Americas (orthographic projection).svg
Area 42,549,000 km2
Population 910,720,588 (July 2008 est.)
Pop. density 21/km2 (55/sq mi)
Demonym American
Countries 35
Dependencies 23
List of sovereign states and dependent territories in the Americas
Languages Spanish, English, Portuguese,
French, Quechua, Haitian Creole, Guaraní, Aymara, Dutch and many others
Time Zones UTC-10 to UTC

The Americas, or America[1][2] (Spanish: América, Portuguese: América, French: Amérique, Quechua: Amirika, Guaraní: Amérika, Aymara: Amërika, Nahuatl: Ixachitlan, Dutch: Amerika),[3] are lands in the Western hemisphere, also known as the New World. In English, the plural form the Americas is often used to refer to the landmasses of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions, while the singular form America is primarily used to refer to the United States of America.[2][4][5] 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).



CIA political map of the Americas in an equal-area projection


The specifics of Paleo-Indian migration to and throughout the Americas, including the exact dates and routes traveled, are subject to ongoing research and discussion.[6] The traditional theory has been that these early migrants moved into the Beringia land bridge between eastern Siberia and present-day Alaska around 40,000–17,000 years ago,[7] when sea levels were significantly lowered due to the Quaternary glaciation.[6][8] These people are believed to have followed herds of now-extinct pleistocene megafauna along ice-free corridors that stretched between the Laurentide and Cordilleran ice sheets.[9] Another route proposed is that, either on foot or using primitive boats, they migrated down the Pacific Northwest coast to South America.[10] Evidence of the latter would since have been covered by a sea level rise of hundreds of meters following the last ice age.[11]

Archaeologists contend that Paleo-Indians migration out of Beringia (eastern Alaska), ranges somewhere between 40,000 and 16,500 years ago.[12][13][14] The few agreements achieved to date are the origin from Central Asia, with widespread habitation of the Americas during the end of the last glacial period, or more specifically what is known as the late glacial maximum, around 16,000–13,000 years before present.[14][15]

The Inuit migrated into the Arctic section of North America in another wave of migration, arriving around 1000 CE.[16] Around the same time as the Inuit migrated into North America, Viking settlers began arriving in Greenland in 982 and Vinland shortly thereafter, establishing a settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows, near the northernmost tip of Newfoundland.[17] The Viking settlers quickly abandoned Vinland, and disappeared from Greenland by 1500.[18]

Pre-Columbian era

Mississippian site in Arkansas, Parkin Site, circa 1539. Illustration by Herb Roe.

The pre-Columbian era incorporates all period subdivisions in the history and prehistory of the Americas before the appearance of significant European influences on the American continents, spanning the time of the original settlement in the Upper Paleolithic to European colonization during the Early Modern period.

Pre-Columbian is used especially often in the context of the great indigenous civilizations of the Americas, such as those of Mesoamerica (the Olmec, the Toltec, the Teotihuacano, the Zapotec, the Mixtec, the Aztec, and the Maya) and the Andes (Inca, Moche, Muisca, Cañaris).

Many pre-Columbian civilizations established characteristics and hallmarks which included permanent or urban settlements, agriculture, civic and monumental architecture, and complex societal hierarchies. Some of these civilizations had long faded by the time of the first permanent European arrivals (c. late 15th–early 16th centuries), and are known only through archaeological investigations. Others were contemporary with this period, and are also known from historical accounts of the time. A few, such as the Maya, had their own written records. However, most Europeans of the time viewed such texts as pagan, and much was destroyed in Christian pyres. Only a few hidden documents remain today, leaving modern historians with glimpses of ancient culture and knowledge.[19]

According to both indigenous American and European accounts and documents, American civilizations at the time of European encounter possessed many impressive accomplishments. For instance, the Aztecs built one of the most impressive cities in the world, Tenochtitlan, the ancient site of Mexico City, with an estimated population of 200,000. American civilizations also displayed impressive accomplishments in astronomy and mathematics.[20]

European colonization of the Americas

Large-scale European colonization of the Americas began shortly after the first voyages of Christopher Columbus began in 1492. The first Spanish settlement on the continent was Panama City on the Pacific coast of Central America founded on August 5, 1519. Panama City was the base for the Spanish conquering of South America. The spread of new diseases brought by Europeans and Africans killed many of the inhabitants of North America and South America,[21][22] with a general population crash of Native Americans occurring in the mid-16th century, often well ahead of European contact.[23] Native peoples and European colonizers came into widespread conflict, resulting in what David Stannard has called a genocide of the indigenous populations.[24] 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. Millions of individuals were forcibly transported to the Americas as slaves, prisoners or indentured servants.

