|Population||911,000,000 (July 2008 est.)|
|Pop. density||21/km2 (55/sq mi)|
|Demonym||American (but see usage)|
|Languages||Spanish, English, Portuguese,
French, Quechua, Haitian Creole, Guaraní, Aymara, Dutch and many others
|Time Zones||UTC-10 to UTC|
The Americas, or America, are lands in the Western Hemisphere that are also known as the New World. Comprising the continents of North America and South America, along with their associated islands, they cover 8.3% of the Earth's total surface area (28.4% of its land area). The topography is dominated by the American Cordillera, a long chain of mountains that run the length of the west coast. The flatter eastern side of the Americas is dominated by large river basins, such as the Amazon, Mississippi, and La Plata. Extending 14,000 km (8,699 mi) in a north-south orientation, the climate and ecology varies strongly across the Americas, from arctic tundra of Northern Canada, Greenland, and Alaska, to the tropical rain forests in Central America and South America. When the continents joined 3 million years ago, the Great American Interchange resulted in many species being spread across the Americas, such as the cougar, porcupine, opossums, armadillos and hummingbirds.
Humans first settled the Americas from Asia between 40,000 BCE and 15,000 BCE. A second migration of Na-Dene speakers followed later from Asia. The subsequent migration of the Inuit into the neoarctic around 3500 BCE completed what is generally regarded as the settlement by the Indigenous peoples of the Americas. The first European discovery of and settlement in the Americas was by the Norse explorer Leif Ericson. However the colonization never became permanent and was later abandoned. The voyages of Christopher Columbus from 1492 to 1502 resulted in permanent contact with European (and subsequently, other Old World) powers, which led to the Columbian exchange. Diseases introduced from Europe and Africa devastated the Indigenous peoples, and the European powers colonised the Americas. Mass emigration from Europe, including large numbers of indentured servants, and forced immigration of African slaves largely replaced the Indigenous Peoples. Beginning with the American Revolution in 1776 and Haitian Revolution in 1791, the European powers began to decolonise the Americas. Currently, almost all of the population of the Americas resides in independent countries; however, the legacy of the colonisation and settlement by Europeans is that the Americas share many common cultural traits, most notably the predominant adherence to Christianity and use of Indo-European languages; primarily Spanish, English, and Portuguese. More than 900 million people live in the Americas (about 13.5% of the human population), the most populous countries being the United States, Brazil, and Mexico, the most populous cities being Mexico City, São Paulo, and New York City.
The earliest known use of the name America dates to April 25, 1507, where it was applied to what is now known as South America. It appears on a small globe map with twelve time zones, together with the largest wall map made to date, both created by the German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller in Saint-Dié-des-Vosges in France. These were the first maps to show the Americas as a land mass separate from Asia. An accompanying book, Cosmographiae Introductio, anonymous but apparently written by Waldseemüller's collaborator Matthias Ringmann, states, "I do not see what right any one would have to object to calling this part [that is, the South American mainland], after Americus who discovered it and who is a man of intelligence, Amerigen, that is, the Land of Americus, or America: since both Europa and Asia got their names from women". Americus Vespucius is the Latinized version of the Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci's name, and America is the feminine form of Americus. Amerigen is explained as Amerigo plus gen, the accusative case of the Greek word for 'earth', and meaning 'land of Amerigo'. (See etymology.) Amerigo itself is an Italian form of the medieval Latin Emericus (see also Saint Emeric of Hungary), which through the German form Heinrich (in English, Henry) derived from the Germanic name Haimirich.
Vespucci was apparently unaware of the use of his name to refer to the new landmass, as Waldseemüller's maps did not reach Spain until a few years after his death. Ringmann may have been misled into crediting Vespucci by the widely published Soderini Letter, a sensationalized version of one of Vespucci's actual letters reporting on the mapping of the South American coast, which glamorized his discoveries and implied that he had recognized that South America was a continent separate from Asia; in fact, it is not known what Vespucci believed on this count, and he may have died believing what Columbus had, that they had reached the East Indies in Asia rather than a new continent. Spain officially refused to accept the name America for two centuries, saying that Columbus should get credit, and Waldseemüller's later maps, after Ringmann's death, did not include it; however, usage was established when Gerardus Mercator applied the name to the entire New World in his 1538 world map. Acceptance may have been aided by the "natural poetic counterpart" that the name America made with Asia, Africa, and Europa.
In modern English, North and South America are generally considered separate continents, and taken together are called the Americas in the plural, parallel to similar situations such as the Carolinas. When conceived as a unitary continent, the form is generally the continent of America in the singular. However, without a clarifying context, singular America almost invariably refers to the United States of America.
