How Was Our Country Named America?

You may have wondered why, since it was Columbus who discovered America, why wasn’t it named Columbia, after him?

Historians tell us that when Columbus discovered our land, he didn’t believe that he had found a new continent; he simply believed that he had found an unexplored part of the continent of Asia. He even believed this until his death in 1506.

Meanwhile, another explorer, Amerigo Vespucci, made four voyages to this land, beginning in 1497. He realized that this was a new, unknown land and simply called it the “New World,” and never suggested giving it his name or any other name for that matter.

Yet America was named after Amerigo Vespucci, and under strange circumstances. It seems that Vespucci wrote many letters to his friends describing the New World. A dishonest author was said to have gotten hold of some of these letters, rewritten them, and published them in a book.

This book found its way into the hands of a German map maker, who decided to call this new land after Amerigo. It would be Americus or America on his new map. He decided on America since that was the feminine form of the name, just as Europe and Asia are feminine names as well.

Other map makers followed this German’s lead, and America was born.

Amerigo Vespucci died without ever knowing that this land was named after him!

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

40 thoughts on “How Was Our Country Named America?”

  1. America is NOT a country. It is a continent.
    It includes many many countries, going grom Canada and Greenland in the north, to Chile and Argentina in the South.
    “United States of America” or the USA was named after the 13 colonies, later called states, that were stablished in that territory.
    Your country is NOT named America, the whole continent is.

  2. Sounds to me like someone needs to dismount their high horse and come back down to Earth. If you re read the entire answer the author never states that a country was founded… but a Continent. Therefore this would answer the question put forth as to how the country of the United Staes of America got her name, America being the key question and answer here.

  3. Jeez…all these insecure, sensitive people. The U.S. is often referred to as just America because it that a PART OF OUR COUNTRY’S NAME!! There is is no Canada of America. It’s just Canada. There is no Mexico of America. It’s just Mexico. There is no Brazil of America. It’s just Brazil. Yet, our country’s name is UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. That’s the full name! Sometimes we are referred to as the States. Nobody gets upset about that. Sometimes the U.S. Sometimes just plain America. And it’s not just American’s (which, by the way, is the accepted term for those of citizenship in the United States, people don’t call us Staters), but people throughout the world who use this term. Get off your ignorant soap box and find something else about our country to gripe about since that is the world’s favorite pass time. And as for celebrating Columbus Day… anyone with any kind of education already knows it is simply a symbolic day, not considered an actual discovery of this country specifically since AMERICA wasn’t founded until 1776 and not ratified until 1781. Duh.

  4. I repeat it for the umpteenth time “AMERICA is a whole continent, not a country” OK and Im disagree with the term Latin American if I don’t speak latin come on, besides whom refer to US people as American is taking us importance as continent inhabitant

    From the rest of the american continent

  5. Dang. What is the big deal? Sounds like everyone gripping ab this needs to take some meds or something. This is apparently the most important issue to you, sad. Its America…..all of it. If you are from canada, you can say im from America and still be correct. Same goes for brazil. Chill ppl, more important things in like to have a heart-attack over.

  6. I dont know why everyone is hating on the U.S. but to reply to all the haters. The great thing about our country is that we may call it America if we want, and there isnt anything you or any other U.S. hater can do ab it!! Ha! :)

  7. America is a continent and a nation. United States of Mexico is Mexico & Federated States of Brasil is Brasil…USA took the name of America, long before any of la Latin countries were founded. Remember, the Spaniards called the American Continent Las Indias, not America.. So, myself as a Cuban-American, I know the truth and the USA took the name America & they deserve it. Let’s not be more anti-american…Remember, there was no American Continent, it was called The Indias.
    The founding father named this country America, long before any of the latinamerican countries were founded. And if you want to really find out, do your homework:

  8. America = all the countries from Canada to all the way down to Argentina/Chile, Your countrie’s name is “United States Of America” if your to lazy to say it complete, then get another name…

