The Americas are the region of the Western hemisphere that consists of the continents of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions. The Americas cover 8.3% of the Earth's total surface area (28.4% of its land area) and contain about 14% of the human population (about 900 million people). The Americas may alternatively be referred to as America;  however, "America" may be ambiguous, as it is commonly used to refer to the United States of America.
See main article: History of the Americas.
South America broke off from the west of the supercontinent Gondwanaland around 135 million years ago (Ma), forming its own continent. Starting around 15 Ma, the collision of the Caribbean Plate and the Pacific Plate resulted in 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. South America is made up of 11 countries. The biggest is Brazil.
Archaeological finds establish the widespread presence of the Clovis culture in North America and South America around 10,000 BCE. Whether this is the first migration of humans into North America and South America is disputed, with alternative theories holding that humans arrived in North America and South America as early as around 40,000 BCE.
The Inuit migrated into the Arctic section of North America in another wave of migration, arriving around 1000 CE. Around the same time as the Inuit migrated into North America, Viking settlers began arriving in Greenland in 982 and Vinland shortly thereafter. The Viking settlers quickly abandoned Vinland, and disappeared from Greenland by 1500.
Large-scale European colonization of the Americas began shortly after the voyages of Christopher Columbus starting in 1492. The spread of new diseases brought by Europeans and Africans killed most of the inhabitants of North America and South America,  with a general population crash of Native Americans occurring in the mid-sixteenth century, often well ahead of European contact. Native peoples and European colonizers came into widespread conflict, resulting in what David Stannard has called a genocide of the indigenous populations. 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.
The earliest known use of the name America for this particular landmass dates from April 25, 1507. It appears first on a small globe map with twelve time zones, and then a large wall map created by the German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller in Saint-Dié-des-Vosges in France. Nearby Strasbourg was energized by the Renaissance Spirit of science and innovation. Here the Duke of Lorraine purchased the latest invention of a printing press and recruited a think tank of experts to render a new image of earth as a planet, using the reported findings of European explorers. An accompanying book, Cosmographiae Introductio, explains that the name was derived from the Latinized version of the explorer Amerigo Vespucci's name, Americus Vespucius, in its feminine form, America, as the other continents all have Latin feminine names.
Vespucci's role in the naming issue, like his exploratory activity, is unclear. Some sources say that he was unaware of the widespread use of his name to refer to the new landmass. Waldseemüller may have been misled by the Soderini Letter, now thought to be a forgery, which reports that the New World is populated by giants, cannibals, and sexually insatiable females and implies it was discovered first by Vespucci. Christopher Columbus, who had first brought the region's existence to the attention of Renaissance era voyagers, had died in 1506 (believing, to the end, that he had discovered and colonized part of Asia) and could not protest Waldseemüller's decision.
Another objection is that new countries and continents were never named after an explorer's first name, hence Tasmania (after Abel Tasman), Van Diemen's Land (after Anthony van Diemen) and The Cook Islands (after Captain James Cook). The only exceptions to this were places named after royal people, hence the Victoria Falls. Therefore, under this principle America would have been called Vespuccia.
A few alternative theories regarding the landmass's naming have been proposed, but none of them have achieved any widespread acceptance.
One alternative, first advanced by Jules Marcou in 1875 and later recounted by novelist Jan Carew, is that the name America derives from the district of Amerrique in Nicaragua. The gold-rich district of Amerrique was purportedly visited by both Vespucci and Columbus, for whom the name became synonymous with gold. According to Marcou, Vespucci later applied the name to the New World, and even changed the spelling of his own name from Alberigo to Amerigo to reflect the importance of the discovery.
Another theory, first proposed by a Bristol antiquary and naturalist, Alfred Hudd, in 1908 was that America is derived from Richard Amerike (Richard ap Meurig), a Welsh merchant from Bristol, who is believed to have financed John Cabot's voyage of discovery from England to Newfoundland in 1497 as found in some documents from Westminster Abbey a few decades ago. Supposedly, Bristol fishermen had been visiting the coast of North America for at least a century before Columbus' voyage and Waldseemüller's maps are alleged to incorporate information from the early English journeys to North America. The theory holds that a variant of Amerike's name appeared on an early English map (of which no copies survive) and that this was the true inspiration for Waldseemüller.  
The northernmost point of the Americas is Kaffeklubben Island, which is the northernmost point of land on Earth. The southernmost point is the islands of Southern Thule, although they are sometimes considered part of Antarctica. The easternmost point is Nordostrundingen. The westernmost point is Attu Island.