The northernmost point of the Americas is Kaffeklubben Island, which is the most northerly point of land on Earth. The southernmost point is the islands of Southern Thule, although they are sometimes considered part of Antarctica. The mainland of the Americas is the world's longest north-to-south landmass. The distance between its two polar extremities, the Boothia Peninsula in northern Canada and Cape Froward in Chilean Patagonia, is roughly 14,000 km (8,700 mi). The mainland's most westerly point is the end of the Seward Peninsula in Alaska; Attu Island, further off the Alaskan coast to the west, is considered the westernmost point of the Americas. Ponta do Seixas in northeastern Brazil forms the easternmost extremity of the mainland, while Nordostrundingen, in Greenland, is the most easterly point of the continental shelf.
South America broke off from the west of the supercontinent Gondwana around 135 million years ago, forming its own continent. Around 15 million years ago, the collision of the Caribbean Plate and the Pacific Plate resulted in the emergence of a series of volcanoes along the border that created a number of islands. The gaps in the archipelago of Central America filled in with material eroded off North America and South America, plus new land created by continued volcanism. By 3 million years ago, the continents of North America and South America were linked by the Isthmus of Panama, thereby forming the single landmass of the Americas.
The 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 North American Cordillera ranges running along the western side of North America. The 2,300 km (1,429 mi) 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.
The ranges with the highest peaks are the Andes and Rocky Mountain ranges. While high peaks exists in the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Range, on average there are not as many reaching a height greater than fourteen thousand feet. In North America, the largest amount of fourteeners occur in the United States and more specifically in the U.S. state of Colorado. The highest peaks in the Americas are located in the Andes with Aconcagua of Argentina being the highest; in North America Denali in the U.S. state of Alaska is the tallest.
Between its coastal mountain ranges, North America has vast flat areas. The Interior Plains spread 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 lowlands.
With coastal mountains and interior plains, the Americas have several large river basins that drain the continents. The largest river basin in North America is that of the Mississippi, covering the second largest watershed on the planet. The Mississippi-Missouri river system drains most of 31 states of the U.S., most of the Great Plains, and large areas between the Rocky and Appalachian mountains. This river is the fourth longest in the world and tenth most powerful in the world.
In North America, to the east of the Appalachian Mountains, there are no major rivers but rather a series of rivers and streams that flow east with their terminus in the Atlantic Ocean, such as the Hudson River, Saint John River, and Savannah River. A similar instance arises with central Canadian rivers that drain into Hudson Bay; the largest being the Churchill River. On the west coast of North America, the main rivers are the Colorado River, Columbia River, Yukon River, Fraser River, and Sacramento River.
The Colorado River drains much of the Southern Rockies and parts of the Great Basin and Range Province. The river flows approximately 1,450 miles (2,330 km) into the Gulf of California, during which over time it has carved out natural phenomena such as the Grand Canyon and created phenomena such as the Salton Sea. The Columbia is a large river, 1,243 miles (2,000 km) long, in central western North America and is the most powerful river on the West Coast of the Americas. In the far northwest of North America, the Yukon drains much of the Alaskan peninsula and flows 1,980 miles (3,190 km) from parts of Yukon and the Northwest Territory to the Pacific. Draining to the Arctic Ocean in North America, the Mackenzie River drains waters from the great lakes of Canada. This river is the largest in Canada and drains 1,805,200 square kilometres (697,000 sq mi).
The largest river basin in South America is that of the Amazon, which has the highest volume flow of any river on Earth. The second largest watershed of South America is that of the Paraná River, which covers about 2.5 million km².
The climate of the Americas varies significantly from region to region. Tropical rainforest climate occurs in the latitudes of the Amazon, American Cloud forests, Florida and Darien Gap. In the Rocky Mountains and Andes, a similar climate is observed. Often the higher altitudes of these mountains are snow capped.
Southeastern North America is well known for its occurrence of tornadoes and hurricanes, of which the vast majority of tornadoes occur in the United States' Tornado Alley. Often parts of the Caribbean are exposed to the violent effects of hurricanes. These weather systems are formed by the collision of dry, cool air from Canada and wet, warm air from the Atlantic.
