The dictionary lists America is the landmass consisting of North and South America. However, we were not able to find one example if it being used in this way, and so it is our belief that this definition will become obsolete sooner rather than later. America is commonly used as a name for the United States of America.

The continent  of America is more commonly called the Americas, and parts of the continent are determined by adjectives such as North America, South America, Central America. 


The name is thought to derive from the Latin Americus, which was Amerigo Vespucci who sailed along the coast of South America in 1501. America appeared in print for the first time in 1507.


As a nation, America must do the same.  We must remember where we’ve come from, what we’ve been given and what we’ve accomplished as a people in order to find our way forward. There’s no doubt that America is at a turning point. [Washington Times]

So while British TV critics regularly – and often justifiably – lament that the best drama is made in America, UK series are now enjoying unprecedented success in the US. [The Guardian]

For years, many of us have said that the Bush administration never got credit for the fact that there was no follow-along attack after 9/11 on the American continent, as was universally expected. [New York Post]

Debate if you like whether the Americas can be split in two and the true number of continents. [Stuff]



10 thoughts on “America”

  1. Why should people accept this power-centric warping of a geographical term? When referring to the country formed by the United States Constitution, the perfectly good term “USA” is available. By the way, geographers and naturalists use terms like American crops to describe potatoes and cocoa and corn (maize).

    • People should accept it because that’s how it’s used; the nature of language is that definitions are decided by the speakers, despite the protests of the prescriptivists. Despite any logical or etymological arguments for one definition or the other, the fact is that, in modern English, the term “America” is almost universally recognized to refer to the United States, with the perfectly good term “the Americas” available to refer to the two landmasses.

      If I say “That man likes American television,” I would be referring to a Game of Thrones, not a Mexican telenovela. If I called a man from Brazil “an American,” I’d probably confuse everyone, including the Brazilian. I also doubt that geographers and naturalists form a large enough proportion of the general population to change how this term is used; mathematicians use the words “group,” “ring,” and “field” mainly to refer to algebraic objects, but the general population still seems to use them normally. :P

    • USA is fine to refer to the country, but what would you use as an adjective to describe someone or something from the USA? USAn? United Statesian? Unless you avoid an adjective altogether and use the clunky phrase “from the United States,” the best choice would be to use “American,” and it follows that “America” would be used as well.

        • Exactly, that’s my point. If someone from the United States can be called an American, then the United States itself can be called America.

          • That doesn’t make any sense. That would be akin to calling France Europe simply because it’s in Europe. We say American because they are from the continent of America.

          • No. We call them American because they are from the country United States of AMERICA. If we are referring to the continent, we generally say North American, if we are speaking English. Just as we say South America for Brazil, Chile, Peru, Venezuela, Argentina, etc.

            Someone from France is French. France is in Europe, therefore that person is also European.
            A person from the United States of AMERICA is American because their country of origin is the United States of AMERICA, and they are also North American because America is in North America.
            France is part of Europe, and America is part of North America.

            It’s a shortening of the full name of the country, not referring to the continent. Just like colloquially referring to the U.S.A. as “the States”. There are other states, but that term gets used in contexts where it is clear that “the States” is a shortened casual name for the United STATES of America.

            If we are speaking Portugese, then we can say “estadunidense” to
            refer to someone from the U.S.A., and “americano” for someone from the
            super-continent of the Americas. (Although “americano” is also used to
            refer to a U.S. citizen; it’s more casual, and in academia
            “estadunidense” is preferred due to it’s specificity.)

            But in
            English the term American means someone from the U.S.A., and America
            means the U.S.A., while the Americas refers to the super continent.

          • Yes, as CJ said, we refer to ourselves as Americans because it is the shortened form of the United States of America. It’s the same reason we refer to the inhabitants of Mexico as Mexicans. The official name of their country is Estados Unidos Mexicanos (United States of Mexico or United Mexican States).

            If we accept the term many Latin Americans use, “estadosunidense,” to refer specifically to an inhabitant of the U.S.A., then what term to we use to refer to Mexicans? They, too, are “estadosunidenses.” And if we accept the term, “norteamericano” or “Northamerican” to refer only to inhabitants of the U.S.A., then what term to we use to distinguish them from Canadians…who are also North Americans?

            Thru common usage and common sense, the people of the United States of America are Americans…a name most people in the world use to refer to citizens of the U.S.A.

  2. After having lived in Mexico for over 40 years I think I can be allowed to put in my two cents regarding the use of the word American.
    When I first came to Mexico, a person from the US was always referred to as “un Americano”; however, commencing in Spain and then spreading to Mexico, I began to hear people say, rather obtusely, “no, he’s not an Americano he’s a Norteamericano”, or even worse, an Estadounidense.
    I believe it originated in Spain as a backlash against what they saw as the Americanization of their language, so the Real Academia in Spain racked their brains to invent the new PC term Estadounidense.
    The same applies with the word Computer, which caused many sleepless nights for Spanish purists, until they came up with the awful word Ordenador.
    They feel under attack.
    When speaking Spanish, I deliberately throw in the words Americano and Computadora just to needle them.


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