The western geography of the Americas is dominated by the American cordillera, with the Andes running along the west coast of South America and the Rocky Mountains and other Pacific Coast Ranges running the western side of North America. The 2300 km long Appalachian Mountains run along the east coast of North America from Alabama to Newfoundland. North of the Appalachians, the Arctic Cordillera runs along the eastern coast of Canada.
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 further south the Gran Chaco and Pampas are broad lowlands.
With coastal mountains and interior plains, the Americas have several large river basins that drain the continents. The largest river basin in South America is that of the Amazon, which has the highest volume flow of any river on Earth. The largest river basin in North America is that of the Mississippi, covering the second largest watershed on the planet. The second largest watershed of South America is that of the Paraná River, which covers about 2.5 million km².
180px|Mexico City is the most populous city in the Americas|thumb|right
The total population of the Americas is 858,000,000 people per the United Nations' Population and Vital Statistics Report, and is divided as follows:
The population of the Americas is made up of the descendants of eight large ethnic groups and their combinations.
The majority of the population live in Latin America, named for its dominant languages, Spanish and Portuguese, both of which are descended from Latin. Latin America is typically contrasted with Anglo-America, where English (a Germanic language) prevails; namely, Canada (with the exception of francophone Canada: see Québec and Acadia) and the United States, both in North America, have predominantly Northern European roots.
The most prevalent faiths in the Americas are as follows:
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- and English-speaking regions also exist in Latin America, notably in French Guiana and Nicaragua's Mosquito Coast, 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 lesser 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. Spanish has become widely spoken in 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 and geographic and cultural differences with Anglo-America; English is the primary language of Guyana and Belize, and Dutch is the official and written 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 Papiamentu, which is a combination of Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch (representing the respective colonizers), native Arawak, various African languages, and, more recently, English. Because of 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.
See also: Americas (terminology).
In many parts of the world, America in the singular is commonly used as a name for the United States of America; however, (the) Americas (plural with s and generally with the definite article) invariably refers to the lands and regions of North America and South America combined. Usage of America to also refer to this collectivity remains fairly common; for example, the International Olympic Committee reckons America as one of the five inhabited continents, which is depicted in the Olympic logo.
While many in the United States of America and other countries generally refer to the country as America and US residents/citizens as Americans, many people elsewhere in the Americas resent what they perceive as misappropriation of the term in this context and, thus, this usage is frequently avoided.   In Canada, their southern neighbor is seldom referred to as "America", with the United States, the U.S., or (informally) the States used instead. English dictionaries and compendiums differ regarding usage and rendition.  
See main article: Use of the word American.
Whether usage of America or the Americas is preferred, American is a self-referential term for many people living in the Americas. However, much of the English-speaking world uses the word to refer solely to a citizen, resident, or national of the United States of America. Instead, the word pan-American is sometimes used as an unambiguous adjective to refer to the Americas.
In addition, many Canadians resent being referred to as Americans because of mistaken assumptions that they are U.S. citizens or an inability—particularly of people overseas—to distinguish Canadian English and American English accents.
In Spanish, América is the name of a region considered 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 instead of americano or americana, and the country's name itself is often translated as Estados Unidos de Norteamérica. Also, the term norteamericano 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.
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. Sometimes norte-americano is also used, but americano is the most common term employed by people and media at large, while norte-americano (North American) is more common in books. The least ambiguous term, estadunidense (used more frequently in Brazil) or estado-unidense (used more frequently in Portugal), something like "United Statian" or "estadounidense" in Spanish language), and "ianque"—the Portuguese version of "Yankee"—are also used, though almost exclusively in academic language.
América, however, is not that frequently used as synonym to the country, and almost exclusively in current speech, while in print and in more formal environments the US is usually called either Estados Unidos da América (i.e. United States of America) or only Estados Unidos (i.e. United States). There is some difference between the usage of these words in Portugal and in Brazil, the Brazilians being less prone than the Portuguese to apply the term América to the country. A well-known example of such use is the translation of the title of Alain Resnais' movie "Mon Oncle d'Amérique": "O Meu Tio da América".
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. However, the usage of Amérique to refer to the United States, while technically not correct, 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 their usage is rare.
In Dutch, the word Amerika almost always refers to the United States. Although the United States is equally often referred to as de Verenigde Staten or de VS, Amerika only extremely rarely refers to the entire continent of the Americas. There is no alternative and commonly used Dutch word for the Americas. Therefore, in order 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 Argentinian etc.
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 as "Americas" in Russian.