Dauntless JaunterExplore • Educate • Experience • Enlighten

American Demonym: Why Do US Citizens Call Themselves Americans?


American demonym: It seems unfair, narcissistic, and arrogant, argue some, for citizens of the United States of America to call themselves “Americans.”

American Flag
Photo taken by WIkimedia Commons user Jnn13.

I’ve come across this debate dozens of times in my day-to-day life, and I did once again the other evening as I was out with my friends. I have a very international group of friends, and it is always interesting to argue with them; I am always anticipating some kind of new angle they’d offer up that I hadn’t considered.

However, this time, I surprised myself and my friends by spewing forth some soliloquy without even taking any proper time to ponder the question again; words came out of my mouth without hesitation and one would think that I had been waiting all my life for this one moment, to fight this one battle. My friend said something about Canadians being Americans, as well, and after I clarified that we were going in that direction, I just went off with a rant, one I had no idea I had in me.

I myself am a United States citizen, but my point of view on this article hopefully reflects no bias regarding that fact. For the record, I want to point out that, even though I am a citizen of the United States, I often find myself being the most critical of my own country – my friends and conversation partners while abroad are certain to agree; I am usually the most progressive, rainbow-slinging in just about any group I happen to be in.

So, is the fact that U.S. citizens call themselves “Americans” a case of ignorance, simple-mindedness, a narrow worldview, or bigotry? I don’t think so at all, and below I’ll explain why. We “Americans” have many faults, but I’d like to explain why this one is not one of them.

America Refers to the Continent(s) or the U.S.A.? A Bit of History to Get Us Started….

Originally, yes, the term America was used to denote anything from the Americas, which consists of North America and South America. In the 1500’s the term American was used to represent the native inhabitants of the lands of the New World. However, in the English language, American came to refer specifically to the peoples of British America, and later narrowed down more to include just the newly-formed country of the United States of America – and note that this happened in the late 1700’s. The British were the first ones to call citizens of the USA “Americans.”

Since most of the world agrees on a seven-continent view of the world, it is important to remember that we also distinguish a person from South America as South American and a person from North America as North American, more commonly than simply American.

Point #1: The Dictionary Definition

Oxford English – (#1) of, relating to, or characteristic of the United States or its inhabitants.
Merriam-Webster – (#3) a citizen of the United States.
Collins Dictionary – (#2) of, in, or characteristic of the U.S. or its people or culture.

Most dictionaries, international organizations, and style books have a doubly-accepted definition for the moniker of American – both as a citizen of the United States of America as well as a person from North America or South America.

Point #2: Mexico

What does Mexico have to do with this argument? Well, many people don’t realize this, but Mexico’s official name is Estados Unidos Mexicanos, which translates to United States of Mexico or the United Mexican States. This invalidates one of the most common alternate suggestions for demonyms of US citizens, United Statian, since Mexico is also a country of many states, united. The term Mexico doesn’t step on any toes, so there is no argument for that country/demonym pair as there is with the USA.

Point #3: Korea

This point is not such a solid one, but I’d like to point out that North Korean and South Korean citizens prefer to be considered singularly as “Koreans,” since they share their same background, language, and much history, among other things, though they each still fail to officially recognize the existence of the other nationality.

Point #4: Other Languages/Cognates

A cognate is a word in another language that has a similar etymology/origin as the word in question. For example, the word night in English has similar-sounding cognates in many languages, because they all come from the same Indo-European parent root. In French, it is nuit, in German, nacht, and in Spanish, noche; I am sure you can see the similarities.

The point I am trying to make here is that Americans are not the only ones to call themselves such. Here are the cognates of the American demonym in some other languages:

Polish – Amerykański
German – Amerikanischen/Amerikaner
French – Américaine
Italian – Americano

As you can see, it is not only the people of the US that call themselves such, so most arguments of American imperialism or small-mindedness is somewhat invalidated. In fact, the United Nations recognizes that the term American refers to the people of the United States. Canadians even refer to their southern neighbor’s form of the English language as American English to differentiate it from their own self-described Canadian English. There are many other cognates in other languages, in addition to these obvious ones.

Point #5: Time

As the world knocks out political incorrectness left and right, there needs to be something else to fill the void, it seems. This American moniker dispute has really picked up some momentum in the last decade, especially. However, it is important to note that the definition of American has virtually remained the same in the English language for over two centuries now. As stated previously, the British are the ones that first started calling citizens of the USA as “Americans,” and this has now stuck for over two hundred years.

Point #6: Name Logic

Rather simply put, there are not any other countries (that come to mind, at least) that have the word America within their official name as does the United States of America. There is much less fault to be found in the full name of the USA, but it is the demonym that draws ire in others. Also, if you were to think about it, the “United States” portion of USA is merely a descriptor phrase that ties it all together, much like “Republic of So and So” or the “Federated Islands of Such and Such.”

The more arrogant thing to do, in my opinion, would be to take that first descriptor portion and fashion that into a demonym. Can you imagine if a nation were to claim the term “Republic” or “Federated Islands” and turn that into their demonym, disregarding every other one of such kinds?

Point #7: Nothing Else Really Suffices

Not only has the term “American” stood the test of time and become an internationally-recognized demonym for citizens of the United States of America, but there just isn’t much else that works. The name of the country is United States of America. Like with the Mexican example, the citizens of the United States of America are “Americans” just like the citizens of the United States of Mexico are “Mexicans.”

The term “Yankee” has been proposed, and many people of other countries still refer to citizens of the USA as “Yankees,” but in the US of A, a yankee refers more specifically to the people of New England, or the Northeast of the country.

Other proposed demonyms have been based on the United States portion of the country name, which, again, has its own problems. The demonym American exists, literally, for lack of a better term.

Point #8: Other Examples Exist of Somewhat Vague Demonyms

Central African Republic – The most common demonym for this African country is simply Central African, but you can understand how that might cause confusion, since there are many nations that could be considered so.
Congo – The term Congolese is used to describe the people of both the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, two countries that make it all the more difficult by being adjacent.
China – The People’s Republic of China is what we refer to when we say China, yet the Republic of China seems to unfairly have to use their moniker of Taiwan.

Point #9: Uniqueness and Geography

Official names of countries are usually several words longer than their more everyday name, and this leads, in most cases to the demonym forming from either the most unique part of the name, or else from the most specific geographically. As aforementioned in Point #6, logic holds that we wouldn’t name the people of the Republic of So and So as Republicans, or something to that effect.

Thus, when demonyms are decided, it is usually from the most unique part of the full official name, such as the Mexico example, or else it is with the geographical component to their name, as in the case of South Africa or Central Africa. The unique part of the United States of America is America, so it became the root of the demonym; there’s no other country with that word within its name.

The Main Parties Offended

Calling a citizen of the United States of America has offended many people throughout the world. First and foremost, the Spanish-speaking people of North and South America use their cognate of American, Americano, to refer to the people and products of the two continents, as opposed to the people and products of the United States. They are somewhat justified in feeling slighted, I admit, since these Latin American peoples are also of “the Americas.” In fact, they’ve given other words to denote citizens of the USA in particular, such as estadounidense (from United States); but you can see how this might cause a problem with Mexicans.

Aside from Spanish-speaking (and the Portuguese-speaking, to some extent) peoples, many people are offended by this supposed blasphemy as they see the United States and its people as arrogant and narcissistic, taking a name for themselves that is more universal. The US of A gets a bad reputation as it is probably one of the most-hated countries universally, and thus people are overly critical of every apparent or alleged fault the USA might have.


“American” is the only official and recognized demonym that most countries use for citizens of the United States, and the only one the United States citizens use; most dictionaries (outside of many Spanish language ones) and the United Nations recognize this as the official demonym. The pope and the Holy See even use that term to specifically describe people of the USA.

Some US citizens feel guilty and have come up with some alternative demonyms, such as the aforementioned United Statian, but these are just grasps at nothing solid. Furthermore, the term was not picked by citizens of the USA to begin with, but rather the USA’s mother country/national enemy at the time, Great Britain, and so this should not be an example of American ignorance or arrogance. There are many reasons to be angry at the USA, and the United States of America certainly has an overabundance of faults, but this is not one of them.

* For further reading, check out this post giving a definition of demonyms and a list of demonyms by country »

Written by
Christian Eilers
Join the discussion

  • Try going thru passport control and telling them you are “American” Don’t be silly. The only true American is the American Indian, everyone is hyphenated. European-American,so on and so forth.

    • David, have you ever left the country? I visit about 4-6 foreign countries a year and I have NEVER identified as anything EXCEPT American. I would think you could only technically hyphenate if you were born elsewhere…such as Irish American if you were an American citizen born in Ireland.

      • All that hyphenation that is done in US is absolutely racist, you’d shouldn’t have to do that, nobody else do it. Only USIANS.
        Afro American, Hispano American, Mexican American, that’s all plain racism.For that matter, white USIANS should all be called Euro americans, For the great majority ancestors came from Europe.  it's absurd.

    • Indians are from India not America. I think you mean Native American. You see Christopher Columbus made a MISTAKE when he referred to the Americans as Indians. However when Vespucci found America he figured out it was a mistake, so we can all stop calling Native Americans Indians, as real Indians are from the country known as India.

      • The only problem with that argument is that most Native Americans prefer to be called Indians, not Native Americans, and they’ve been calling themselves “Indians” for centuries.

        • “most Native Americans prefer to be called Indians, ”
          We’ll need a little support for a statement like that. Otherwise it can only be as accurate as “most people don’t like Brussels sprouts”.

      • Actually it depends on where you are. Some refer to themselves as Native Americans, some as First Nation, some as indigenous peoples, and the reservation I live on as American Indians. Truly they would rather be called by their tribe or nation name, but since they have no power whites continue to pick new names to feel politically correct.

    • My point exactly. The term “American” is never used at an official level. Never. There’s my answer. Thanks

    • You’re being silly. Try going through passport control? I do. All the time. I travel 365 days a year. I’ve been to 61 different countries now. I write American on my immigration card every time, because this is a demonym that means a citizen of the United States in the common international usage for hundreds of years and it is universally understood to be as much, and it has never one caused me a problem. On the other hand, when people in Europe, Africa, and Asia ask me where I am from and I answer “the US,” “the United States,” or “the USA” I often am met with blank stares or a “huh? where?” …. if I then say “America”… I get a look of instant recognition. There is nothing even REMOTELY chauvinistic or problematic about this in ANY way. It is simply using language normally.
      On the other hand, a small number of nitwits in places like Colombia, Venezuela etc where there is no industry other than inventing reasons to hate the United States have started to, in an extremely cynical and calculated way, pretend to be upset about this in the past 10 years or so. Prior to 2000 I am quite sure that NOBODY ANYWHERE EVER objected to an American being called an American, or America being called America. This is a new thing. Completely fabricated faux outrage. People being upset just to be upset. And insisting that we change the meaning of words to suit THEM… and then accusing others of hubris or chauvinism? Oy! The hypocrisy!

      • I’m from Colombia and I feel the need to clarify that the people that gets offended by the fact that U.S.A citizens are called Americans are justified since, as the article says, in Spanish the word “american” refers to the continent America, of which we also are part, and there’s a different word to name U.S.A. citizens. Regarding your comment about our “lack” of industries, besides being false, has absolutely nothing to do with what is being discussed in the article, so it clearly shows how being part of the first economy in the world has put in your mind a sense of superiority that has no limits to differentiate cause and effect, because I repeat, first, the debate is about a semantic discussion, in which you don’t need to be stupid to sense a conflict, you just need to speak Spanish; and second, in no way economic growth measured as it is, affects how witty people are.
        Furthermore, you don’t need to invent reasons to hate the United States as well as you don’t need to invent reasons to hate people with extreme power over the lives of others. U.S.A has infringed a lot of damage in other populations in exchange for economic benefits and has used demagogy to blind its beneficiaries to recognize those damages. I don’t hate them simply because I know that the damage you can do is proportional to the power you have, and humanity has proved long ago that it don’t waste opportunities to exploit it. However, I would be glad if you measure your words when commenting on public sites.

