,
Canada, Peru and Panama.
- Italian –
spoken by approximately 4 million people, mostly New England / Mid-Atlantic
in the United States, southern
Ontario and Quebec in Canada, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil,
and also includes pidgin dialects of Italian such as Talian (Brazil), and Chipilo
- German – Some 2.2 million.
Spoken by 1.1 million people in the United States plus another
million in parts of Latin America, such as Brazil, Argentina,
Chile, and Paraguay.
- Aymara – native language spoken
by about 2.2 million speakers in the Andes, in
Bolivia, Peru and Chile.
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. Also was the language of the
Aztec People of Mexico.
Creole – spoken by approximately 1.2 million in the Eastern Caribbean (Guadeloupe, Martinique,
Lucia) and French Guiana.
- Javanese is
a major language in Suriname
- Tagalog has been present in the
continent since the Spanish empire.
It is now spoken by 1.5 million people mostly living in the United
States and Canada.
- Vietnamese is spoken by 1
million recent immigrants to the United States.
- Various Indian languages such
as Hindi and Punjabi are spoken by Indo-Caribbeans and have large populations
in the United States and Canada.
- Korean has recently become a
major language in the United States with about 1 million
- Japanese was once a major
minority language in the United States but has recently dwindled in
terms of population. Also found in Brazil and Peru.
- Hmong is an indigenous language
in Southeast Asia, whose largest
number of speakers outside Asia is in the
- American Sign Language –
An estimated 100,000–500,000 people within the Deaf Community use
ASL as their primary language in the United States and Canada.
- Mapudungun (or Mapuche) – native
language spoken by approximately 440,000 people in Chile and
- Navajo – native language spoken
by about 178,000 speakers in the Southwest U.S. on the Navajo Nation (Indian reservation). 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.
- Miskito – Spoken by up over
180,000 Miskitos. They are Indigenous
people who inhabit the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua and the easternmost region of Honduras.
- 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
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. They number about
- Inuit – native language spoken by
about 75,000 across the North American Arctic and to some extent in
the subarctic in Labrador.
- Danish – and Greenlandic (Inuit) are the official
languages of Greenland; most of the population speak both of the
languages (approximately 50,000 people). A minority of Danish
migrants with no Inuit ancestry speak Danish
as their first, or only, language.
- Cree – Cree is the name for a
group of closely-related Algonquian languages spoken by
approximately 50,000 speakers across Canada.
- Nicaraguan Creole –
Spoken in Nicaragua by up to 30,000 people. It is spoken primarily
by persons of African, Amerindian, and European
descent on the Caribbean Coast.
- Garífuna (or Garinagu) - native
language spoken by the Garífuna people who inhabits parts of the
caribbean coast of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. The
vast majority of them live in Honduras.
- Welsh – In Argentina, two towns
of Trelew and Rawson were settled by Welsh immigrants in the late nineteenth 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 twentieth 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
- Sranan Tongo,
also known as Taki Taki, is the most used spoken language of
Suriname. It is not usually used in its written form.
It is a creole language based on Spanish, English, Dutch,
Hindustani, and various other languages.
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, however, which has even
resulted in completely new languages, such as Papiamentu
, which is a combination of Portuguese,
Spanish, Dutch (representing the respective colonizers), native
, 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.
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
and generally with
the definite article
) invariably refers to the
lands and regions of the Western hemisphere. Usage of
America to also refer to this collectivity remains fairly
common; for example, the International Olympic
Committee reckons America as one of the five
inhabited continents, which is depicted in the Olympic logo.
While many in the United States of America and other countries
generally refer to the country as America
residents/citizens as Americans
, many people elsewhere in the
Americas resent what they perceive as misappropriation of the term
in this context and, thus, this usage is frequently avoided. In
Canada, their southern neighbor is seldom referred to as "America",
with the United States
, the U.S.
, or (informally)
used instead. English dictionaries and
compendiums differ regarding usage and rendition.
Whether usage of America
or the Americas
is a self-referential term for many
people living in the Americas. However, much of the
English-speaking world uses the word to refer solely to a citizen
, or national
of the United States of America.
Instead, the word pan-American
used as an unambiguous adjective to refer to the Americas.
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 English
and American English accents
In Spanish, América
is the name of a region considered a
single continent composed of the subcontinents
, the land bridge
, and the islands of the Antillas
refers to a person from América
in a similar way that
refers to a person from
. The terms sudamericano/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
, and the country's name itself is often
translated as Estados Unidos de Norteamérica
. Also, the
may refer to a citizen of the United
States. This term is primarily used to refer to citizens of the
United States, rarely those of other North American
In Portuguese, the word americano
refers to the whole of
. But, in Brazil and Portugal, it is widely
used to refer to the citizens of the United States. The least
ambiguous term, estadunidense
(used in Brazil), something
like "United Statian" or "estadounidense" in Spanish language), and
"ianque"—the Portuguese version of "Yankee"—are rarely
, however, is rarely used as synonym to the
country, and almost never in print and in more formal environments,
where the US is called either Estados Unidos da América
(i.e. United States of America) or simply Estados Unidos
(i.e. United States). There is some difference between the usage of
these words in Portugal and in Brazil, with the Portuguese being
more prone to apply the term América
to the country.
In French, as in English, the word Américain
confusing as it can be used to refer either to the United States,
or 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
, les États-Unis
, or les USA
However, the usage of Amérique
to refer to the United
States, while technically not correct, does still 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. Books by United States
authors translated from English are often described as "traduit de
Things relating to the United States can be referred to without
ambiguity by the words états-unien
, although their usage is rare.
In Dutch, the word Amerika
mostly refers to the United
States. Although the United States is equally often referred to as
de Verenigde Staten
or de VS
relatively rarely refers to the Americas, but it is the only
commonly used Dutch word for the Americas. This often leads to
ambiguity and to stress that something concerns the Americas as a
whole, Dutch uses a combination, namely Noord- en Zuid
(North and South America).
Latin America is generally referred to as Latijns Amerika
or, less frequently, Zuid Amerika
The adjective amerikaans
is most often used for things or
people relating to the United States. There are no alternative
words to distinguish between things relating to the United States
or to the Americas. Dutch uses the local alternative for things
relating to elsewhere in the Americas, such as Argentijns
for Argentinian etc.
In the 19th century in Russia the word "America" was used for a
traditional continent such as Europe and Asia. In the 20th century
these traditional continents are known as "parts of the world". Now
the term "continent" means any of six large continuous landmasses
(Eurasia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, and
Australia). Now the word Ameriсa
refers to the United
States more often than to America as a "part of the world". There
is no term equivalent to "Americas" in Russian.
Countries and territories
Map showing the dates of independence
of the countries of the Americas.
Black shows areas not independent.
There are 35 sovereign states
Americas, 23 in North America and 12 in South America:
Overseas regions and dependencies
Multinational organizations in the Americas
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Americus, the Latinized first name of the explorer Amerigo
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Ameryk, sheriff of Bristol and patron of John Cabot (Giovanni
Caboto), the 16c Anglo-Italian explorer of North America. The name
America first appeared on a map in 1507 by the German
cartographer Martin Waldseemüller, referring to the area now called
Brazil]. Since the 16c, a name of the western hemisphere, often in
the plural Americas and more or less synonymous with
the New World. Since the 18c, a name of the United States
of America. The second sense is now primary in English: ...
However, the term is open to uncertainties: ..."
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Oversized Hyenas May Have Delayed Human Arrival in North
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