The Americas (also collectively called America) is a landmass comprising the totality of North America and South America. Webster's New World College Dictionary, 2010 by Wiley Publishing, Inc., Cleveland, Ohio."continent n. 5. a." (1989) Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition. Oxford University Press; "continent1 n." (2006) The Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th edition revised. (Ed.) Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson. Oxford University Press; "continent1 n." (2005) The New Oxford American Dictionary, 2nd edition. (Ed.) Erin McKean. Oxford University Press; "continent 2, 4 a" (1996) Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. ProQuest Information and Learning; "continent" (2007) Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved January 14, 2007, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online. The Americas make up most of the land in Earth's Western Hemisphere and comprise the New World.
Along with their associated islands, the Americas 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 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 Norsemen explorer Leif Erikson. However, the colonization never became permanent and was later abandoned. The Spanish voyages of Christopher Columbus from 1492 to 1504 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.
Diseases introduced from Europe and West Africa devastated the indigenous peoples, and the European powers colonized the Americas.
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 language, Portuguese, American French, and, to a lesser extent, Surinamese Dutch.
The Americas are home to nearly a billion inhabitants, two-thirds of whom reside in the United States, Brazil, and Mexico. It is home to eight Megacity (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), Rio de Janeiro (13.0 million), Bogotá (10.4 million), and Lima (10.1 million).
In modern English, North and South America are generally considered separate continents, and taken together are called the Americas, or more rarely America.See for example: america – Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved on January 27, 2008; " dictionary.reference.com america". Dictionary.com. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. Accessed: January 27, 2008.Marjorie Fee and Janice MacAlpine, Oxford Guide to Canadian English Usage (2008) page 36 says "In Canada, American is used almost exclusively in reference to the United States and its citizens." Others, including The New Zealand Oxford Dictionary, The Canadian Oxford Dictionary, The Australian Oxford Dictionary and The Concise Oxford English Dictionary all specify both the Americas and the United States in their definition of "American"."America." The Oxford Companion to the English Language (). McArthur, Tom, ed., 1992. New York: Oxford University Press, p. 33: "16c:. 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: ..." 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.
Historically, in the English-speaking world, the term America usually referred to a single continent until the 1950s (as in Van Loon's Geography of 1937): According to historians Kären Wigen and Martin W. Lewis,
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,
A second migration occurred after the initial peopling of the Americas;
Many pre-Columbian established characteristics and hallmarks which included permanent or urban settlements, agriculture, civic and monumental architecture, and Complex society. 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 archaeology 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.
On the continent, Panama City on the Pacific coast of Central America, founded on August 15, 1519, played an important role, being the base for the Spanish conquest of South America. Conquistador Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón established San Miguel de Guadalupe, the first European settlement in what is now the United States, on the Pee Dee River in South Carolina. During the first half of the 16th century, Spanish colonists conducted raids throughout the Caribbean Basin, bringing captives from Central America, northern South America, and Florida back to Hispaniola and other Spanish settlements.
France, led by Jacques Cartier and Giovanni da Verrazano, focused primarily on North America. English explorations of the Americas were led by John Cabot and Sir Walter Raleigh. The Dutch in New Netherland confined their operations to Manhattan Island, Long Island, the Hudson River Valley, and what later became New Jersey. The spread of new diseases brought by Europeans and African slaves killed many of the inhabitants of North America and South America, with a general population crash of Native Americans occurring in the mid-16th century, often well ahead of European contact. One of the most devastating diseases was smallpox.
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 Slavery, prisoners or indentured servants.
Decolonization of the Americas began with the American Revolution and the Haitian Revolution in the late 1700s. This was followed by numerous Latin American wars of independence in the early 1800s. Between 1811 and 1825, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile, Gran Colombia, the United Provinces of Central America, Mexico, Brazil, Peru, and Bolivia gained independence from Spain and Portugal in armed revolutions. After the Dominican Republic won independence from Haiti, it was re-annexed by Spain in 1861, but reclaimed its independence in 1865 at the conclusion of the Dominican Restoration War. The last violent episode of decolonization was the Cuban War of Independence which became the Spanish–American War, which resulted in the independence of Cuba in 1898, and the transfer of sovereignty over Puerto Rico from Spain to the United States.