        • (I’m from the US) The US has its faults. It has an awful lot of them. The list is very, very extensive. But claiming the name “American” is not one of them. As the article said, we did not choose the name, Britain did. It’s stuck for the last 200 years. It’s formally recognized by the UN. And no other demonym really makes sense. Like somebody above in the comments said, whenever I travel internationally and people ask where I’m from, I say “the US” or “the United States,” and I just get blank stares. Then I say “America,” to which I get looks of instant recognition. So, basically, there are a lot of things to hate about the US. But this is not one of them.

        • Natalia,

          What an incomprehensible rant. The only people who get upset over the term American being applied to those from the US are Brazilians and some (but not all) Spanish speaking countries. The rest of the world for the most part uses derivates of the word American to refer to US citizens and they DO NOT CARE about offending your sensibilities. You are the arrogant one here expecting that the rest of the world should change their terminology to suit your own tastes.

          • Stephen, did you read the comment from Ryan Nay immediately above Natalia’s?

            “a small number of nitwits in places like Colombia, Venezuela etc”… Really!?

            Natalia was just reacting to it. I was going to reply something along the same lines but she did it much better that I could’ve.

        • I agree with you. Although I am a US citizen now, I was born in Latin America and growing up there I always considered myself as American, and US citizens as estadounidenses. When I travel and go through customs I use US citizen as my nationality, not American which is not a nationality. This does not have anything with hatred toward the US, it is common sense. As for the hatred part, historically the US has committed many abuses all over the world and specially in Latin America, and that is why it is looked with contempt and sometimes hatred. Just pick up a good book (one that does not lie) on the History of the United States, read and the think about how you would have felt if other countries had behaved as badly with your country.

  • Totally disagree. All people of North and South America are rightfully called Americans. Yet, totally agree something must be used that makes sense. A friend of mine has a solution. USAer.

    • Mostly based on english lenguage dictionaries or USA friends dictionaries, claming that their definition is the correct one….
      Anyway, try to make “USA great again..”

    • To avoid confusion and simplify, and to stick with normal common time-honored and internationally understood usage…
      a person from South America is “South American.”
      a person from North America is “North American.”
      a person from either could be identified as “from the Americas.”
      a person from the United States of America is “American.” Not a “United Statian.”
      a person from the United States of Mexico is “Mexican.” Not a “United Statian.”
      a person from the Republic of Colombia is “Colombian.” Not a “Republican.”
      a person from the US state of Georgia is “Georgian.”
      a person from the country of Georgia is “Georgian.”
      and so on.

      No reason to be upset here unless you feel the need to be upset for no reason.

      • the real truth is that america is the whole continent. therefore theres no reason for 1 country to be called america. AMERICA is CONTINENT not a country….

        • No. There is no continent named America. There is North America. There is South America (and Central America, which is really part of North America). Together they are the Americas. But America, singly, is the USA.

        • Its geologically two continents. That isn’t up for debate. The rest of the world sees it as 2.

          If you want to romanticize it into one, by all means, but facts are facts. They are on different plates.

          • 2 continents called America yet only people from a specific country can be called americans?? Cuz you gonna tell me ‘we didn’t choose that denomyn’ but if someone from the continent called themselves american you all go crazy.

          • To A; wrong! The continent was named America as a landmass not as any geologically thing or any plates perse. It is not romanticizing, it is the fact. The new world, the entire continual landmass was named AMERICA. And this happened many years before the nation of the United States came about. If you say it has to do with different tectonic plates then there would be 3 different continents in America. Central America would be the third continent since it is on a separate tectonic plate. Not every country in the world teaches a 7 continent version, but they teach a 5 or 6 and America is one not two.

          • The Olympic flag has 5 circles, representing the continents. One of them is the WHOLE continent of America. South America and North America are part of the same shit: AMERICA and thats not an oppinion thats a fact. my god. Yall shouldnt even had chosen “America” to be on your countrys name, as there was already a whole continent named literally America before the british even arrived. yall appropiated that name making all of us who live in Latin America invisible, most of you (but not all) refering to us as “Mexico” and then expect us to be fine with it?? just because everyone you know say it in a certain way that doesnt mean yall are right about it. Of course Europe doesnt know yall are the “United States”, cause you have taken it upon yourselves to make them think that America is just the US. Asia doesnt have a country named ASIA so they dont have issue with that. Just imagine if the UK was named the United Kingdom of Europe, fine, following the logic their demonym would be “European”, alright, what about France, what about Germany, what about Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Switzerland. You see, of course latin people are the only ones mad about it and none of you want to at least recognize this error. The british put that name on you??, fine, you couldve changed it long time ago, but rather decided to keep on your arrogance. Nevermind, that’ll never change, the same way you’ll never use the metric or say the day first and then the month, or celsius or whatevs. Not that i wake up and suffer about it everyday, just when i speak to gringos and they have no idea that Panama is a country too and that i dont live in Florida smh.

    • Whats right is right,and you cant justify it ,but you can try.when you pass an immigration check point within a one hundred mile distance from the mexican border,border patrol agents will ask you if you are a united states citizen,they dont ask you if you are an american citizen.why is that?because for legal purposes,they have to use the correct terms.im an american doesnt fly when it comes to technical terms.sorry,you tried hard,but your argument doesnt hold water.unless your very ignorant like the red neck that was trying to tell me that the rio grand is where the american border ends.its mainly ignorance,arrogance,and narcissism.all other countries have a name.you dont have a monopoly on the continent.maybe you can call yourselves,displaced europeans.

  • Christopher Columbus first came to the Caribbean, then to Central America, both of which you ignored even though they are a part of the American Continent. The fact is, the USA is too proud to copy anything coming out of Latín America. One example is Obamacare, there is a far better social security system based upon solidarity in Costa Rica, it is over sixty years old; had it been Europe, it would have been adopted worldwide. American?, The solution is in Latín America, “no confusion”, here a USA citizen is called Gringo.

    • So you’re suggesting that the solution is bigotry and racism and misplaced anger? Right. So… the same solution that Latin America has been trying for the last 200 years which has led to such universal prosperity, low crime rates, etc. there. Sounds great.

    • Everytime someone’s gives your shitty ass article a good answer you cant understand it, it’s like you block your eyes. Everyone is reading it idiot. The only truth here is the United states having the enough power to go to each country in the past and engrave in their heads to use “american” to describe them, while aiming in between their eyes with a gun and grabbing their valuables from them. the only reql reason why they chose a name like “the United states of America” was their lack of creativity to find a good name for their country. I hope you have the respect to read my whole answer and not assume I didnt read your stupid article.

  • It’s obvious that there are many things you have no idea about; the American Continent is not just north and south as you wrote, it is also Central America and the Caribbean (never mind who ignores it) and here is where the name America was “coined” for this continent, therefore, it,s not fair that the majority be excluded because one country has been unable to identify its people properly..

    • Jeff, Central America is often considered to be part of North America; likewise, the Caribbean is often included with North America, but technically is not actually part of the continent. I’ve written about continents in the past, and, though the term is still somewhat debated, most agree that a continent must form a continuous landmass; some extend that to include land on the continental shelf, which would usually include nearby islands, but I don’t believe much, if any at all, of the Caribbean islands are on North America’s continental shelf.

      As for your other point about fairness, as I mentioned in my opening, the British coined the term. Several hundred years later, we’re still using it, and it’s quite hard to turn something like that around. Yes, it’s not fair if you think about it, but until there’s a plausible contender, it’ll be around.

      • That is true up to a certain point, see, we Central Americans do not consider ourselves a part of North America and much less of the Caribbean; to us Central America is a political concept and a geographical unity, the Federal Republic of Central America (1820-1840), to us there is only one American continent divided into four parts, North, South, Central and Caribbean; we do not say “the Americas” only America.

        • So then say what ever you want in your language and allow us the courtesy of saying what we want in ours. Why is this even an issue?

      • Considered by whom? United States? You’re extremely wrong though!!! Most of the world DOES NOT separate North America and South America because such separation DOESNT EXIST it’s ONE CONTINENT, AMERICA. You guys were wrong from the beginning as for naming your country United States of America, but I get it that it was too many years ago to change it now, however, I also understand so far you guys only have the word “Americans” for U.S. Citizen, even though this can easily be changed by coming up with a more appropriate word. What is, though, UNACCEPTABLE is you calling USA as America. You don’t have the right to. America is a continent with many many countries. It’s a name that represents a whole continent that can be devided in north, central and south. Therefore, for every person who is aware of
        This and still calls USA America, they are all the bad things you said.

  • I’ve gone through passport control in foreign countries, handed them my passport and filled out my entry card indicating citizenship “U.S.A.” and when they make the entry they write or type, “American”. I don’t correct them. I just feel good about it.

    • A Canadian is from canada,a mexican is from mexico,and per your logic,a person from the united states of america has a monopoly on the continent?even though all three countries are on the same continent.?no.its a case of arrogance,and narcissism.an american is supposedly a white person born in the u.s.a,a person of mexican descent is a mexican,or mexican american,if your black and born in the u.s.a your african american.its a bunch of racist hog wash.

    • they are not wrong, anyone coming from the American continent is an American! lol..just like anyone coming from Europe, is an European…lol

  • When I lived in Mexico in the late ’70s and early ’80s, Mexicans definitely did not have a problem with “estadounidense”. In fact, they seemed to prefer it, especially when I, a US citizen, used it.

    • William, I totally agree; Latin Americans and Spanish definitely prefer “estadounidenses” over “Americans.”

    • True that’s what we learn in school canada canadienses ,estados unidos stadounidenses mexico mexicanos and so on and all r Americans some more than others think about it the so call Americans turn out to be NOT Americans at all! But europeans immigrants and Europeans descendents jajajaja!!

    • The demonym for American (a citizen of the United States) in Spanish is Americano. Only recently have they started to try and change this because some of them felt they didn’t have enough things to be angry about. Similar to how the Saudis now get mad if you call the Persian Gulf the Persian Gulf… and on their own maps they’ve started labeling it the Arabian Gulf… even though on Arabic-language maps going back to the 14th century it’s still labeled as the Persian Gulf.

      • Please shut the fuck up if you don’t know shit. You are not a native Spanish speaker, the proper demonym in Spanish for a citizen from the US has always been ‘estadounidense’.
        The term “Americano” was frown upon and still is. A few decades ago there was a surge of anglicism being adopted in Spanish speaking countries, even false cognates (such as “bizarro” and “tópico”) and that is the influence of all the cultural exportation from Hollywood and the American music industry. Even the adoption of Halloween in South America is quite recent, about one or two decades ago there were no celebrations, at least in Argentina.

        For practicality sake, I don’t even correct people because I simply don’t want to be “that guy”. But the proper grammar in Spanish has always been “estadounidense”.
        Unfortunately, the American cultural invasion is still happening, and as the youth don’t give a fuck about proper grammar and etymology, so sooner or later even the Spanish dictionaries might add a second meaning of “americano” as a synonym for “estadounidense”. But deep inside, anyone who has a brain will feel insulted at the incongruency of a freaking country taking over the denomination of a whole continent as their own.

        Imagine if Germany was called “Federated whatevers of Europa” and their citizens were called Europeans, how would that makes sense?

    • Yep nobody had a problem cause. Obody uses the term estadounidenses We dont get offended by that and never will cause we dont use it. The Term “Gringo” is the one used.