  9. America is the name of the continent. The 13 colonies had their own names and could not use it for the name of their union. US adopted the continent’s name instead. Perhaps the USA was the first to have used it on its name, but it does not mean that the continent lost its own name just because a country is now using it too. This was actually something some countries did back then. For example, the “Federal Republic of Central America” adopted the name of the continent as well, only that they included “Central” which is their location within the continent. Today, most of these countries have the word “America” in their actual legal name. For example: Republica de Nicaragua de “America” Central. If you notice it does not say:
    Republica de Nicaragua de “Las Americas” Central because “Las Americas” is not the name of the continent, but a plural of the name when divided into regions.
    This continent was being called “the indies” because they thought it was India.
    When they realized that it was not the indies, then they called it The new world.
    Even the part of the US A was called the new world back then. After Americus Vespucius came to check the Indies found that they were not the Indies but it was a new world. But the new world needed a name and so “America” was written in a map by a german ,right where, listen to this, on the South American part of the map and not on the North American part where the USA is today. So, who was named “America” first?
    It was the south part of the American continent where Brazil, Peru and other countries are. Pardon me, but the USA was not founded before Domenican Republic 1511?Mexico 1519? Peru? Nicaragua? and many others. Perhaps you might have meant that the USA had its independence before most other countries but not that it was founded before them. Go back to your social studies books.
    Make sure it is not bias though, because most books in the US have America as the country and Las Americas as the continent and this is not the case south of the border my friend! Check it out on your own time.

  10. I want to question of all of you somewhat overly excitable people.
    When someone says America we think U.S.A. end of discussion right?
    Well what if another country took over and renamed it something else. Now we are assuming that in this hypothesis that no one cares what is happening to what used to be America *cough*UN*coughcough* and we have moved on to a peaceful life of military occupation and bombings. All outrage over your admittedly awful situation aside, you would still be upset that America was no longer America right? Granted it has little history but just for an example I’ll mention Palestine. Does anyone know that Israel used to be Palestine for thousands of years until the UN let the Jewish peoples (I’m not antisemitic i’m just stating the facts) take over the country when they had already been given half. YOU WOULD BE UPSET RIGHT? Please answer as kindly as you can because if you bash this I can only assume that you have too much time on your hands that you need to let me know that I am wrong.

  11. ema,

    If the USA is renamed with another name and they don’t call it “America” anymore, then the continent will still keep its name of “America” period,
    Just like Palestine kept the name Palestine on the part that belongs to Palestine.

    If America is only the name for the USA, then how come one still reads in history books or any other book for example names like’ Mesoamerica, middle America, the native Americans (the precolumbian Mexican Indians), The discovery of America, The Church in America, etc. etc.. etc..?

  12. America is a continent, not a country. The name was giving to the America of the south, then applied to the North as well. The fact that Unitedstaters, with their cultural imperialism, are calling their country “America”, is witness to maybe the first ever nation in the history of humanity who was so high on their own s**t that actually stolen the name of the continent they reside in. USA, which is the correct name of the Unitedstaters’ country, is short for “United States of (the continent) America”. When i read or hear Unitedstaters talking about “America” i always got confused, because their country is called USA, while America is a continent.

  13. The usa is the only country in the entire world that has NO NAME, USA ( United States Of America) which means they are a bunch of states together in the north of the american continent, there’re just too many ignorants in this world

  14. america was named after a british person called Dia America.
    britain has given u everything. including baseball.

  15. Why America Was Named for Americus Vespucius. The New World should have been named for (See map) Columbus, and it is, sometimes, called the “Land of Columbia.” History, however, takes the name of this fair country from one who, probably, least deserved it— Americus Vespucius.

    It is not certain how many voyages he made to this country, when he made them, where he made them, or that he ever commanded an expedition. Why then should he be honored by having his name given to America?

    It is said that Vespucius coasted along South America as far south as Brazil. He wrote letters telling his friends very fully about what he had seen. He declared that the regions he saw went far beyond any parts of the Old World in animals, plants, and men, and that the climate of these regions was better than anything he had ever known.

    The printing press spread this story of Americus. One day a professor of geography in what is now France proposed that this new region, which Americus described so fully, be called “Amerige.” The suggestion was taken up, and after a short time that name was applied to the whole of the New World.