The total population of the Americas is about 859,000,000 people and is divided as follows:
There are three urban centers that each hold titles for being the largest population area based on the three main demographic concepts:
In accordance with these definitions, the three largest population centers in the Americas are: Mexico City, anchor to the largest metropolitan area in the Americas; New York City, anchor to the largest urban area in the Americas; and São Paulo, the largest city proper in the Americas. All three cities maintain Alpha classification and large scale influence.
|Urban Centers within the Americas|
|Country||City||City proper population||Urban area population||Metro area population|
|United States||New York City||8,175,133||20,710,000||18,897,109|
The population of the Americas is made up of the descendants of four large ethnic groups and their combinations.
The majority of the population live in Latin America, named for its predominant cultures, rooted in Latin Europe (including the two dominant languages, Spanish and Portuguese, both Romance languages), 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, and which comprises Canada (with the exception of francophone Canada rooted in Latin Europe (France)—see Québec and Acadia) and the United States. Both countries are located in North America, with cultures deriving predominantly from Anglo-Saxon and Germanic roots.
The most prevalent faiths in the Americas are as follows:
Other faiths include Sikhism; Buddhism; Hinduism; Bahá'í; a wide variety of indigenous religions, many of which can be categorized as animistic; new age religions and many African and African-derived religions. Syncretic faiths can also be found throughout the continent.
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 Latin America is Spanish, though the largest nation in Latin America, Brazil, speaks Portuguese. Small enclaves of French-, Dutch- and English-speaking regions also exist in Latin America, notably in French Guiana, Suriname, and Belize and Guyana 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 less frequency across both Anglo-America and Latin America. Creole languages other than Haitian Creole are also spoken in parts of Latin America.
The dominant language of Anglo-America is English. French is also official in Canada, where it is the predominant language in Quebec and an official language in New Brunswick along with English. It is also an important language in the US state of Louisiana, and in parts of New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont. Spanish has kept an ongoing presence in the Southwestern United States, which formed part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain, especially in California and New Mexico, where a distinct variety of Spanish spoken since the 17th century has survived. It has more recently become widely spoken in other parts of the United 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 groups.
The nations of Guyana, Suriname, and Belize are generally considered[by whom?] 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.
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 Papiamento, which is a combination of Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch (representing the respective colonizers), native Arawak, various African languages, and, more recently English. Portuñol, a mixture of Portuguese and Spanish, is spoken in the border regions of Brazil and neighboring Spanish-speaking countries. More specifically, Riverense Portuñol is spoken by around 100,000 people in the border regions of Brazil and Uruguay. Due to 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— and half of the population of Uruguay is thought to be of Italian descent.
|Subdivisions of the Americas|
North America (NA)
South America (SA)
May be included in
either NA or SA
North America (NA)
May be included in NA
North America (NA)
May be included in NA
Middle America (MA)
Caribbean (may be
included in MA)
South America (SA)
May be included
in MA or SA
May be included in A-A
Latin America (LA)
May be included in LA
Some uses of the English word America in a hemispherical sense remain, or are translated from other languages as such, as in the names of international organizations. For instance, the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) in Paris maintains a single continental association for "America", represented by one of the five Olympic rings.
Speakers of English generally refer to the landmasses of North America and South America as the Western Hemisphere, the New World, or the Americas, to U.S. citizens as Americans and to the United States as America. This sense of America, in modern usage, is used almost exclusively to refer to the United States of America, use in English of this sense has caused offense to some from Canada or Latin America who avoid this usage, preferring constructed terms in their languages derived from "United States" or even "North America". In Canada, its southern neighbor is often referred to as "the United States", "the U.S.A.", or (informally) "the States," while citizens are generally referred to as Americans. English dictionaries and compendiums differ regarding usage and rendition.
People who are not connected with the United States rarely call themselves American, but the word is sometimes used by Latin Americans when they are speaking English because they also consider themselves American, and feel that using the term solely for the United States misappropriates it.[verification needed] When using the word as a demonym, the English-speaking world uses American primarily to refer to a citizen or national of the United States of America. For instance, Canadians abroad typically resent being referred to as Americans, but some have protested the use of American as a national demonym.
In Spanish, América is 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 Europa. 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 (rough literal translation: "United Statesian") instead of americano or americana, and the country's name itself is often translated as Estados Unidos de Norteamérica (United States of North America). Also, the term norteamericano (North American) 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 countries.
In Portuguese, the word americano refers to the whole of the America. But, in Brazil and Portugal, it is widely used to refer to the citizens of the United States. The least ambiguous terms, estadunidense (used in Brazil, something like "United Statesian" or "estadounidense" in Spanish), and "ianque"—the Portuguese version of "Yankee"—are rarely used. América, however, is rarely used as synonym to the country, and almost never in print and in more formal environments, where the country 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 can be confusing as it can be used to refer either to the United States, or to the Americas.