  • Many people in Latin America call Americans “americanos”, but most educated people call them “estadounidenses”, which is the proper term in Spanish for people born in the U.S.A. and not elsewhere in the American continent. This term is not nearly as rare or onerous as “united statestian.” But I think this article sidesteps the real controversy, which is when Americans call their country “America.” This is indefensible as far as I can tell. Of the arguments presented in this post, I see only one which would apply to this problem, which is the United States of Mexico being called simply “Mexico”, which is not analogous since there is no other Mexico in the world. There is no room for confusion. However, by this article’s own admission, there are at least two Americas: North and South. I’d say there are at least three, including Central America. “The Americas” distinction makes absolutely no sense, as the U.S.A. also qualifies as an element in the group “Americas.” Think of the semantic absurdity of saying something like “Central Americans have no business coming into America, they should go back to their home in Central America.”

    • Carlos, thanks for stopping by! I really appreciate your comments here, as they do offer a lot to think about. I get where you say that the “U.S. of Mexico being simply called Mexico . . . is not analogous,” but it’s not completely irrelevant, either; the USA is the “United States of America,” so your argument could be used against using “estadounidenses,” as that could offend Mexicans, couldn’t it? I’ve never heard a Mexican offended by that, but perhaps it could, I assume.

      I completely agree with you about the semantic absurdity in a statement like the one you gave as an example (and the general absurdity of a statement like “so and so has no business coming to America…”). The thing is, I get that it’s bad form and seems arrogant for we citizens of the USA to continue using it, but its somewhat hackneyed nature has caused it to rather retain its significance, rather than losing its significance due to overuse. I am not here to defend the use of this term, but I wrote it to help explain why the term doesn’t fade over time – for all these reasons; if it were one or two things in the way of switching to a more accurate demonym, I assume we’d have already changed by now. I do hope, however, that someone comes up with something that sticks and resonates to be taken seriously.

      • Christian, thanks for your thoughtful reply. I agree that language, as a spontaneous social institution, does not care what some of us think are the correct definitions. That is attached by generally accepted use, thus “American” as demonym is here to stay and there’s nothing anybody can (or should) do about it. However on the issue of “America” the nation, I think the “jury” is still out, as it is for the most part not the generally accepted use of the word, and I expect that much like the metric system and soccer, the correct definition will encroach into the U.S.

        • Carlos, I agree! I eagerly await the day when soccer (the real football) earns its rightfully-deserved place in the hearts of us United Statians 🙂 Believe it or not, I’ve already embraced the world’s standards in other ways, such as using 24-hour time, Celsius on my thermometers, and metric measurements when speaking; I’ve more friends from outside of the USA than otherwise, so it’s also easier for me, though it started as a way to familiarize myself with the world around me (see THIS ARTICLE for what I mean, which I titled “Let’s Step Outside Our Bubbles”).

          Anyway, I really, sincerely appreciate the time you took to stop by! It was very constructive and a reminder for me that this is an issue very near the top of many people’s minds; I should treat it as such and not allow it to lose its significance until an agreeable alternative can be found that makes sense and sticks. Take care, and have a great weekend!

      • Look, i am from Mexico and no one from Mexico ever calls him/herself estadounidense, and calling people from the USA estadounidense does not offend any of us. The issue here is that tecnically anyone born in America is an american, just like anyone born in Europe is european and so on. Mexicans are Americans, Colombians are Americans Canadians are Americans and so is every individual bor in America. If you look at a map, any map, it will especificaly refer to America as a continent, never as a country. What really offends us other inhabitants of America (continent!) is that you want to make the term american exclusive to people born in the USA, which is inaccurate. Like you said, in point 5, it is political incorrectness, so why do you not fix the mistake and come up with a more accurate way to call yourselves. The term American is very wide and covers the people of way to many countries.

  • While I do realize that US Citizen are normally called Americans, it is still not correct. Maybe the British first coined the word, SO WHAT!. Does it make it right? NO! I think your article is from a US Citizen point of view, without having the experience from other countries. By now, however, being called American is a mute point, it is what it is. We, other Americans, have to just deal with it. Is it correct? Definitely NOT!, but that is what is. You can not defend it as you have done by using circular reasoning. However, I do live here, and I appreciate this country even when they are wrong on this term.

    • Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment. First, I’d like to address where you said ” Does it make it right? NO!” I did not come in writing this article as any sort of defensive position as to why US citizens SHOULD be called “Americans,” but rather to explain why the term sticks around. Yes, I am a US citizen, and perhaps you could say that my point of view is as such, but I almost NEVER take the side of the USA; 50 years ago, I’d have been imprisoned and/or executed for treason regarding many of the views I have of the country where I was born. See this article I wrote HERE.

      However, coming back to your statement, what would be considered “right” and “correct”? I’m not saying it doesn’t feel arrogant and prideful to continue to use this term for ourselves, but when the United Nations, the foremost international body of, well, everything, accepts it, as well as all major dictionaries, how is it not correct? Ubiquitous usage of this term leaves it hard to gainsay it now.

      Another point of why it would be complicated to switch to a new demonym now is with the case of American Samoa. American Samoa is the official name of the US territory in the Pacific, and received its name to distinguish it as such; this helps to identify it within the chain of Samoan Islands it’s part of, and also from the sovereign country which is simply Samoa.

      Some official sources, such as the stylebooks of the NYT and AP, give the term multiple definitions, though it seems that most give precedent to the US citizen definition before the definition of a citizen of the Americas. At the end of the day, this is a language-based issue, and language is ever-evolving and fickle.

  • I think the main problem is not that US citizens call themselves as “Americans” (effectively, their country is in the Americas). The problem appears in these kind of situations: e.g.:
    US citizen: “I am American.”
    A national from another part of the Americas: “So am I.”
    US citizen: “Really? You don’t look or sound American at all. What State are you from?”
    Person from outside of United States: “I’m Colombian.”
    US citizen: “So you’re not American.
    The Colombians, Mexicans, etcetera, are from the Americas, so they are Americans as well.
    I am from Argentina. I am Argentine first of all, but I am not African, nor Asian, European, etc.: I am American and very proud of it.
    The Cambridge Dictionary says this:
    American: -of or relaiting to the United States of America
    -of or relaiting to North or South America
    Dictionary.com says this:
    American: -a citizen of United States of America
    -a native or inhabitant of the Western Hemisphere
    -an Indian of North, or South America
    I repeat, if US citizens like calling themselves as Americans, they’re completely entitled to do so, but they MUST know that they’re not the only ones.

    • Sergio, thanks for stopping by! I actually love your practical way of looking at it: USA citizens are entitled to call themselves ‘Americans,’ but we definitely cannot claim that as the exclusive definition.

  • Without meaning to be offensive, I fail to see the (non?)-issue as being as worth writing about as this piece suggests it

    I would briefly like to express very clearly that Mexicans in their vast majority have no issues AT ALL with the term ‘Estadounidense’, and I’d wager you would be given a really confused look and then be laughed at for being absurd. Ask any Mexican what their nationality is and they will say ‘Soy Mejicano’ (I’m Mexican). So that, as it relates to ‘United Statians’ is a moot point.

    And so, language, how we speak and what we call things, has a big part to play here, as you rightly say. This is why I say the whole thing is a non-issue for everyone else other than people born within the borders of the USA debating what to call everyone else born within the borders of the country (Hyphenated-Americans of all denominations).

    In all forms of English, everywhere around the world, the colloquial and dictionary definitions of ‘American’ mean without exception ‘of/from the USA’, and we make the distinctions between the North, South and Central regions of the continent(s) along with specific nation adjectives when we want to more specific: Central American, Brazilian, Canadian, Texan, Bostonian, etc. (just like in any other language, I might add). What differs from language to language are the terms.

    In Spanish (oddly left out of the linguistic point above), it is also common to use the term ‘Norteamericano’ (North American) when referring to things ‘of/from the USA’, which seems to deny Canada its existence, yet, when we learn Spanish, just like when others learn English, we have to learn – and not correct – the terms used in that language.

    Spanish speaking folks call the Falkland Islands ‘Las Islas Malvinas’. They may or may not recognize the Argentinian territorial claim, but they call them what they call them because that’s their name in Spanish. And so any offense taken when US citizens call themselves ‘Americans’ is just plain silly (unless you consider those people ‘invaders’, which is a whole different issue) and frankly the result of leaping on anything that can be used to justify ‘anti-american’ sentiment (again, whether this feeling is justified or not is another issue), and that sentiment would be just as deeply held regardless of what ‘United Statians’ chose to call themselves.

    And in the end, are we not supposed to call peoples what they call themselves if we are to be truly politically correct?

    • Geoff, thanks for coming by and reading the article! I know that it may seem to be a non-issue to you at first glance, and I wish it were, but I believe that it is still quite controversial to many people. As you can see from most of the comments above and below, many people think (and perhaps rightfully so) of the term ‘American’ to denote a person from the USA is an injustice and/or disrespectful. I’ve many international friends, being a Couchsurfer and traveler, and I wrote this in part so that I could at least be able to speak up on the topic. I don’t want to be the stereotypical ‘ignorant American,’ but then, to some, I am ignorant for just using the ‘American’ part. So that’s why I wrote about this. Anyway, yes, I agree that the most politically correct thing would be to allow any people to call themselves as they wish, just like I respect the same in a person choosing their own identity – but that’s a topic for another day.

      • I find someone accusing me of imperalism, and exercising total hypocrisy in telling ME how to identify MYSELF as incredibly disrespectful. The Spanish language is the Spanish language. I don’t care what it is called in Spanish. But Spanish rules don’t define English usage.

        Insisting that the rest of the world (as you rightfully point out this covers most languages) call a nation by rules designed by Spanish speakers?
        That’s imperalism, arrogance, and frankly ridiculous.

        The Americans living abroad (as I do, also a dual citizen of Sweden) are often some of the least arrogant, most international thinking people around. One thing: We certainly don’t tell other people what to call themselves. We put up with a lot of open season on our homeland for things that occurred before we were born, and we almost always let it pass without comment or give sympathy and agreement. Americans abroad are keenly aware of how people feel about the US, especially these days. As such, we put up with quite a bit more based upon stereotypes than many other expats.

        But say this to me where I am, accuse me of arrogance for using a term that is 200 plus years all that was given to us by other nations, and you will get a clap back.

        There are plenty of things to criticize the US for (kids in cages). Focus on this issue, which reflects some kind of deep-seated hatred or inferiority complex…take your pick, is incredibly foolish in these times and makes you look ridiculous and petty. Moreover, the status quo certainly doesn’t seem to affect people wanting to move to the US.

        My suggestion: stop harassing individual Americans who are often the kind of American we need more of, and take it up with the UN. But prepare to be laughed out of the room.

  • “American” is any person from the American Continent.
    “America” is the whole American Continent.

    The Kingdom of Spain arrived in America in 1492
    In the XVI Century, Spain explored (by walk) and colonized the American Continent all the way from Alaska to Argentina. From Terranova (Newfoundland) to Chile…

    Spanish Governor of Puerto Rico Juan Ponce de León, was the first European who ever arrived in the -today called- USA.
    He discovered and named Florida.
    San Agustín (the oldest US city) was founded short later on the place he arrived…

    The Spanish flag flew on the teritory of the -today called- USA, during THREE centuries before the first British arrived…

    English people and language is kind of “new” in America.

    Any term used in English languaje (on the American Continent) should allways observe respect and correctness to the original Spanish word/denomination.

    Terms as “Falklands”; “Latinamerica” or “Drake Passage” are insults to human History. Kind of linguistic piracy…
    Mar de Hoces
    are the correct terms.

    Before defining any word related to America, English dictionaries should allways consider the American Continent’s History.

    Among European languages/denominations of venues in the American Continent, Spanish language/denominations should allways prevail because the Kingdom of Spain arrived in America well before England.