  16. is it that serious that people call it america and some don’t. if you say america than i know you’re talking about the U.S. If you say mexico than i know you’re saying mexico. who cares. We know america is a whole continent

  17. Amerigo Vespucio (Vespucci), under the Spanish crown, exploring South America in 1497, realized right away this was a “new” land for Europe or the world. The Germans were the first to use “America” for South America. The name moved upward, eventually including Canada and the United States. America is the “New World” and short for the United States. It used to be U.S.A and USSR–initials with initials. Now it’s America and Russia, word to word. People coming to any of the lands of the ‘New World’, including the Caribbean and South America said they were coming to America. Along the way, the US took the name of the continent for itself.

  18. Lol you people make me laugh….you’re all so very ignorant and stupid. Really? You spend all of your time arguing about what America is…there are better things to do with this time. If someone wants to call America a country then let them, what harm is it doing you..really? You retards find anything to complain and argue and gripe about, get a life and find something better to do with your time.

  19. The United States, should be called The United States from American Continent, as the American continent was named decades before the thirteen colonies idiots! THE UNITED STATES IS IN AMERICA! THE CONTINENT AMERICA !!!!!!

  20. Some people are asking why we get so mad when USA call themselves America, and let me answer your question. We wouldn’t give a crap if they knew America is a continent but the problem with the USA is that they DON”T consider America a continent, they always say North America & South America. So my question is why? America includes the North and the South. Today I asked my US history teacher if America was a continent or a country, he answered America is a country and that saying that America is a continent is like saying Germany is a continent; really? See how ignorant people are? That’s what makes me mad, they are so full of themselves that they think they have the right to call their country America.

  21. for those who are saying get over it! the author never stated America is a country, all I can say to you is are you stupid? the title says how was our country named America? helloooo!!! the correct term to refer to people who are from the United States should be US people, and the term americans should be use for all the countries who are part of the American continent, just the same way we call europeans not only to the people of France or the UK, but all those people who are from a country that is part of Europe, just the same way we don’t call asians only to chinese people, but to all those people who are from a country that is part of Asia, it does not matter that the name America is part of your country, that does not entitles you to be the only ones to be called americans, it’s as simple as that, unfortunately most of US people do not understand this, for example, the official name for Mexico is United Mexican States, but nobody refers to the people of Mexico as people from the States, get a clue! oh and by the way it’s Cristobal Colon, not Christopher Columbus, he was from Spain, therefore we should call him by his spanish name, and only in the US you celebrate Columbus day, in other spanish speaking countries what they celebrate is “El dia de la raza” the day of the people, it’s a celebration to the people of the american continent and it’s culture, not an specific celebration to Cristobal Colon. And it’s celebrated every october 12th, the official day of the arrival of Cristobal Colon to what is now the Dominican Republic, not like in the US where they might celebrate this holiday on the 13th, or the 14th or even the 15th because you want it to be on a weekend, how ridiculous!

  22. This argument is silly! First America is a country! You could argue that other countries of the continents of America could be called Americans, however America is the name of the country! The United States of America,America is in the title! If someone is from Chicago for example they are from Chicago, Illinois and America. People from here could be called Chicagoans, Illinoisans or Americans and all would be acceptable! If you want to debate if someone from Canada wants to be considered Canadian and American I don’t have a problem with that, I would like to mention that some are acting like America is the only country, continent or whatever to do this! The one comment about Asia is sorted wrong! When people around the would refer to Asia most do not think of all the countries, such as Russia, India or Pakistan, they think of, well to be not so politically correct, oriental countries! Yes it could be argued that maybe this is racist, but so would be the term Africans( usual the black nations of Africa, not places like Egypt!,or Europeans, whites! Lastly, people on the comments seem to blame America only for doing this! The Europreans( The Germans, The French etc., the Chinese, the Japanese or Asians (hehe), Mexicans, Columbians, Russians, Egyptians and almost all other countries of the world call people from the United States of America Americans! It’s hard to argue America is arrogant for doing this, when the rest of the world does it!