Etymology and naming

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 landmass dates from April 25, 1507, where it was used for what is now known as South America. It first 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,[25] 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'.[25] (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.[26]

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.[25] 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.[27] Spain officially refused to accept the name America for two centuries, saying that Columbus should get credit, and Waldseemüller's later maps, after he had ceased collaboration with Ringmann, 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.[25]

Map of America by Jonghe, c. 1770


South America broke off from the west of the supercontinent Gondwanaland around 135 million years ago (Ma), forming its own continent.[28] Starting around 15 Ma, 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 Ma, the continents of North America and South America were linked by the Isthmus of Panama, thereby forming the single landmass of the Americas.[29]


The northernmost point of the Americas is Kaffeklubben Island, which is the northernmost point of land on Earth.[30] The southernmost point is the islands of Southern Thule, although they are sometimes considered part of Antarctica.[31] 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 easternmost extremity.[32]


Aconcagua, the highest peak in 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[33] and the Rocky Mountains and other North American Cordillera ranges running along the western side of North America.[34] The 2300 km long (1429 mile long) Appalachian Mountains run along the east coast of North America from Alabama to Newfoundland.[35] North of the Appalachians, the Arctic Cordillera runs along the eastern coast of Canada.[36]

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.[37] The Canadian Shield covers almost 5 million km² of North America and is generally quite flat.[38] Similarly, the north-east of South America is covered by the flat Amazon Basin.[39] 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.[40]


Mississippi River Delta
Hurricane Katrina

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.[41] 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; these rivers included the 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, 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,[42] 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)[43] 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).[44]

The largest river basin in South America is that of the Amazon, which has the highest volume flow of any river on Earth.[45] The second largest watershed of South America is that of the Paraná River, which covers about 2.5 million km².[46]


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.[47] 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:[citation needed]

  • North America: 2001 with 495 million and in 2002 with 501 million (includes Central America and the Caribbean)
  • South America: 2001 with 352 million and in 2002 with 357 million

Largest urban centers

There are three urban centers that each hold titles for being the largest population area based on the three main demographic concepts:[48]

  • The locality with legally fixed boundaries and an administratively recognized urban status that is usually characterized by some form of local government.[49][50][51][52][53]
  • Unlike an urban area, a metropolitan area includes not only the urban area, but also satellite cities plus intervening rural land that is socio-economically connected to the urban core city, typically by employment ties through commuting, with the urban core city being the primary labor market.
  • An urban area is characterized by higher population density and vast human features in comparison to areas surrounding it. Urban areas may be cities, towns or conurbations, but the term is not commonly extended to rural settlements such as villages and hamlets. Urban areas are created and further developed by the process of urbanization and do not include large swaths or rural land, as do metropolitan areas.

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
Mexico City - Largest metropolitan area in the Americas  
New York City - Largest urban area in the Americas  
São Paulo - Largest city proper in the Americas  
City Country Metro Area Pop. Rank within the Americas City Proper Pop. Rank within the Americas Urban Area Pop.[54] Rank within the Americas
Mexico City  Mexico 20,450,000 1st 8,873,017 2nd 19,565,000 3rd
New York City  United States 18,897,109 3rd 8,175,133 3rd 20,710,000 1st
São Paulo  Brazil 19,889,559 2nd 11,244,369 1st 20,395,000 2nd

Global cities

The Americas are home to an array of global cities with key importance in finance, politics, and the global economy. Cities such as Los Angeles - the Entertainment Capital of the World - lead the world in entertainment, while others such as New York City, Toronto, San Francisco, and Chicago serve as global financial centers and cities such as Houston are centers for aeronautics and health. Of the global cities in the Americas, the most powerful and highest ranked are located in Northern America.[55] GaWC ranked the top global cities in the Americas as:




Global Cities Index

In 2010 the index was updated, and the top American cities of the global 30 ranked were:[55][56]

Global Rank City Score
1 New York City 6.22
6 Chicago 3.94
7 Los Angeles 3.90
12 San Francisco 3.26
13 Washington, D.C. 3.25
14 Toronto 3.13
19 Boston 2.78
22 Buenos Aires 2.73
30 Mexico City 2.41

Global Power City Index

The Institute for Urban Strategies at The Mori Memorial Foundation in Tokyo, Japan issued a comprehensive study of global cities in 2009. The ranking is based on six overall categories, "Economy", "Research & Development", "Cultural Interaction", "Livability", "Ecology & Natural Environment", and "Accessibility", with 69 individual indicators among them.[57] This Japanese ranking also breaks down top ten world cities ranked in subjective categories such as "manager, researcher, artist, visitor and resident."

Global Rank City Score Best category (position)
1 New York City 330.4 Economy (1.) Research & Development (1.)
13 Los Angeles 240.0 Research & Development (5.)
15 Toronto 234.6 Livability (5.)
20 Boston 226.2 Research & Development(6.)

World City Survey

In 2011 the London based consultant firm Knight Frank LLP together with the Citibank published a survey of world cities.[58] The Wealth Report 2011, which includes the World City Survey, assesses four parameters — economic activity, political power, knowledge and influence and quality of life. The list aimed to rank the world's most influential cities. New York tops the list in Ecomomic activity, political power and knowledge and Paris tops it in quality of life.

Rank City Best category Score
1 New York Economic activity 151
6 Los Angeles Knowledge and influence 122
9 Toronto Quality of life 112
11 Chicago Knowledge and influence 111
12 Washington, D.C. Political power 111
16 San Francisco Quality of life 90
19 Mexico City Political power 90


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

The 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. Both are located in North America and present predominantly Anglo-Saxon and Germanic roots.


Monument to the Savior of the World in San Salvador and Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janiero, both symbols of Christianity

The most prevalent faiths in the Americas are as follows:

  • Christianity (North America: 85 percent; South America: 93 percent)[59]
    • Roman Catholicism (practiced by 88 percent of the Mexican population;[60] approximately 74 percent of the population of Brazil, whose Roman Catholic population of 182 million is the greatest of any nation's;[61] approximately 24 percent of the United States population;[62] and more than 40 percent of all of Canadians)[63]
    • 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 Latin America)[64]
    • 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)[citation needed]
    • Non-denominational Christians and other Christians (some 1,000 different Christian denominations and sects practiced in the Americas)
  • 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 religion)
  • Islam (practiced by 2 percent of Canadians [580,000 persons][65] and 0.6 percent of the U.S. population [1,820,000 persons[62]]). Together, Muslims constitute about 1 percent of the North American population and 0.3 percent of all Latin Americans. Argentina has the largest Muslim population in Latin America with up to 600,000 persons, or 1.9 percent of the population)[66]
  • Judaism (practiced by 2 percent of North Americans—approximately 2.5 percent of the U.S. population and 1.2 percent of Canadians[67]—and 0.23 percent of Latin Americans—Argentina has the largest Jewish population in Latin America with 200,000 members)[68]

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.