    “American” is any person from the American Continent.
    “America” is the whole American Continent.

    • Álvaro, thanks for stopping by! I know that Spain had a longer history here in the USA, but in the English language, and in many languages, the term ‘American’ can mean both ‘of the Americas’ or ‘of the USA,’ and more commonly the latter. Spain might have been here first with Columbus, which we recognize, though many contest even that, but the English language was what stuck. I’m from New York, which had the Dutch as some of its first European influence (named my city ‘New Amsterdam’), but then the British came (which is where we get the name ‘York’ from). We definitely still respect the name in history of ‘New Amsterdam’ and use it still as a nickname for NYC. However, just because something is first (which you say the Spanish were) doesn’t necessarily mean that it ‘should prevail.’ The natives were here much longer before any European showed up, and I’m sure each of their various groups had names for it too – it was their land. Spain colonized first after that, then it was tossed around amongst the European powers after that until we have what we have now. Anyway, it is believed that Lief Ericson came several hundred years before even Columbus, but that’s all ancient history now.

      • Christian, well said. Alvaro’s comment is a perfect example of what people think American’s are doing wrong. They act like we’re staking claim on something (a word) that belongs to them too, when it seems that most people outside of the U.S. who refer to themselves as “Americans” only do so to make a point. Just like Americans have no right to tell newer immigrants to “go back where they came from” when technically anyone who isn’t “native” comes from immigrant/foreign ancestry; South/Central/Latin/Caribbean Americans have no right to say that Hispanic/Spanish people have any more claim over things than Anglo Europeans. I luckily am an American citizen with Anglo, Native AND Spanish blood…so no matter who wins the argument I get to be American 🙂

  • Christian, you are absolutely correct. And you didn’t need to show so many examples – at least not to people with brains. But if you want another good example: the official name of Brazil from 19th century (after the proclamation of Republic) until 1967 – when it was changed to Federative Republic of Brazil – was “United States of Brazil” and never, never a Brazilian called himself “estadounidense”. Why ? Because the name of the country is BRAZIL, as the name of United States of America is AMERICA. Get over it guys, that’s a fact which was due to the arrogance of the British Empire (which at the time was the planet’s most powerful political entity), not to the arrogance of the American people, leave them alone. Buy the way, dear Americans, Brazilians are not Hispanics but Lusitanics (or Lusos). But if you want to put Latin Americans (Hispanics + Lusitanics) in the same bag, you can call them Iberians (from Iberian Peninsula).

  • I’ve actually pondered this question myself from time to time. It’s never annoyed me or even been in the front of my mind enough to actually ask an american about it but….yeah I have wondered. With that said I find your explanation thorough and well thought through. I can now stop wondering.
    And, Alvaro, actually Norwegian “viking” Leif Eriksson supposedly was the first European to come to the Americas in the 10:th century. Being first, however, doesn’t count for much.

  • I do not mind so much citizens of the United States of America (I happen to being one myself) calling themselves “American”. What I find very arrogant is calling the USA as “America”. It is not by a long shot!

  • The USA is “probably one of the world’s most hated countries”? Come on. I live in France and if you think the USA is hated try being French!! Or about 100 other nationalities ))

  • Citizens of the US call themselves Americans because there is no other good alternative. Citizens from the continent of South America and land comprising Central America live in independent, sovereign countries and are proudly recognised as Brazilian, Argentinian, Colombian, Panamanian, etc. They don’t travel around the world and call themselves ‘South American’ or ‘Central American’ first. That is only a geographic identifier. Citizens of the US are from individual states that are not independent but subjugated to a single, federal government. Are you going to travel around and say you are a ‘New Yorker’ (forget, that, probably would but I bet the foreigner would say “Oh, you are American”, nonetheless). Canada is also part of North America, but again, it is a single, sovereign country with independent provinces, so no use of them saying they are ‘American’ and know they certainly are not offended by not having that opportunity to use that monkier. So, in the end, don’t see what the problem is other than the USA not having a real, distinct country name.

    • There is no single ‘American’ continent.

      There is North America and South America, with Central America countries perhaps technically part of North America.

      Within ‘Central America’ and South America are independent, sovereign countries whose citizens refer to themselves by their demonyms, not continent affiliation. Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Guatemala, etc. are not part of the ‘United States of South, or Central, America’. Therefore, citizens from the USA can call themselves ‘American’ because every other organized piece of land is an independent and sovereign country with its own national government and name. Further, the USA was incorporated and recognized as a country long before any single country within South America (oldest being Paraguay in 1811), never mind not having any individual countries unified into a central government. So, by essence of ‘first mover’, the inhabitants of the USA laid claim to using the demonym ‘American’, as there were no other known countries using that term at the time and called their country the ‘United States of America’. Hence, it is a foregone conclusion that anyone who refers to themselves as ‘American’ lives in the USA. Should Americans travel around the world and say they are from their individual states? Who knows where the heck North Dakota, Kansas, Idaho, etc. are located if you are not a US citizen? But everyone knows where you live if you say ‘America’ or ‘US’.

      • Larry, I didn’t get a chance to reply to your last comment, but wow! You basically wrote another article here 😉 This is a great point that I hadn’t even considered, and it would be a fitting concluding point. Thanks for stopping by!

      • “There is no single ‘American’ continent.” As currently understood, perhaps, but historically, no. The term America was originally used to denote the New World (what you now call “The Americas.”) It was derived from Amerigo Vespucci, the cartographer who explored what is today knows as South America and the Caribbean (he never visited what is today the U.S.) For centuries, no one in Europe understood America as what is today the U.S. Alexander Hamilton used “American” to denote lands outside the U.S.

        As I’ve stated in other comments, I don’t object to “American” as demonym for citizens of the U.S., given it has wide acceptance (in the English language, not so in others) and language is after all what people choose to make of it, and the alternatives to “American” are apparently too onerous to pronounce in English to be viable.

        However, it is quite another matter to say “America” is a proper term for the U.S.A. It has no geographic or historical basis, and it is not generally accepted except in the Anglosphere. So “America” as stand in for the U.S.A. has as much chance of “catching on” in the world as do yards, bushels, pounds and miles. It’s not happening, nor should it.

        • Carlos, It’s the ‘United States of America’. Don’t need the history lesson.

          Are there any other ‘United States’ of America or just other indpendent, sovereign countries, which may have independent states as well (e.g., Mexico)?

          The US Declaration of Independence and Constitution, written in 1776 and 1787, respectively, long before any other sovereign country among the Americas was formed and recognized, includes “United States of America”. Every other organized, sovereign goverrnment among the North American and South American continents have unique names for their countries, of which their citizens refer to themselves as.

          What do citizens of South American and Central American countries refer to citizens, formally, of the United States as? (vulgarities excluded!).

          “So “America” as stand in for the U.S.A. has as much chance of “catching on” in the world as do yards, bushels, pounds and miles. It’s not happening, nor should it.” – Really? I’ve lived abroad for 12 years in Europe and Asia and pretty much everyone refers to US citizens as ‘Americans’, or ‘Yanks’ (Brits).

          • Larry, you misunderstood me. I wasn’t trying to teach history but I thought it an interesting fact that Hamilton referred to the “American possessions” of Spain in 1788, referring to colonies in Latin America. That might have confused some people if the present claim existed back then, but never mind. Language is organic, it changes spontaneously with no heed to some semantic authority, I get it. I’ve conceded that the demonym ‘American’ is acceptable for U.S. nationals. Plenty of publications and legal documents around the world, when written in English, refer to U.S. citizens as Americans. And the reason that it’s generally acceptable is laziness (or economy, charitably) because no one can be bothered to pronounce “unitedstesian”, “usonian” or some such. And that’s fine, because language is as much about economy as anything else.

            However, “America” the noun defined as the U.S.A. is a different matter. You won’t find a legal document, even inside the U.S., referring to the country as “America.” And I don’t think it will catch on because, unlike ‘American’, it’s not hard to say “United States” or “U.S.”

          • Larry, see my first post. Carlos and Alvaro are right as well as you are in some points. Mexico is a United States as well, Brazil as well until 1967. The name of United States of Mexico is MEXICO as the Name of United States of Brazil was and is BRAZIL, and the name of United States of America is AMERICA. You are making a big mess with the term “United States”. The problem is that the British colonies didn’t find a different name for their new independent country like Mexico and Brazil did, using the same name of the continent. Lack of creativity perhaps?

      • Larry, have you ever study Geography? It looks that you’ve never saw a world map in front of you. “independent, sovereign countries whose citizens refer to themselves by their demonyms, not continent affiliation. Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Guatemala, etc. are not part of the ‘United States of South, or Central, America’’ What were you thinking? So, France, Italy, Germany, Poland, Denmark, Switzerland – which are also sovereign countries – should not call themselves Europeans ? OK, nowadays there is an European Community but it is not as an “United States of Europe”. Same for Asiatic countries. Please, South Americans Countries as wells as Central America countries, as well as Mexico, are AMERICAN COUNTRIES, you like it or not. The root of all the confusion was the arrogance of the British Empire, who disregarded any territory that wasn’t under its dominion. If their colonies were in the new world called “AMERICA” they decide to call it AMERICA (disregarding the rest of the continent). The settlers accepted it and used this name because they were already used to it.

        • DIPR, Don’t understand what you don’t get about the sovereign countries. Germans, French, Spanish, etc. don’t go around claiming themselves as ‘European’ although they are now part of the EU – they say they’re German, French, Spanish, etc. Collectively, they’re european but what is Europe, exactly, at least before the EU formed? Were they european then? Are Swiss european? Are Japanese asian? Is Russia european or asian? They’re Swiss, Japanese, and Russian first. I don’t think Japanese conisdier themselves asian at all.

          This is becoming a most useless debate.

          I get it, North and South America are the Americas. They share a similar name of continents. All people from the Americas can be considered ‘American’ – an entire hemisphere of ‘Americans’. However, every other country has a specific name not associated with ‘America’, except for the US. Nobody outside the western hemisphere would consider someone from South or Central America as ‘American’, although they are technically from one of the Americas.

          Sounds like inferiority complex that people from South and Central America other countries want to associate with the US as Americans too. Get over it. The term is associated solely with citizens from the United States of America. Until the government collapses and a new name emerges that’s the way it is.


          Now awaiting someone to provide the spanish equivalent of the Oxford english dictionary to show a different definition, as of course the Oxford dictionary is British and solely subjective from an english speaking perspective.

          • Come on, you can’t be this obtuse.
            There is no “coincidence” of names between the continent and the USA, it is not something that happened in parallel, the name of the country is actually referring to the continent.
            “United States of America” is conveying that it is the United States of the American (continent).
            From the British perspective it was just an economy of words, from their perspective calling a Brit from the colonies, it meant he was just a Brit from America (the new world). So when someone from the old world heard a brit with a weird accent, they would simply say “Oh, the American”.

            From there, the American imperialism just spread it around the world that demonym and made it popular… and the misappropriation was branded with fire. Hollywood has also helped to spread that demonym, even Spanish speaking countries are used to hear it, although it is very strongly frown upon.

          • Maybe you should learn that there are models of 5, 6 and 7 continents, you buffoon.
            If you were actually strict about the geological definition, not even your model would be the correct one. Europe and Asia would be fused into one single continent, and you would have to consider microcontinents…

            The most commonly taught model around the world it is 6 continent model, with America being both North, Central and South together as one, with subdivisions.
            The “new world” was always the whole continent of America.

            The 7 continent model (N.America, S.America, Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa, Antarctica) is taught -only- in English speaking countries and their respective ex-colonies.
            If you go outside of the ex-colony commonwealth bubble, most countries in the world actually use a 6 continent model, either as America as one, or Eurasia as one.