  23. But in “the new world” there are 2 continents. North America and South America. They are 2 separate continents. While America singularly is the country of the United States of America

  24. Wow, this is ridiculous. Are you really getting that angry about this? When someone asks about nationality it is common knowledge it refers to the country, not continent, that you’re from. Thus people from the only country in the world with the word “America” in it can shorten their name/nationality to America or Americans. Just like people from the United Mexican states call it “Mexico.” Argentine Republicans call themselves Argentine or Argentinean, The Federative Republic of Brazil calls themselves Brazilians, people from the Republic of Peru call themselves Peruvians, it’s just how it works. Nobody is going to say “I’m an Argentine Republican” or “United States of American,” it’s just weird. And if you think rationally, the USA has all the right to claim that nationality because not only were they the first independent country in the AmericaS (thus the first true Americans beside the natives the colonizers killed off), but their ancestors made up the first colonies to those lands and were deemed “American” by their European counterparts. And the name stuck, so instead of getting worked up about something silly why don’t you be more proud to bear the name of the country you’re from? Their are some really beautiful countries on these two continents outside of “America.” Which leads me to another point, with modern science and scientific advancement, every country in the world outside of Spanish speaking ones teach the Americas as 2 continents, not one…also there are only 8 planets now, and the world is not flat, KEEP UP!

  25. And when the aliens come the Americans will call themselves Earthlings and claim there are two different Earths. “We are are the USA of Earth, so we can rightfully call ourselves Earthlings, so dumb of you no to put the planet’s name in your country’s name”.

  26. If you live in the United States of America you are an a American. Can’t believe people are discussing this.

  27. How ignorant can people be?!?!?
    First, our country’s name is The United States of AMERICA but most people shorten it to America. Its not that we said, you all better call our country that, its that people just do it. Honestly, this all sounds like jealousy, insecurity and plain hatred. Oh, and don’t ask me jealous of what or insecure why…look within yourself for those answers.

    Second, many many years ago yes it was taught that there were 5 continents but now, if you are asked, the answer should be 7 (also acceptable 6 if you count Europe and asia as one Eurasia). Things change people!!! The definition of a continent should clear it up for you. Look it up!!!! Antarctica is clearly a continent and South America is clearly NOW a separate continent. Again, look up the definition of a continent. Why people are so reluctant to change is beyond me. Dividing North and South America doesn’t make one better than the other. It just changed. I think South Americans have trouble accepting this more than others but its really not a big deal or do you believe that your countries are now insignificant because its not together with Mexico, Canada and the US???

    It just changed!!! Things change!!! Stop answering the question about how many continents there are with the ignorant answer “5”. Clearly there are not 5, say 6 or 7 but NOT 5.

  28. yes yes, that’s right people from the U.S. have named themselves as if they were the whole continent, America IS A CONTINENT, NOT A COUNTRY!
    and not even the President knows how his country is called, teachers, people who (“is smart”), writters, etc. all those people says Americans when they refer to themselves, that’s a offense to the other countries from this Continent, and the worst is that most people called them americans :p that’s like when people say no I’m not american I’m canadian, salvadorean, mexican, colombian, etc. it really sucks!


  29. what if a area inside europe get indenpendece and proclaim the name for themself
    “United States of Europe”

    will they be europeans? yes but all other ppl from other countys on europe are ¡Europeans too.

    then the ppl from United States of Europe call his country “Europe”

    now you undestand?

    when i travel on europe im been called american, and im ok with that. im not from USA, but i still are an American

    when someone call other American to other, the USA think they refer to a country and the other refer to the continent.

    BTW United States of Mexico refear to the region using a word that comes from they ancerters
    you use United States of “A FULL CONTINENT NAME”

    thats the problem, some made the mistake to think the full continent is called The Americas, there is only 1 american continent,
    even if you want to split it on 2, 3 or more parts, to refer to regions of the continent, examples:

    A.- 1.-North America, 2.-South America
    B.- 1.-North America, 2.-Central America, 3.-South America
    C.- 1.-East America,2.-Mid America, 3.-West America
    D.- 1.-North East America, 2.-Sout West America
    E- 1.-America Septentrionalis, 2.-America meridionalis
    F.- 1.-Oriental America, 2.-Occidental America
    G.- 1.- Anglo-America, 2.-Hispanic-America, 3.-Franco-America, 4.-Portuguese America, 5.-Latin America,
    and you can keep selecting areas to split the AMERICAN CONTINENT to refer to specifc areas, but thats does not change the continent name, even if today people give for garanted some “comon uses” as if they are true or right.

    other example. the language called Spanish does not exist, its just a word used to refer to other language. for example, the constitution of Spain, states that the official language of the spaniards is Castilian, but is comonly used the word “Spanish” on english and even on castilian as the name of the language, because is easy to make ppl understand with language is one refering to, because the word Spanish as a language is widely spread. but even if is widely spread and used, it does not mean is correct.