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 USA. In Quebec, the United States are sometimes called les États or even simply les states in daily informal conversation. However, the use of Amérique to refer to the United States 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 Americas. Books by United States authors translated from English are often described as "traduit de l'américain".
Things relating to the United States can be referred to without ambiguity by the words états-unien, étasunien, or étatsunien, although this 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, Amerika 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-Amerika (North and South America).
Latin America is generally referred to as Latijns Amerika or Midden-Amerika for Central America.
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 Argentine, etc.
There are 35 sovereign states in the Americas, as well as an autonomous country of Denmark, three overseas departments of France, three overseas collectivities of France, eight overseas territories of the United Kingdom, three constituent countries of the Netherlands, three public bodies of the Netherlands, and two unincorporated territories of the United States.
|Country or territory||Area
|Languages (official in bold)||Capital|
|Anguilla (UK)||91||15,000||164.8||English||The Valley|
|Antigua and Barbuda||442||88,000||199.1||Creole, English||St. John's|
|Aruba (Neth.)||180||107,000||594.4||Papiamentu, Spanish, Dutch||Oranjestad|
|Bahamas, The||13,943||342,000||24.5||Creole, English||Nassau|
|Belize||22,966||307,000||13.4||Spanish, Kriol, English||Belmopan|
|Bolivia||1,098,580||9,863,000||8.4||Spanish, Quechua, Aymara, 35 additional indigenous languages||La Paz and Sucre |
|Bonaire (Neth.)||294||12,093||41.1||Papiamentu, Spanish, Dutch||Kralendijk|
|British Virgin Islands (UK)||151||23,000||152.3||English||Road Town|
|Cayman Islands (UK)||264||56,000||212.1||English||George Town|
|Costa Rica||51,100||4,579,000||89.6||Spanish||San José|
|Curaçao (Neth.)||444||140,794||317.1||Papiamentu, Dutch||Willemstad|
|Dominica||751||67,000||89.2||French Patois, English||Roseau|
|Dominican Republic||48,671||10,090,000||207.3||Spanish||Santo Domingo|
|El Salvador||21,041||6,163,000||293.0||Spanish||San Salvador|
|Falkland Islands (United Kingdom)||12,173||3,140||0.26||English||Port Stanley|
|French Guiana (France)||91,000||221,500||2.7||French||Cayenne|
|Greenland (Den.)||2,166,086||57,000||0.026||Greenlandic, Danish||Nuuk (Godthåb)|
|Guatemala||108,889||14,027,000||128.8||Spanish, Garifuna and 23 Mayan languages||Guatemala City|
|Martinique (Fr.)||1,128||397,693||352.6||Patois, French||Fort-de-France|
|Montserrat (UK)||102||6,000||58.8||Creole English, English||Plymouth; Brades|
|Navassa Island (USA)||5||0||0.0||No||—|
|Peru||1,285,220||29,132,013||22||Spanish, Quechua, Aymara||Lima|
|Puerto Rico (USA)||8,870||3,982,000||448.9||Spanish, English||San Juan|
|Saba (Neth.)||13||1,537||118.2||English, Dutch||The Bottom|
|Saint Barthélemy (Fr.)||21||7,448||354.7||French||Gustavia|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||261||52,000||199.2||English||Basseterre|
|Saint Lucia||539||172,000||319.1||English, French Creole||Castries|
|Saint Martin (Fr.)||54||29,820||552.2||French||Marigot|
|Saint Pierre and Miquelon (Fr.)||242||6,000||24.8||French||Saint-Pierre|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||389||109,000||280.2||English||Kingstown|
|Sint Eustatius (Neth.)||21||2,739||130.4||Dutch, English||Oranjestad|
|Sint Maarten (Neth.)||34||40,009||1,176.7||English, Spanish, Dutch||Philipsburg|
| South Georgia and
South Sandwich Islands (United Kingdom)
|Suriname||163,270||472,000||3||Dutch, Hindi-Urdu, Srana, Javanese, English Creole||Paramaribo|
|Trinidad and Tobago||5,130||1,339,000||261.0||English||Port of Spain|
|Turks and Caicos Islands (UK)||948||33,000||34.8||Creole English, English||Cockburn Town|
|United States[note 1]||9,629,091||311,630,000||32.7||English, Spanish||Washington, D.C.|
|United States Virgin Islands (USA)||347||110,000||317.0||English, Spanish||Charlotte Amalie|
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