          • A, Maybe you should also take another look at what you think you saw. If the continent was divided into continental plates, then central America would be a different continent. But since the continent is still one continent for many of the countries in the continent of America, the idea of dividing it by plates might be coming from AngloAmerica.

  • I always wonder why the citizens of the United States of America are going to actually name their country. The USA is a description not a name like their neighbors Canada, Mexico and the rest of the world.

  • Carolos,
    Canadians have no issue with not being included as ‘American’ although its land mass is larger than the US within North America. I doubt Mexico does as well, though they still probably feel the southwest US is their land. Frankly, nowadays, I wouldn’t want to be associated with the ‘American’ term anyway! You can have it. 🙂

    Curious, why aren’t individuals from Brazil, Argentina, Panama, etc. content with being identified as Brazilian, Argentinian, Panamanian, etc. vs. included as ‘American’? The US adopted its name long before any other country formed and was recognized.

  • A few years ago PBS in the USA had a great program called ‘The Americans’ that looked at the people in North and South America.
    The day after Episode 1 aired there was a huge back last to PBS (always a victim). The first episode was Mexico and so many people who lived north of the Rio Grande were incensed by the idea that these people could be Americans. I always thought it made a statement about the USA American psyche.

  • Thanks Christian for your answer and ideas.

    We are just refering about European denominations.
    Of course we all know that American natives are the primitive owners of America. Thats why Spain allways respected the native denomination of venues. Moreover; Spaniards MIXED with the American natives creating a new race (dislike others who just confined the American natives in “reservations”)

    Maybe Leif Eriksson arrived in America. Maybe, even before Eriksson, Spanish basques whale hunters arrived in Terranova (Newfoundland)
    It is not that important who arrived -as individuals- first in America.
    The important thing is who arrived as a Nation!; bringing the European civilization (with the heritage of Babilonia; Greece; Rome, etc.) to America…
    The Kingdom of SPAIN is the one who did.
    Few years after arriving, Spain build the first university in America. The first church. The first hospital…
    Moreover, the Spanish monarchy considered and declared the American natives as subjects (nationals/citizens) of Spain with equal rights and duties as any Spaniard from Barcelona or Seville.

    About Brazil; Spain and Portugal were the same Nation for a Century. Before that, they signed the Tratado de Tordesillas in 1494 avoiding any conflict between the two countries during the colonization of America.
    Therefore, Iberoamerica is a fair denomination.
    Brazilians are also Americans; as Argentinians; Cubans or Canadians are.

    The name “Latinamerica” is a crazy invention by Napoleon in the XIX Century. The term was later adopted by the English to denominate Central and South America.

    Before defining any word related to America, English dictionaries should allways consider the American Continent’s History.

    Among European languages/denominations of venues in the American Continent, Spanish language/denominations should allways prevail because the Kingdom of Spain arrived in America well before England.

    “American” is any person from the American Continent.
    “America” is the whole American Continent.

  • night=nacht(G)=nactia(Nawa)=stay over,=pernoctar(Sp).
    i use Amerind/amerindan/amerinda to refer to the indigenous founders to put it more in line with India/indian.

  • Re Other languages.
    In Finnish we use the word yhdysvaltalaiset (Yhdysvallat = United States). The word amerikkalaiset (literally Americans) is actually never used, not in conncetion with North Americans, South Americans, or Central Americans for that matter. So ALL languages don’t use derivatives of American. But we are barbarians.

  • Your perspective regarding the desire to justify with determination taking ‘ownership’ of the right to use the word “American” exclusively by those terrestrials located predominantly between south of the 49th parallel and north of the Mexican border displays both obvious pride and determination as well as your education and knowledge.

    Your rationale to justify via the use of publications such as dictionaries which refer to the use of a word in both common vernacular and it’s historical applications does not make it ‘Law’. It is simply current, common use of a word.

    The key phrase representing your perspective you used “we also distinguish a person from… ” where the inference is “we” are those individuals from the United States, exclusively. Of course, the key quandary is the incorrect use of the word America by the very people you describe as “we”. Akin to en masse ‘education’ (aka propaganda) of the incorrect use of a word does not, in fact, convert that word to mean anything else than what it is.

    Clearly the continental location of your specific United States is in America (whether North or South is not key) as is Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Venezuela, etc. Each of which may use as desired the suffix/statement “of America”. Even Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua, etc. are American; though Central. The fact is there are exclusively two continents which are described as America.

    I currently live in Colombia. Colombians equally take determined pride in describing themselves as American. Those I have met both observe and find it very curiously uneducated that those who live in the United States feel exclusive ‘right’ to the word “American”. Especially as they do not really ‘view’ those who live in the United States as having any more, or less, right to use the word American than they.

    Actually, they deem this low level hijacking use of the word to be a very broad insult. Especially as their history (as well as most others in South America) have resided here long before those within the United States (of America).

    I am Canadian. I have never felt it necessary to regionalize the continental description of my national identity. We learn in school from early years the vast majority of the world knows which continent Canada is located within. Pretty straight forward in our understanding. As a matter of common fact here in Colombia, most Colombians thank me for obviously not being a ‘Gringo’. It becomes a laugh together here especially if the phrase used is Canada of America in conjunction with Colombia of America. From a global perspective, far less hold the United States of American ideals than your country. We benefit of course from aspects of those ideals and are appreciative. Unfortunately, it is evident the opposite is never true for United States Americans as it clearly defies their education as a member of the global community.

    The name “Canada” is, in and of itself, an actual Name. Perhaps Canadians en masse should start using, Trademarking, Marketing, and Copyrighting the name “Earthling” to ensure all others in the world know who we are and which specific planet in our Solar System we reside? Let alone the milky Way…

    And of course, if the dictionaries use the first historical reference of use of words to enter the meaning in their publication, then I think “Earthling – One from Canada, of America” should become the Oxford Dictionary’s newest variant as this BBC response should, hopefully, be published. Have a great day, American from the United States.

  • There is only one nation associated with the name United States. United States of America is like saying France of Europe. United Mexican States or “Estados Unidos Mexicanos” doesn’t collide with the US name, its a demonym (or gentilic) for the Mexica people, calling them Mexicans is valid, everyone including themselves do, so that part of the argument is invalid.
    Bottom line is that referring to US people as “Americans” works well inside the US (and its a non-issue), but as you travel abroad, the term acquires the meaning -from the americas (North, Central, South)- rendering its local meaning limited.

    PS: The rest of Americans in the continent also object to the US interpretation of the word as a product of its historic abuse and colonialism towards them, as it implies the US -is- America, marginalizing the rest of the nations.

  • This was a good read and while I tried to agree with some of it, I must point out a few things…

    To compare the demonym “American” with something such as “Chinese”, “Korean” or “Mexican” are pretty much invalid as the latter three are cultural identities. “American” only compares with Central African or Congolese as those are the only examples you offered that were geographical rather than cultural (the case of “Congolese” referring to the Congo River Basin – which could arguably be a cultural reference due to millennia of cultural heritage in that region. As a Canadian and a U.S. Citizen, I can honestly say that while Canadians do refer to US citizens as “Americans” they tend to do so with some degree of contempt.

    You did leave out an important demonym which is “Norteamericanos”. This one puzzles me the most as it seems to be common (more so than estadounidense or americano) from El Salvador south. This is especially odd as El Salvador (as is the case with Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama further south) is actually part of the geographical definition of “North America”

    On the other hand, Anglophiles in both Canada and the United States seem to view only Anglo regions (plus Quebec) as being “North American”. This insinuates that Canadians and U.S. Citizens refer to North America as a cultural region (as the aforementioned Congo). The only problem with this definition is that the more intelligent the Canadian or “American” you speak with – the larger “North America” gets.

    I tend to listen to the smarter bunch – and it generally is the smarter bunch of people asking why are US citizens called “Americans” as for me, I would never, ever call myself an American. I refer to myself as a U.S. Citizen and a Canadian.

  • The president of the USA acknowledges that all from the american continent are american. That is why the Organization of American States exist.

  • United States of America , not United States of the Americas or United States of North America
    ((United States) of America) ”of” means that is part of that specific continent
    Singular , one America not Americas.
    I love this ground anyways.

  • Why did you feel it necessary to use the term “friggin Pope”? I don’t see you referring to anyone else in your piece in such a derogatory manner. Have a little respect, then you Americans might yourselves get a little more respect.

    • Edward, thanks for stopping by! I am sincerely happy that you visited, and I am truly honored that you have taken the time to read my article.

      However, that being said, I must set some things straight.

      First off, you must be fluent enough in the English vernacular to understand that “friggin'” is a watered-down version of the word “fuck,” right? I assume that because you called my usage of it “derogatory.” But, this is where I get confused, because, if I followed that assumption, then you apparently understand what “fuck” means. “Fuck” is one of those words that have countless meanings and nuances, and the most popular and common definition is as an obscene verb for the act of sexual intercourse.

      You must not think that I am accusing the pope, who has vowed a life of celibacy, of being in a present-continuous state of violating that promise, I imagine. So then, I assume that you understand that “fuck” – and “friggin'” by extension – has more than this one common meaning.

      If you understand that this word has multiple meanings, then why did you jump straight to the conclusion that I used it in a derogatory way? If I say that this past experience was “fucking awesome,” I am using our word here to modify the subsequent adjective, and to do so in a way that intensifies and emphasizes it, a stronger word than using “so” or “really” instead.

      In my case in this article, I am using it as a way to say that, on top of all things, this also is happening, like “even the Pope…” It was meant to be interpreted as such: On top of all the previous reasons that I’ve previous pointed out, here’s the cherry on top.

      Furthermore, I find it quite hypocritical that you would tell me to “have some respect” and such, yet you jumped to a conclusion and didn’t offer me the benefit of the doubt. You just knew that I used it in a derogatory sense. In my opinion, the only side that would seem to harbor any lack of respect in our dialogue is yours.

      Also, I am a native English speaker, and I know that English can often be confusing for many people. Many words have multiple meanings and nuances, just like our word here; the word “run” has no less than 600 of them! I’m not sure which language is your native one and to how far your English knowledge extends, but if I learned a “bad” word in a language I was studying, I wouldn’t automatically assume that it is being used in a defamatory or demeaning way the next time I hear it, as I am not fluent in it enough to make that distinction. On top of that, my English language background would not allow me to assume such anyway, because I know that English, though larger in vocabulary than most others, has many such instances – and the slang is even more full of multiplicities.

      Finally, your issue here takes away from the point of the article. I am not here to talk about common English slang or usage or verb tenses or other things of this nature. I am here to promote travel’s importance and cultural understanding. True, you could say that understanding wholly the extent of the definitions of the word “fuck” would help foster cultural understanding, as in our case, but 1) not jumping to conclusions, 2) offering the benefit of the doubt, and 3) holding your tongue before accusing someone of having not even a little respect would arguably help more to bridge any cultural divides.

      I am not angry, in any sense, so I hope that you don’t think that. I just woke up to this comment as ‘pending moderation’ and it inspired my zealous reply. To paraphrase my last line from the article above – There are many reasons to be angry at me, and I certainly have an overabundance of faults, but this is not one of them.

  • There is a cultural aspect that is little known in English speaker nations that helps to clarify the reason why South Americans think of themselves as americans: there are several classifications to the number and composition of continents. The most popular in USA is the one where there are two continents: North America and South America that togheter are named The Americas. But in South America is popular the classification where there is only one America with three subdivisions called North, Central and South America. For that reason, inhabitants of South America believe to be inhabitants of the same continent and claim the denonymn as belonging to them as well.

    • That’s actually pretty interesting. I didn’t know that but I had a hunch that there was some type of cultural issue at play. Well, with that knowledge, can’t people just accept that it’s a cultural/linguistic difference and just move on? Because I’ve never ever started this argument while traveling but a whole lot of other people have started it with me.