    ETC,… so you can see what i mean,

    if the people that is from USA want to call themself “Americans” is ok because they are from the American Continent so it will be not wrong, same as if the people from Canada want to call themself Americans, they can too, with the same right.

    if a country is called “Union of states of this countinent”, that country does not have a name, they just use their status as a name, but isnt a true name.because not all states from America are on that Union, there is a lot of states (and provinces, as they are called on other areas of the American Continent) that are not united to that “United States of the America”

    United States of Mexico is diferent, do you know any mexican state outside that UNION? the union of states of mexico?
    or do you see any other ?

    Federative Republic of Brazil do you see any other brazilian state outside the federative republic?
    a very good example is Republic of Argentina, or Argentine Republic (Republica Argentina)

    there is 3 offitial Names for taht country,
    1.- “Nacion Argentina” (Argentine Nation) is allowed to be used on legislative work on the congress of Argentina.
    2.- “Republica Argentina” (Argentine Republic) this is the more widely know and used among all the 3 official names of the country.
    3.- “Provincias Unidas del Rio de la Plata” (United Provinces of the Río de la Plata) see? “provinces” are the name given on some countrys then other countrys prefer to use the word “states”…

    this name “United Provinces of the Río de la Plata” (some translate it as “United Provinces of the River Plate”) was widely used on some period of the MDCCC century

    my english is not very good, but i just want to point all this, i dont say hay you are wrong, i just say, is not correct even if is standarized or given for garanted and widely used by people from the US as a comon word for a resident of USA (American), or as a short for “united States of America” (America)

    the term that i really dont like is Americas, beause there is only one America Continent. you can split it on regions for practical use, but “the americas” is incorrect.

    there is only America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania, you can add Antartic region as a continent too, but you cant Split 1 continent on 2 or 3 or more contient, you can split it on regions or areas. but you cant just divide a contient into several contient (you can split it on SUB-Contients like. South America or North America but you need to point out that you speak about Sub-Continents and not to diferent continents

  30. Read about the Amerrique mountains in Nicaragua……You will be surprised as who really named America, Our beautiful continent.

  31. yes is sad that in the year 2013 people believe that for example my people from El Salvador came from other place we didn’t came from any where we were here no one discover us we were mixed confused and extinct to the point that today we are foreign people. and we need a visa to travel in hour land one day will be some kind of compensation for now they say we are from El Salvador like say we are from another planet ooh is that why they call it illegal alien

  32. all maps show the countries of NORTH AMERICA as: CANADA, UNITED STATES & MEXICO.

    None are called “AMERICA”.

  33. The funny thing is, using the word “America” is very foreign sounding to me, and I’m an American. I’ve never heard an American say they were born or live in America, they say the “states” or the “United States” or name their home state but never do they say they were born or live in America. We do however refer to ourselves as Americans because it’s been part of our name since the beginning and it certainly wasn’t arrogance that gave us the name, we were just learning how to stand on our own.

  34. The United States public do not know that their country is called the United States and that it is part of America which is a Continent. They do not know the English language. THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA key word “of” means part of America not that it is America.

  35. Nice sentence construction. Obviously you haven’t made it to the Fifth Grade level yet. You should probably be more careful when calling other people idiots.

  36. When has anyone ever answered the question, “How many continents are there?” with 5? I have never heard that before and your comment seems out of place. You need to get your facts straight before calling other people ignorant because of something they never said. No one thinks that there are 5 continents. It is very common knowledge that there are 7 continents. Stop telling people to look things up if a) they already know what it means and b) you are talking about something very different from what everyone else is talking about.

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