Americas

The Americas
Americas (orthographic projection).svg
Area42,549,000 km2
(16,428,000 sq mi)
Population964,920,000[1]
GDP (nominal)$27.43 trillion[1]
GDP per capita$28,428[1]
HDI0.736[citation needed]
DemonymAmerican,[2] New Worlder[3] (see usage)
Countries35
LanguagesSpanish, English, Portuguese, French, Haitian Creole, Quechua, Guaraní, Aymara, Nahuatl, Dutch and many others
Time zonesUTC−10:00 to UTC
Largest citiesLargest metropolitan areas
Largest cities
UN M49 code019 – Americas
001World
1990s CIA political map of the Americas in Lambert azimuthal equal-area projection

The Americas (also collectively called America; French: Amérique, Dutch: Amerika, Spanish and Portuguese: América) comprise the totality of the continents of North and South America.[4][5][6] Together, they make up most of the land in Earth's western hemisphere and comprise the New World.

Along with their associated islands, they cover 8% of Earth's total surface area and 28.4% of its land area. The topography is dominated by the American Cordillera, a long chain of mountains that runs the length of the west coast. The flatter eastern side of the Americas is dominated by large river basins, such as the Amazon, St. Lawrence River / Great Lakes basin, Mississippi, and La Plata. Since the Americas extend 14,000 km (8,700 mi) from north to south, the climate and ecology vary widely, from the arctic tundra of Northern Canada, Greenland, and Alaska, to the tropical rain forests in Central America and South America.

Humans first settled the Americas from Asia between 42,000 and 17,000 years ago. 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 known European settlement in the Americas was by the Norse explorer Leif Erikson.[7] However, the colonization never became permanent and was later abandoned. The Spanish voyages of Christopher Columbus from 1492 to 1502 resulted in permanent contact with European (and subsequently, other Old World) powers, which eventually led to the Columbian exchange and inaugurated a period of exploration, conquest, and colonization whose effects and consequences persist to the present. The Spanish presence involved the enslavement of large numbers of the indigenous population of America.[8]

Diseases introduced from Europe and West Africa devastated the indigenous peoples, and the European powers colonized the Americas.[9] Mass emigration from Europe, including large numbers of indentured servants, and importation of African slaves largely replaced the indigenous peoples.

Decolonization of the Americas began with the American Revolution in the 1770s and largely ended with the Spanish–American War in the late 1890s. Currently, almost all of the population of the Americas resides in independent countries; however, the legacy of the colonization and settlement by Europeans is that the Americas share many common cultural traits, most notably Christianity and the use of Indo-European languages: primarily Spanish, English, Portuguese, French, and, to a lesser extent, Dutch.

The Americas are home to over a billion inhabitants, two-thirds of whom reside in the United States, Brazil, and Mexico. It is home to eight megacities (metropolitan areas with ten million inhabitants or more): New York City (23.9 million), Mexico City (21.2 million), São Paulo (21.2 million), Los Angeles (18.8 million), Buenos Aires (15.6 million),[10] Rio de Janeiro (13.0 million), Bogotá (10.4 million), and Lima (10.1 million).

Etymology and naming

America is named after Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci.[11]

The name America was first recorded in 1507. Christie's auction house says a two-dimensional globe created by Martin Waldseemüller was the earliest recorded use of the term.[12] The name was also used (together with the related term Amerigen) in the Cosmographiae Introductio, apparently written by Matthias Ringmann, in reference to South America.[13] It was applied to both North and South America by Gerardus Mercator in 1538. America derives from Americus, the Latin version of Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci's first name. The feminine form America accorded with the feminine names of Asia, Africa, and Europa.[14]

In modern English, North and South America are generally considered separate continents, and taken together are called America[15][16][17] or the Americas in the plural. When conceived as a unitary continent, the form is generally the continent of America in the singular. However, without a clarifying context, singular America in English commonly refers to the United States of America.[17]

Historically, in the English-speaking world, the term America used to refer to a single continent until the 1950s (as in Van Loon's Geography of 1937): According to historians Kären Wigen and Martin W. Lewis,[18]

While it might seem surprising to find North and South America still joined into a single continent in a book published in the United States in 1937, such a notion remained fairly common until World War II. It cannot be coincidental that this idea served American geopolitical designs at the time, which sought both Western Hemispheric domination and disengagement from the "Old World" continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa. By the 1950s, however, virtually all American geographers had come to insist that the visually distinct landmasses of North and South America deserved separate designations.

This shift did not seem to happen in most other cultural spheres on Earth, such as Romance-speaking (including France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Romania, Switzerland, and the Romance-speaking countries of Latin America and Africa), Germanic (but excluding English) speaking (including Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Icelands, Faroe Islands), Baltic-Slavic languages (including Czech Rep., Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Russia, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria) and in many other spheres, where America is still considered a continent encompassing the North America and South America subcontinents,[19][20] as well as Central America.[21][22][23][24][25][26]