    • What a bunch of nonsense.
      The term America was used to refer to the “new world”, get a history book.
      Also, get a map. Only in the English speaking countries and their ex-colonies are using the 7 continent model. The rest of the world uses the 6 continent model, in which “America” is one continent, and anyone else in this world knows that just plain “America” is a continent.

      What do you think you are celebrating on Columbus day? The discovery of the United States?
      You are celebrating the discovery of the new world that was called “America”, way later independent British colonies in the American continent appropriated the term as a demonym for the country.

  • There’s no such thing as the American continent though. If you look at a map or a globe, or recall the 7 continents of the world you will remember that there are only North America and South America. So the proper term would never be American for someone from those continents anyway. The proper term would be North American for those people that are from the lands contained by the continent of North America (yes even Central Americans) or South American for the people that are from the lands contained by the continent of South America. The other thing is that Americans, the kind from the United States of America, aren’t creating any backlash against using whatever terms you want us to use in your own native languages. If you want us to call ourselves estadounidense in Spanish, I doubt you will hear any complaints. And if you want to eradicate the use of the word Americano in relation to Americans from the United States of America, by all means please do so. In fact, every single country and language in the whole wide world is more than welcome to come up with whatever term they feel reflects the true nature of being American. But please, and I mean this wholeheartedly, please do not tell us Americans what to call ourselves in our own language. When you do that you sound rude, standoffish, and pushy. I would never think to tell someone how to use their own language, and that courtesy goes both ways.

    • Outstanding reply Nari. And I agree, you’re either North American or South American – and Central American is equally permitted. Trying to dictate what word we call ourselves when we’re the only nation on either continent with the word America in our name is ridiculous and illogical and hints at something deeper and less friendly.

      • What is ridiculous is negating the continent of America as a basis for your argument that those from America’s North, Central and South can not refer to themselves by the generic unqualified term America. Because you wish expropriate that term American for the United States. Arguing that because the United States explicitly lays mention to the New World, you are more entitled to call your self American than the rest of the continent.

        American is not a nationality, it is a continental identity. The United States is not America, it is of America.

        This is America:

    • The New World is America, and it is the continent from which we are all from. North and South are America’s subcontinental region. The motivated reasoning behind U.S. rejection of America is that it you guys covet the name of the American continent and demonym American for your self.

      There however is no country named America. The United States is of America, not itself America.

      This is America:

      • The U.S. of America doesn’t “reject” America. I agree that America is a continent and shouldn’t be used as a demonym, but to say that we (U.S. citizens) reject America or covet the continent and demonym American is false. You are distorting the truth about why U.S. citizens use the term American to refer to themselves and drawing upon your own bias and beliefs about the U.S. which clouds your judgement and makes you appear unknowledgeable, biased, and untruthful. U.S. citizens call ourselves Americans because from Day 1 we are told that we live in America and that makes us Americans. We grow up believing we are Americans and often don’t realize that we are incorrect. No one told us that anyone else found it offensive that we call ourselves Americans. In fact, many U.S. citizens don’t know they’re being offensive. That’s all they know and they believe that everyone else in the world has the same mindset as the U.S.
        It sounds bad, but the United States of America is ignorant. Not stupid or unintelligent; they just don’t know any better.
        Also, your grammar needs to be fixed.

    • Again a bunch of nonsense, so typically American being so American-centric.
      You guys are the only ones in the world that are still using feet and inches, and the only ones that have a “world series” of a sport that is played only in the US. The same crap with the continents, the 7 model continent is English-centric, as it is only taught in English speaking countries and ex-american and ex-british colonies.
      Using the effects of cultural invasion as proof of universality is just too much, the mother of all ironies.

      The rest of the world uses 6 continent models, count the rings of the Olympic logo and ponder why there are only 5 (hint, they leave out Antarctica).

  • Based on some of your points, i could say that the people from South Africa could call themselves Africans the same way citizens from US do. I’m pretty sure they call themselves Africans but they also recognize that everybody in that continent are also Africans. They problem I have is that most people in USA tell me that I’m wrong from calling Americans the people from mexicans, colombians, canadians etc. I’m from PR and USA citizens do not recognize me as an true American. PR has been a US territory since 1890s and US citizens since 1910s.

    I;m ok with US citizens calling themselves americans because they are but I hate when they call USA, America. Thats why I hate the song God Bless America, because they are not thinking on America the continent they meant USA.

  • There is, in fact, such thing as a the American continent because “America” is the name given to the New World by German Cartographer, Martin Waldseemüller after Amerigo Vespucci in 1507. By the dat you can clearly see that this fact predates the foundation of the US as well the the exploration of the nothern hemisphere of America.

  • America is a continent, not a country, so everyone who lives in the american continent is american, from canada to argentina period! Case closed. America= continent, not country.

  • The simple fact is that most U.S. Citizens are arrogant to the fact that America is a continent. The argument that my history and english teacher tell me is, “oh your funny sweety but America is the U.S.A. and the Americas then includes the rest of America.” like ummm NO! America includes ALL of AMERICA not only the U.S.A. the point is that we grow up being taught that america refers to only the U.S.A. and not the rest of the continent so most of my peers call themselves american and don’t realize that america is a continent and will most likely die with that mentality.

    • It’s just due to the fact they were the only american republic at the time the US was stablished, that’s also the reason why the north american founding fathers didn’t bothered to put “republic of the united states of north america” as the name of the country, they probably didn’t even dreamed there would be other republics in the continent since the whole idea was a new thing at the time.
      Now I don’t get it why does no one brags about african countries that use the term “Africa” in the name of their country? Is it because of a racist way of thinking? Or, maybe, because it’s such a ridiculously irelevant detail.
      Another thing is that at the beggining the Union was not even considered an specific nation, but its states were. So when you’re reffering to the country you’re never reffering to a nation, there’s no uniform US culture, the cultures are in the states. When you refer to the union you’re reffering to a political system, you’re bashing on the US political system. You libs hate these USA because it’s one of the only republics in the history of the world that didn’t resolved in series of coups. You hate these USA because it is still standing while shitty american, african, asian and eastern european communist republics aren’t anymore.
      Sleep with that fuckers. heauheau

    • Samantha, There are 7 continents. Open a map and look at their names. There is no American continent. There is North America and South America. Therefore, they are referred to together as “the Americas”. That’s plural for 2 x America.

  • What does Mexico have to do with this argument? Well, many people don’t realize this, but Mexico’s official name is Estados Unidos Mexicanos, which translates to United States of Mexico or the United Mexican States. This invalidates one of the most common alternate suggestions for demonyms of US citizens, United Statian, since Mexico is also a country of many states, united. The term Mexico doesn’t step on any toes, so there is no argument for that country/demonym pair as there is with the USA.

    Really? ESTADOS UNIDOS MEXICANOS is not the same as United States of México. It means MEXICAN UNITED STATES. Is not American United States, is United States “OF” America, this means that the federation of states belong to something, might be the continent. America, is a continent named and conquered in an apologetic maner by the HISPANIC empiered of HISPANIA:

    • It does not translate to United States of Mexico, you are just trying to build an argument. The United States is not America it is of America. Just as is Mexico of America. The United States just happens to lay mention to it in its long form name via a post-positional adjective. Just like the United Kingdom lays mention to its geography.

  • “The unique part of the United States of America is America, so it became the root of the demonym; there’s no other country with that word within its name.”

    There is a reason for this… America was already coined to indicate people from the American continents, just as Europeans is coined as people from that continent. The reason it’s not divided between north and South America is because of its redundancy. No one cared before, it was just America and according to Europeans we were all savages.

    Only the British would be arrogant enough to completely appropriate the word as their own. Instead of choosing something closer to the language of its natives, a distinct geographical feature, something that describes the Area covered by the U.S., or even something much more poetic than that, as most countries do, they chose “America”, or “of America”. Well no shit, Sherlock!

    I guess my point is, You are correct. It’s called America because of the “of America” in the name. Makes complete sense and it won’t be changed. I just think it’s a dumb name to give a nation. America is not beautiful or unique. It’s named after Américo Vespucio from Italy. It has nothing to do with the land or its stories, but everything to do with the man who said “this isn’t India, guys!” It is the name given to continents, not a country.

  • How about “US American” to refer to someone from the United States of America?

    It’s neat, simple, doesn’t violate any “name logic” but also acknowledges the name of the country without hijacking it from anyone else. We are Americans of both the continent and the country.

    Who’s with me?

  • Throughout the history of the US there have been attempts to give US citizens a proper name as descriptor for nationality, terms such as Usonian and United Statesian which clearly show there’s an unfinished task.

  • “Is the fact that U.S. citizens call themselves “Americans” a case of ignorance, simple-mindedness, a narrow worldview, or bigotry?” good article.

  • So, by your logic, everyone in Europe is European, everyone in Africa (be it north central or south) is African. Same thing with Asia, they are all Asian (please notice I’m using continents). But not everyone in the American continent can be called American because the british called you that 200 years ago?

    I don’t get it. The continent is a lot bigger than just one country.

    You can certainly write down all the fancy arguments in the world but at some point you must realize that the USA is not the continent.

    Now Australians, that’s a different story altogether.

  • The correct name for “USA” is United States of ..(nothing?) because we know that Mexico his full country name is: United (“nothing”) States? NO, the country name is: United Mexican States.The Brazil full name is Federative Republic of “Nothing”? NO, the Brazil full name is Federative republic of Brazil. Or United “Nothing” Emirates? NO, Correct name is: United Arabs Emirates. BUT in the USA case, I think this a “nameless country because they say or they teach to their children at school and high school that they are “american” as their unique demonym. but, they are wrong because we all who live in the whole continent are American. So, they don´t have any name for their country because as I explain above, they are United States of WHAT? e.g. If USA had a name, let´s say something like “Columbia” the country name would be “United Columbian States or United States of Columbia, and Columbia belong to America Continent as Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica do!…There are three Americas:

    there are three Americas: North America, Central America, and South America. So these three ones belong to the whole continent that´s why we all are AMERICAN, because we all live in our continent.
    US, doesn´t have a defined name, because its name says: United States of america. I could also say: Angentina of America, Chile of America, Costa Rica of America and it is right! it´s well done. So this the “Nameless” country United States of …nothing! Most people call USA as North Americans, it is also wrong, sure they are, but, not only USA are northamerican, but, Mexicans and Canadians too. Not only Costa Rica is Central Americans but, Guatemalans and Panamanians too. Europeans,Asians and Africans please do not call American to USA, it is WRONG

  • Gringos have a NAMELESS country because for example, United states of Mexico that is the name of Mexico..because Mexico is the name for those United States. Now lets mention the name of the Gringos country: United states of…..? which one is the name for United states of …what? There is not any?? Lets choose ones just for an example: United Stes of Columbia, or United States of Gringolandia, United Staes of Texas..

    UNITED STATES OF NOTHING? could it be like this? The nameless country. God bless America? please, please!!!! Thank you for saying God bless America, even if you care or not you are blessing all continent, thanks for that! Gringos, please ask D. Trump to invent a name for your country, because it still has not one.