Peaceful decolonization began with the purchase by the United States of Louisiana from France in 1803, Florida from Spain in 1819, of Alaska purchase in 1867, and the Danish West Indies from Denmark in 1916. Canada became independent of the United Kingdom, starting with the Balfour Declaration of 1926, Statute of Westminster 1931, and ending with the patriation of the Canadian Constitution in 1982. The Dominion of Newfoundland similarly achieved partial independence under the Balfour Declaration and Statute of Westminster, but was re-absorbed into the United Kingdom in 1934. It was subsequently Newfoundland Act in 1949.
The remaining European colonies in the Caribbean began to achieve peaceful independence well after World War II. Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago became independent in 1962, and Guyana and Barbados both achieved independence in 1966. In the 1970s, the Bahamas, Grenada, Dominica, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines all became independent of the United Kingdom, and Suriname became independent of the Netherlands. Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Kitts and Nevis achieved independence from the United Kingdom in the 1980s.
The largest mountain ranges are the Andes and Rocky Mountains. The Sierra Nevada and the Cascade Range reach similar altitudes as the Rocky Mountains, but are significantly smaller. In North America, the greatest number of are in the United States, and more specifically in the U.S. state of Colorado. The highest peaks of the Americas are located in the Andes, with Aconcagua of Argentina being the highest; in North America Denali (Mount McKinley) 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 farther south the Gran Chaco and Pampas are broad .
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, as well as in the southerly Dixie Alley in the North American late-winter and early spring seasons. 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.
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 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, 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 from parts of Yukon and the Northwest Territory to the Pacific. Draining to the Arctic Ocean of Canada, the Mackenzie River drains waters from the Arctic Great Lakes of Arctic Canada, as opposed to the Saint-Lawrence River that drains the Great Lakes of Southern Canada into the Atlantic Ocean. The Mackenzie River is the largest in Canada and drains .
The largest river basin in South America is that of the Amazon Basin, 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.
Sara Louise Kras (2021). 9780761425700, Marshall Cavendish. . ISBN 9780761425700English
|Papiamentu, Spanish, Dutch||Oranjestad|
|Spanish, Kriol, English||Belmopan|
|Spanish and 36 indigenous languages||La Paz and Sucre La Paz is the administrative capital of Bolivia; Sucre is the judicial seat.|
|Papiamentu, Spanish, Dutch||Kralendijk|
|Bouvet Island is part of South America according to the United Nations geoscheme.||Uninhabited||—|
|English language||Road Town|
|English, Canadian French||Ottawa|
|Includes Easter Island in the Pacific Ocean, a territory frequently reckoned in Oceania. Santiago is the administrative capital of Chile; Valparaíso is the site of legislative meetings.||Spanish||Santiago|
|Land area figures taken from||These population estimates are for 2010, and are taken from||Uninhabited||—|
|French Patois, English||Roseau|
David Levinson (1998). 9781573560191, Greenwood Publishing Group. . ISBN 9781573560191
|(United Kingdom)Claimed by Argentina.||English||Stanley|
|Spanish, Garifuna and 23 Mayan languages||Guatemala City|
|Spanish, 68 indigenous languages||Mexico City|
|Creole English, English||Plymouth; BradesOngoing activity of the Soufriere Hills volcano beginning in July 1995 destroyed much of Plymouth; government offices were relocated to Brades. Plymouth remains the de jure capital.|
|Spanish, Quechua, and other indigenous languages||Lima|
|Spanish, English||San Juan|
|Population estimates are taken from the||English, Dutch||The Bottom|
|English, French Creole||Castries|
|English, Spanish, Dutch||Philipsburg|
|Claimed by Argentina; the South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands in the Atlantic Ocean are commonly associated with Antarctica (for its proximity) and have no permanent population, only hosting a periodic contingent of about 100 researchers and visitors.||English||Grytviken|
|Dutch and others||Paramaribo|
|English||Port of Spain|
|Creole English, English||Cockburn Town|
|English, Spanish||Washington, D.C.|
|English, Spanish||Charlotte Amalie|
|Spanish and 40 indigenous languages||Caracas|
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.
|New York City||8,405,837||19,949,502|
|Los Angeles||3,928,864 1 Million Milestone US Census Bureau||13,131,431|
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 Canadian French 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 other Germanic peoples roots.
