The Americas

North America and South America, which are also collectively called America, are landmasses comprising the totality of North and South America. The Americas make up most of the land in Earth’s Western Hemisphere and comprise the New World.

The two continents of the Western Hemisphere, North and South America, are known as the Americas. The two continents’ climate zones are vastly different.

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The northern part of North America has a subarctic climate, which gradually warms southward before reaching tropical near the southern isthmus. The climate in South America is tropical in the north, cools southward, and finally becomes a cold, marine climate near Cape Horn.

Latin America, which encompasses North America south of the Rio Grande, the West Indian islands, and all of South America, and Anglo-America, which includes Canada and the United States, can be generally split into two cultural zones. Middle America is a word that is sometimes used to refer to Mexico, Central America, and the West Indies as a whole.

The term America is derived from Amerigo Vespucci, an Italian explorer and friend of Christopher Columbus who made many expeditions to the Western Hemisphere and, perhaps more importantly, wrote letters to friends in Italy about his adventures.

In one of these letters from 1504, the term “Mundus Novus” (“New World”) was used to allude to South America. A copy of the letter made its way to German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller, who was presumably uninformed of Columbus’ journey of 1498, during which he discovered the continent of South America.

In his Cosmographiae introductio (1507; Introduction to Cosmography), Waldseemüller noted that “another fourth half [of the inhabited world] had been discovered by Americus Vespucius,” and suggested that the new area be named America in honour of that explorer’s expeditions.