  • The person Cristian who wrote this document, really did not get deep on his investigations, does not mentioned Christopher Columbus and Americo Vespucio and thier tours from Spain to the new land or continent from 1492 to 1512. American are from Canada all the way to La tierra del Fuego in Argentina. Tha´s why there North American(you), Central Americans and Caribbeans, and South America. Yes ignorance its a a big issue in the US. Lack of respect ignoring Central and South American Citizens, also no matter what diccionaries said are wrong. You should be call Brithish American Country, remember there is LatinAmerica.-

  • I must say that English-speakers are the only one who call “Americans” to US citizens, in Spanish for example, we call them “Estadounidenses” which means exactly “Unitedstatian”, as you can see we only have the word “Americans” for people living in any country of the Americas, and that’s my point…

    • Iván this actually isn’t the case. My mother in law who is Venezuelan and is NOT a fan of this term was just in Spain and came back reporting that they often called people from USA “Americanos.” Also I used to live in Lyon France and I was called Américain for a year. Best Regards, Keith

  • First of all, you should know that the gentilic exist. But they stopped call themselves “united-statesians” around 1770 for one only reason: paraguay was becoming a huge concurrent on the the industrialization run. So after erased Paraguay from history, by killing every single men and stilling all their technology they change the away they call themselves in order to become the only reference in matter of industrialization from america. So, just anglophones call them “american” every other language has a demonym: Spanish, we call them “Estadounidenses; in portugues, we call them “estados-unidenseses”, in frenc, we call them “états-unien”, etc.. If you want to know more about, read about the Paraguayan War and you will see that in every document they are refereed as “united-statesians”

  • The British used the term for their holdings out of a sense of arrogance. When the colonies became an independent national government, they continued that practice out of a sense of “Anglo-Saxon solidarity” since the colonies in 1776 were roughly half English with another 15 to 20% if including others of “British” descent*. This leaves out the fact that the founding fathers and and those of influence in the colonies were with few exceptions, of English/British descent. Towns and cities founded by the Dutch, Swedes etc and renamed in favor of English/British imperialism were never further renamed as the colonists felt too strong a kinship to the heart of Albion.

    *Sources vary in proportion, but those hailing from England always comprise the largest population by far, especially in New England and among the white population of Virginia and other Southern Colonies.

  • Great piece and interesting comments. Overall I agree with the author. I add a few pieces of fodder. First is that language and power are related. There’s a saying in linguistics for example… “what’s the difference between a language and a dialect? – an army.” As such, I can see how the term American (referring to persons from the USA) can serve as a reminder of our historical power and all the good and bad sides of that. Secondly, it’s worth noting that the USA passport says “Nationality: United States of America.” For this reason I usually list that exact term on my immigration paperwork since it’s literally on my passport. Best regards to all in the thread. At the end of the day please don’t spread hate. This term comes well before us and it’s our job for all of us to spread kindness regardless of this term. Best, Keith

    • Well, well said, talked like a true imperialist.
      Take the land, take the identity, and take the name.
      And it is his right because he just have the power to bully.

      Land of the free, at the expense of the world.

  • The name America was coined in 1507 and was written on a map of South America, when the northern part of the continent (Mexico, U.S. and Canada) was still unexplored. Most of the world considers a six continent model: Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania, Antarctica and… AMERICA. At least here, in Germany, America is a continent. We spell it Amerika. The French call it l’Amerique; so there’s only one America for them. Just google “the Americas” and change language to German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese… You will see that what you know as “Americas” in English, all other European languages refer to as the whole continent from Canada to Argentina.

  • South Atlantic and North Atlantic both are part of something called Atlantic Ocean. The same way, South America and North America, both are part of America (unless you pretend that Atlantic Ocean is only where the ocean washes the shores of the United States).

  • “China – The People’s Republic of China is what we refer to when we say China, yet the Republic of China seems to unfairly have to use their moniker of Taiwan.”
    Okay, so maybe I’m reading this wrong but, you seem to be saying that the Taiwanese (the citizens of the Republic of China) don’t like being called Taiwanese…? However, every Taiwanese person I’ve come into contact with refer to themselves as Taiwanese and say they are from Taiwan. Quite proudly if I say so myself. In fact, they didn’t like being called Chinese and saw it as almost offensive. In fact, I even asked them outright, “Do you refer to your country as the Republic of China or as Taiwan?”, explaining that I wanted to know without the “American” blinders (you know, the ignorant ‘I don’t care what you call yourselves in your own country, I’m going to call you this and get everybody else in my country to call you it too” kind of mindset). The friend from Taiwan – his name was David Lee – looked at me and said, “I am Taiwanese. I live in Taiwan. I’m am not Chinese.”
    In conclusion, this example isn’t exactly true (in my experience, if you’re from Taiwan or live in Taiwan, please correct me if I’m mistaken) and definitely isn’t supporting your argument. Other than that, you argued your case quite nicely.

  • When I told people in Northern Europe I was Canadian they said oh you’re from America. Europe is Europe and America is everything north, central and south to them. So I guess it depends where you grew up on how you use the term America.

  • First of all, I have to say that this is a really well done article and It is clear to see that the necessary research has been done correctly. But anyways, after reading it completely, there’s a question that has been bugging me about it: ¿Why is there people that name USA, America?, ¿Is this related to their demonym?, ¿Is naming the country that way, correct?
    I would really appreciate my question (singular, they all come to the same point) to be answered. I’ve been having a really rough time having to deal with people that name the country this way without even knowing if it is or not fine to do it.
    Cheers from Panama 🙂

  • To add further confusion… It has been suggested that a map maker did determine the name of the continent called America. It is said that he wanted all of the continents to begin with the letter “A”, so as to provide continuity. Even more confusing: Europe somehow is considered a continent. Explanations?

  • simply answer…. USamerican . a little change that would diminish for a while the hatred around the world, until the next war for “democracy” is supported by the US

  • They missed the point why people from the  united states are called Americans together with the ignorance and petty expressions of the rest of the world . Since the name of our country is the united states of America it is to cumbersome to say the name of our country each time so the rest of the world called us Americans which stuck, British first maybe. The name Americans is not the same as being from the Americas.  To clarify the point, if you are from Brazil you are Brazilian , if from Argentina you are Argentinean, try the same if from the united states of American. What is even crazier is that it is not Americans that gave us that name but people from other countries. Simply put the name of our country is to long.  But why get caught up in something so trivial, simply enjoy your great country since it is so great and let someone else get caught up in the minors.

  • I never want to hear another complaint about America as a name for my country until you have an alternative name that is easy to say. Here are some suggestions to get the brainstorming started. I suggest a world election be held to determine the winning name! :>)

    . . Let’s start with national symbols.
    Eagle (make the Eagles the national band and call citizens Eagles)
    Quercusville (for the mighty oak tree)
    Rosebud (from the best American film ever)

    . . Or go with what makes America feared, despised, or awe-inspiring:
    The Evil Empire
    Never White Enough Land

    More brainstorming: Go back to an earlier name!
    Center of Everything that Is (Sioux)
    Turtle Island
    The Indies
    Novus Mundus
    New Spain
    The British Colonies

  • The name America first appeared in the Waldseemuller map in 1507, applied to what is now south and central America, and has since then been used to denominate the whole continent and with a prefix, some subdivisions of it. The British did not start calling Americans their subjects in the continent until 150 years later, because they didn’t have any. The Spanish empire had a long foothold on it.
    I do not see American ambassadors sitting behind signs that say “America” in any international forums, the signs say “United States” even dropping the “of America”, The US soldiers wear the letters “US” in their lapels, not an “A”, nor even “USA”. There is no “American NAVY” or “American ARMY” or “American Marines”, or “American Air Force”, but “US whatever”, not even “USA whatever”, so it is clear that the forefathers did not have in their plans to appropriate that name.
    In this thread, The Oxford (Is that British?) and Merriam Webster dictionaries are cited as authorities when they are not, they are just consensuated organs. Another source, the Royal Academy of Spain and its 21 correspondent academies of the Spanish language ( including the “Academia norteamericana de la lengua española ” ). discourages using America for naming anything else than the whole continent, or using “Americano” for natives or citizens of the USA. Its opinion should be taken into account as Spanish has more speakers than English worldwide, and it also should be considered that the USA is the second largest Spanish speaking nation in the world, after México, and growing.
    Frank Lloyd Wright, an illustrious citizen of the USA proposed the word “Usonian”, which is compatible with the current diplomatic and military nomenclature and the fact that Usonians are Americans too. It is respectful, not pejorative and can be said with pride. Camilo José Cela, a Nobel prize receiver, proposed “Useño” as its Spanish counterpart, which has the same characteristics.
    Finally, the phrase “America, for the Americans” would turn fairer.

  • It’s not the fact that US Citizens call themselves Americans what bothers me personally. it’s the fact that when you explain to some of them that all the people who lives in the American continent is either North American (including what it used to be central America) or South American, they act arrogant and rude! And insist that the only Americans are people who lives in the USA And the rest aren’t Americans at all! (so uneducated I guess? Not every United State Citizen but quite a few I have encountered. I give up! Never argue with an idiot! 🥴
    A North American citizen form another country 😂🤣

  • If you call the United States “America”, what do you think South America is? Texas and Florida? I’m sorry to tell you this, but South America means “the South of America”. Anyone neglecting this fact is an idiot.

  • “América” means “the lands of Américo”.
    But Américo Vespucio never explored what today is the United States.
    He navigated the Caribbean and South Atlantic (Venezuela, Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina’s Patagonia).
    Sorry guys, but the United States are not the lands of Américo.
    You have nothing to do with América.

  • Hi Christian,

    You make a lot of interesting points. I should first say I’m also from the US. I like the explanation of why US citizens are called Americans in the English language, given that the language was shaped by British and US history. But then you proceed from this factual explanation to argue that it is fair that “American describes” US citizens on the grounds that other countries also do so. Yet the reason other countries do so is that the English language does so, and the reason the English language is hegemonic is due to the history of Enligh-speaking people exerting power over the rest of the world. So as to your point that it is fair that the word American describes us alone, I remain unconvinced. It is a byproduct of the fact that we “own” the lingua franca, English, which is only the lingua franca due to the history of British imperialism more broadly. This is why we exercise undue influence on its usage, having “been there first” to shape it. Thanks for this discussion, I applaud your story and how you frame it.

  • Here you focus on the fact that the official name is “American” as it is logical from “USA”. But, our claim is also that it should not be official and it has structural violence. Of course the “correct” way to call Gringos is “Americans”; but should we follow an aggressive term just because it is official?

    Today I saw a short documental were one of the main claims was that Christopher Columbus didnt discover America cause he never arrived to the US. This is obviously confusing as when in spanish we say that CC discovered America we refer to the whole continent. Seems like the guy (who is supposed to be well instructed) always thought that with saying “CC discovered America” people refer to the US.

  • umm mexico would not have a problem lol. The United states of America calling theselves american is kind of weird and all and we call them estadounidense but it wouldn’t create a problem since The united states of mexico is based on the Mexicas which are the native peoples of the Country. However The USA is not based on anything really. They just want to call themselves the whole continent and call mexicans mexicans without realizing that they too are americans.

  • Christian, I’m from Costa Rica and you just erased my country and several others. Remember America the continent is divided in 3, North, South and Central. I know we are pretty small and
    insignificant but please remember we exist.

    • Also, regarding the rest of the article I respect your thoughts but to me they are just mere justifications on why people from the USA can call themself’s Americans. For me the problem is that the country itself was founded without a name, United States of America is just 2 words united and states and a name America. A real name would be Florida, Oregon, Kansas, Chicago, etc etc. That is the problem from my perspective. I think the founding fathers of your country didn’t think it thru.