Languages spoken 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 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 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, as the name suggests, is English. 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, 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 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, being the de jure or de facto official language of all the Hispanic American countries.
  • 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,[69] and with some important presence in Uruguay and Paraguay (see Dialectos Portugueses del Uruguay and Brasiguayos). It is also spoken by Portuguese communities in the New England/Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States and Venezuela.
  • 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 northwest Argentina.[70]
  • Haitian Creole: creole language, based in French and various African languages, spoken by over 10 million in Haiti and the Haitian diaspora in Canada and the United States.[71]
  • Guaraní (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, Brazil and Panama.
  • Italian: spoken by approximately 4 million people, mostly in Argentina, Brazil, and the New England/Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. It is also spoken in southern Ontario and Quebec in Canada, Uruguay, Venezuela and Mexico. It includes pidgin dialects of Italian such as Talian (Brazil), and Chipilo (Mexico).[citation needed]
  • 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 Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Paraguay.
  • Aymara: native language spoken by some 2.2 million speakers in Bolivia, Peru and Chile.[72][73]
  • Quiché and other Mayan 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. It was the language of the Aztec empire.
  • 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.
  • Antillean Creole: spoken by approximately 1.2 million in the Eastern Caribbean (Guadeloupe, Martinique, Dominica, Saint Lucia) and French Guiana.
  • 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 speakers. Also found in Canada, and pockets of Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and other Latin American countries.
  • 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.
  • Mapudungun (or Mapuche): native language spoken by approximately 440,000 people in Chile and Argentina.
  • 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.[74]
  • Garífuna (or Garinagu): native language spoken by the Garífuna people who mostly live in Honduras, but also inhabit parts of the Caribbean coastal regions in Belize, Guatemala, and Nicaragua.
  • Dutch: the official language of and universally spoken in Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten, Suriname and the Caribbean Netherlands, and by immigrant communities in the United States and Canada.
  • Hmong is an indigenous language in Southeast Asia, whose largest number of speakers outside Asia is in the United States (about 200,000). The language originated in Laos of Southeast Asia.
  • Navajo: native language spoken by about 178,000 speakers in the Southwest U.S. on the Navajo Nation (Indian reservation).[75] The tribe's isolation until the early 20th century provided a language used in a military code in World War II.
  • 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.
  • Javanese is a major language in Suriname, introducted by Indonesian farm laborers by Dutch contractors in the 19th century.
  • 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.
  • Inuktitut and other Inuit/Eskimo languages: native language spoken by about 75,000 across the North American Arctic and to some extent in the subarctic in Labrador.
  • Ojibwe: An Algonquian language spoken by 56,531 in the forested Upper Midwest and southern Canada.
  • 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.
  • Sioux: Spoken by around 33,000 people in the plains region of the United States and 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.
  • 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.
  • Welsh: Brought to Argentina during the Welsh settlement of River Chubut over the late 19th century.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.[76] 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
Map Legend
  North America (NA)
  South America (SA)
  May be included in
       either NA or SA
  North America (NA)
  May be included in NA
  Central America
  South America
  North America (NA)
  May be included in NA

       Northern America

  Middle America (MA)
  Caribbean (may be
        included in MA)
  South America (SA)
  May be included
        in MA or SA
  Anglo-America (A-A)
  May be included in A-A
  Latin America (LA)
  May be included in LA


Use of the word America to refer to the relevant lands and regions of the Western hemisphere remains fairly common;[77] for example, for unofficial purposes the International Olympic Committee considers "America" one of the five populated continents, as represented by the five rings on the Olympic flag.[78]

People in the United States of America generally refer to the landmasses of North America and South America as (the) Americas (plural and generally with the definite article), to US citizens as Americans and the United States as America.[62][79] Since the 19th century, this sense is primary in English, not without uncertainties.[5] However, use of the term in this context may cause offense to people from Canada and Latin America[80] and, thus, they avoid this usage and prefer constructed terms derived from United States or North America.[81][82][83] 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.[82] English dictionaries and compendiums differ regarding usage and rendition.[84][85][86]


English usage

People unconnected with the United States rarely call themselves American. The English-speaking world normally uses the word to refer to a permanent resident of the United States of America, or a person born in the U.S. and identified with it. Canadians abroad typically resent being referred to as "Americans."[82]

Spanish usage

The Spanish American colonies at their maximum extent (after the Peace of Paris, 1783)

In Spanish, América is the name of 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 América (United States of 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.[87]

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. 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 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.

French usage

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 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 USA. In Québec, 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 American continents. 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.

Dutch usage

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, less frequently, Zuid-Amerika (South 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.

Russian usage

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 from European powers. Black signifies areas that are dependent territories of countries considered non-American

Sovereign states

There are 35 sovereign states in the Americas, 23 in North America and 12 in South America:

Overseas regions, dependencies, colonies

The following is a list of overseas regions, dependencies and other polities in the Americas that do not fall into the category "sovereign states". They are grouped under the states that control them.



 United Kingdom


 United States

Multinational organizations in the Americas

See also


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External links

Coordinates: 19°00′N 96°00′W / 19°N 96°W / 19; -96

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