Other faiths include Buddhism; Hinduism; Sikhism; Baháʼí Faith; a wide variety of indigenous religions, many of which can be categorized as ; new age religions and many African and African-derived religions. Syncretism faiths can also be found throughout the Americas.
|+ Religious Demographics According to 2010 censuses/estimates in each country|
|Argentina Primera Encuesta sobre Creencias y Actitudes Religiosas en Argentina||2.5%|
|Ecuador El 80% de ecuatorianos es católico||1.0%|
|El Salvador CID Gallup Poll Latinoamerica||1.2%|
|Guatemala Public Opinion Polls on Religious Affiliation in Guatemala.||2.4%|
|Honduras Religion in Honduras – CID Gallup Poll 2007 US. State||2.7%|
|Mexico inegi.org.mx Religiones 2010.pdf||2.9%|
|Peru Dirección Técnica de Demografía y Estudios Sociales y Centro de Investigación y Desarrollo del INEI (original dead link: http://www.inei.gob.pe/Anexos/libro.pdf)||1.4%|
The most widely spoken language in the Americas is Spanish language. The dominant language of Latin America is Spanish, though the most populous nation in Latin America, Brazil, speaks Portuguese. Small enclaves of French language-, Dutch language- and English language-speaking regions also exist in Latin America, notably in French Guiana, Suriname, and Belize and Guyana respectively. Haitian Creole is dominant in the nation of Haiti, where French is also spoken. Native languages are more prominent in Latin America than in Anglo-America, with Nahuatl language, Quechua, Aymara language and Guaraní as the most common. Various other native languages are spoken with less frequency across both Anglo-America and Latin America. 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 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 Californio 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 because of 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 because of their language differences from Latin America, geographic differences from Anglo-America, and cultural and historical differences from both regions; English is the primary language of Guyana and Belize, and Dutch is the primary 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 peoples, various African languages, and, more recently English. The lingua franca Portuñol, a mixture of Portuguese and Spanish, is spoken in the border regions of Brazil and neighboring Spanish-speaking countries.
American essayist H.L. Mencken said, "The Latin-Americans use Norteamericano in formal writing, but, save in Panama, prefer nicknames in colloquial speech." quote at p 243. To avoid "American" one can use constructed terms in their languages derived from "United States" or even "North America"."America." Oxford Guide to Canadian English Usage. () Fee, Margery and McAlpine, J., ed., 1997. Toronto: Oxford University Press; p. 36."American." The Oxford Companion to the English Language (); McArthur, Tom, ed., 1992. New York: Oxford University Press, p. 35. In Canada, its southern neighbor is often referred to as "the United States", "the U.S.A.", or (informally) "the States", while U.S. citizens are generally referred to as "Americans". Most Canadians resent being referred to as "Americans".
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 which is discouraged, and the country's name itself is officially translated as Estados Unidos de América (United States of America), commonly abbreviated as Estados Unidos (EEUU). "debe evitarse el empleo de americano para referirse exclusivamente a los habitantes de los Estados Unidos" ("the use of the term americano referring exclusively to the United States inhabitants must be avoided") 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, and less commonly to those of other North American countries.
Latin America and Central America are generally referred to as Latijns Amerika and Midden-Amerika respectively.
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 people, etc.
In 2016, five to seven countries in the southern part of the Americas had weakening economies in decline, compared to only three countries in the northern part of the Americas. Haiti has the lowest GDP per capita in the Americas, although its economy was growing slightly .