  • You got close, but missed the central point.
    Let’s imagine the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo made amends and joined together in a federation. They decide to call themselves The United Congolese States of Africa. Now how would you call their citizens? Unitedstatian? No, that’s a description of their statehood. African? No, that’s their geographic location. Congolese? Ah, yes! This describes *the people*, which is what really makes a country – not its location or administration. You would be absolutely excused to call this country the Congo, just like Mexico is called that even though the word is not featured in the descriptive name of the country.
    Let’s apply do the same exercise with he US of A, shall we? Well… we can’t. USA is a country awaiting a name. You heard me: the US is nameless.
    Ok, don’t get mad. Let’s try something else. Let’s add a word the the description of this country. Doesn’t matter which. Kombucha. The Kombucha United States of America. Sounds weird. United Kombuchan States of America. OK. Doesn’t really matter. How does that fictitious country organize itself? As united states (a federation). Where is it located? America. Who lives there? The kombuchans. You could even call this nation Kombucha.
    This lack of unifying name is shown how americans (ha!) identify more strongly with their state than with the country itself. (I know, you can stop saying you are a proud american. In a group of americans, though, are you more a proud american or a proud texan/winsconsian/californian/etc?)
    This is also the reason there will never be a “better” demonym for the USA. You can’t create a demonym out of thin air, and that’s all you have to work with for the USA. Why not give the country a name? Anyone suggesting that is completely missing the absurd divisiveness in world politics and moreso american politics right now. Would be extremely hard in better times, a complete pipe dream now.
    What pisses people off is not that you call yourself americans. That’s fine. Trying to deny every other american their demonym, that’s arrogant, bigoted, ignorant, narrow-minded or whatever other adjective you listed.
    There’s also the issue of trying to split America in two or three continents. There’s more in common between those continents then there are between their individual constituents. But that’s another beef…

  • Nobody calls Mexico just “United States”, America refers to, well, America the continent (or The Americas if you divide it in two), and it only refers to the USA as an abreviation of its name. not as a region.
    “As you can see, it is not only the people of the US that call themselves such, so most arguments of American imperialism or small-mindedness is somewhat invalidated.” Well, that’s a poor argument. Firstly, one can say they call USA citizens americans BECAUSE of cultural imperialism, but I don’t strongly believe that’s the case and I have nothing to back it up, so I’m not going to be just as disengenous.
    However, on hispanic countries “americanos” (americans) it’s not used, “estadounidenses” or “estadunidenses” are used instead. But not only that, hispanic institutions in general and even the official language institution of Spain, say that using “americano” in this way it’s incorrect.
    I didn’t read the rest, this gave me enough cringe.

    • “estadunidenses” es más inculto que aspirarse las eses.
      El gentilicio correcto es “estadounidense”.

  • So the Mexicans really realize a auto destruction of themselves since they’re the ones who invented the artificial denomym of “estadounidense” Simce themselves are also estadounidense…let them losers say what they want the people of USA are Americans and only Americans FULL STOP!

  • Hello, my name is Fabián and I am from Argentina, my intention with the following that I am going to write is not that they stop using that name (although it would not be bad if they added the U and S to the beginning "US American") but the article has many wrong arguments, here we go!:

    1- The official name of Mexico is … Mexico, never any Mexican you know will NEVER tell you that their country is called Los Estados Unidos Mexicanos (The Mexican United States). This occurs because the text of its constitution (reform of 1917) does not reflect the will of its people to name themselves as they did from the beginning of their history.

    2- It is not true that for most countries in the world America is no longer a continent, for the vast majority of countries in America (The Americas for you) and Europe, and some of the other continents, South America and North America are for the least "subcontinents" that when named together do so with the word America (although in many of those countries on other continents they use the word for the continent and the country alike, and the same for American).

    3- The name that the founding fathers of the country made is "The United States", when the conflict with the British breaks out, they go from being called The 13 Colonies of British America to The United Colonies only, then, when the rupture is total, they are called Los 13 The United States, to which they ultimately add "of America" ​​(text of the declaration of independence)*, which was a complete reference to what was still a continent for the English language, and which continued to be so for more a century and a half later until in the geography of English-speaking countries they decided (perhaps too unilaterally) that South America and North America were continents and not regions of a single continent called America.
    * in 1777 in The Articles of Confederation and The Perpetual Union they would deternined the definitive name "The United States of America"

    4- The Federal Republic of Germany, for example, is not the same as The United States of America, in the first case "Germany" it is the name of the country with the description preceded by the type of nation they are considered, while in the second case all those words is the name, it is A SENTENCE. "The United States" is not a secondary part, in fact it is the main one, as evidenced by the name of all public institutions in the country, United States Congress, US Department of State, etc. The description of the type of nation was not incorporated in the official name perhaps because it would be too long (Republic of The United States of America), moreover that is clarified in the text of the constitution; The United States was the first country on the continent (and in the world) to be born of anti-colonial independence, perhaps that enthusiasm and inexperience led them not to think of a more practical name, such as Argentina or Japan.

    In Conclusion: American does not come from the fact that the word America is in a part of the name, the name is much earlier than the name of the country, but that it is also demonstrated that in Spanish it was created first, "americano" (in Spanish it goes without initial capital), and to designate all the inhabitants of the European colonies in The Americas.
    I insist, it does not bother me if they continue to use it in English, but please consider the variant "US American", since if you have to create a nickname for a country called The United States of America, it makes a lot of sense to include United States (US) in it, even for formal situations.


  • Many United Statians are also nice people. Not all have bad intentions. They simply get and repeat. It is not easy to stop saying what you hear locally every day, even when it is inappropriate.

  • Most of these arguments are one fallacy after another. “US citizens can be called Americans cause most people do it anyways”. What? “US citizens can be called Americans cause the British did back in the 1700’s”. What??

    They were the only “country” referred to as Americans cause every other country IN America bothered to got an actual name, you know, besides the name of the continent. “United States of America” was just a literal description of what it was, a bunch of states, united, that exist in the continent of America, completely disregarding the fact that there are other countries forming (or already formed by then) in the American continent(s). Aaaand the name stuck. And it became official. And they called themselves Americans, so OBVIOUSLY the rest of the world will call them Americans too.

    Now, US citizens looove to call all Europeans, Europeans, as opposed to their specific country demonym (French, Italian, German, etc.) Imagine that the Soviet Union hadn’t dissolved and instead called themselves “United States of Europe”. They’d be technically right, right? It’d be literally a bunch of European states, united. So they call themselves Europeans, for lack of a better word. Except now, suddenly, the Italian, the French, etc have all lost the right to call themselves Europeans.

    You’d might say it’s a dumb argument, and you might be right, but a similar case actually happened not to long ago in Macedonia, when the now-officially-named Republic of North Macedonia got in trouble for not being original enough to come up with a name.

    So what’s the big deal, right? I’m sure Italians find more pride calling themselves Italian over Europeans anyways, just as any American country would rather use their specific demonyms. Maybe there isn’t a real problem and we’re just a bunch of cry babies looking for new reasons to call the USA bullies.

    Well, anyone who’s not white in the United States of America can tell you, it’s all about the subtleties. It’s about how the rest of the American continent(s) is treated as second class. You’re not a REAL American (as if American = excellence) unless you were born in that specific plot of soil. “I get to be called American cause I did it FIRST” – spews the totally-not bully. And now the USA has such a terrible reputation, it has tarnished the American name for everyone. I think twice before answering when called American when traveling to other countries. “Well, yes, but actually, no” crosses my mind as I wonder if it’s helpful to be associated to the USA.

    As your article, this comment too started as a rant (and I guess ended as a rant, too). In the end I do think it’s unfair, narcissistic, and arrogant for citizens of the United States of America to call themselves “Americans”. And I don’t have a solution; United States of America IS the official name, after all (lame, arrogant and unoriginal, maybe, but official) and I don’t see a name-change happening any time soon, so the rest of us unofficial “Americans” will just have to live with it.

  • I think theres a lot of coherence in some of the argument exposed but most of all in the one that reffers to “standing the test of time” i will give you that. But it all went downhill and made me re-think if these arguments that where posted here and have history references are from the samw source, I am thinking some help (ctrl c-ctrl) was used, because there is no way somebody who claims to have the knowledge to address an issue such like this would mention, in the paragraph “The Main Parties Offended” speaks about there being 2 (two) continents. That is just plain ignorance.

  • Ended up being a classic American arrogant answer. No matter how many explanations you try to find , acceptance of the term for lack of interest from other countries discussing the matter is evident but that doesn’t make it right. Unfortunately United States of America’s is the only country with no name, but an adjective.

  • I consider the problem in not the demonym but the country’s name itself, since the beginning it’s inaccurate because it implies that your country is made up of all the states in America which is complete blasphemy. The term America was born in 1500 when Americo Vespucio first drew a map of the continent, THE WHOLE CONTINENT, not just the US. Nowadays, nobody is going to ask “americans” to change their country’s name, but it’s just another example of how you’ve always recognized yourselves as a separate continent even from the rest of America, most of you citizens don’t even know the names of the rest of the countries in the continent and I don’t think that’s accidental. There’s a much less important example which is the word “football”, when you created your sport you named it American Football, but another sport already named football already existed, so instead of creating your own name you decided to rename the already existing sport “soccer”, and don’t recognise the sport when it’s called by its real name. I mean…. you have serious issues.

  • Why do you need to be called Americans though when you can just specify your country of origin? You can’t just randomly change a countries demonym that wasn’t even given to them by themselves…

  • So, has you said. “American” demonym is accepted for english speakers widely and in diccionaries. But for spanish speakers is “estadounidense” and that too is on spanish diccionaries.
    So the logic is simple, if you are from USA and youre speaking english, go a head, call yourself “American”. But if youre speaking spanish you are no longer “American” but “estadounidense”.
    For most english speakers the word “American” for USA represent no problem, mainly because they are not intersted on the other countries (or dont even know that they exisist). But for the rest of American people and also in spain, say “American” is like saying “European” or “Asiatic”. So you will not express your self correctly and no one will understand that youre from USA just by saying “Yo soy Americano”.

    So, depending on the language. We have to adapt.

  • Hi I’m Mexican and I would like to say that in Spanish, Mexico is called “Estados Unidos Mexicanos” which translated would be United Mexican States, the difference that you didn’t notice was that in Spanish Mexico is “Estados Unidos Mexicanos” while the US is “Estados Unidos de America” do you see the difference? “De” means “of” the USA are states in America the continent while Mexico is united mexican states, it
    already has a demonym. So your argument isn’t valid.

  • Your assumption that Citizens of the United States have always refered to themselves as Americans first is actually false. Do some reasearch.

  • There is no debate.

    Languages and the words that constitute them are completely arbitrary and cannot be justified or rationalised. Words are combinations of sounds that only have the meaning that we give them. Therefore, it is futile to argue what a word should or should not mean. Language is descriptive, not prescriptive.

    Whether you like it or not, the fact is that in the English language, the proper noun “America” (by itself) refers to the United States of America. The adjective “American” (by itself) refers to someone or something from the United States of America. This is indisputable as that is simply the meaning that these words have to us in our language. When we converse in our language with other native speakers, that is what we understand these words to mean. Geography along with the origin, historical usage, and meaning of the words in foreign languages (including Spanish) are irrelevant because contemporary native speakers of English associate the words “America” and “American” with the United States of America, regardless. It isn’t my fault; it isn’t your fault.

    Most importantly, when we are speaking English, we have absolutely no problem with using the words “America” and “American” when talking about the United States and its people. English has many other words to describe and distinguish other places and people. We collectively have the right to speak our own language however we wish in a way that feels natural to us, and we collectively decide the meaning that words in our language have, even if it is a passive process. We don’t have to justify it or explain ourselves. We understand that language is not logical and we have no obligation to change how we speak in order to appease the tender sensitivities of people to whom English is a foreign language.

    On a related note, should the 150 million Muslims in India be offended that Spanish speakers refer to anything and anyone from India as Hindu (hindú)?

  • Imagine that the word “America” doesn’t exist, how would you name the USA?
    Canada is called that way because the Huron-Iroquois word “kanata,” meaning “village” or “settlement.”
    México is called that way because México-Tenochtitlan the city founded by the mexicas that later become the center of the Aztec empire.

    Any Ideas?

Dauntless Jaunter