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North America
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North America (′nörth ə′mer·i·kə)
(geography) The northern of the two continents of the New World or Western
Hemisphere, extending from narrow parts in the tropics to progressively broadened
portions in middle latitudes and Arctic polar margins.


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North America
The northern continent of the Western Hemisphere, extending northward from the
Colombia-Panama border and including Central America, Mexico, the islands of the
Caribbean Sea, the United States, Canada, the Arctic Archipelago, and Greenland.
NorthAmerican North American adj. & n.

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North America
The third largest continent, extending from the narrow isthmus of Central America to the
Arctic Archipelago. The physical environments of North America, like the rest of the
world, are a reflection of specific combinations of the natural factors such as climate,
vegetation, soils, and landforms. See also Continent.
North America covers 9,400,000 mi2 (24,440,000 km2) and extends north to south for
5000 mi (8000 km) from Central America to the Arctic. It is bounded by the Pacific
Ocean on the west and the Atlantic Ocean on the east. The Gulf of Mexico is a source of
moist tropical air, and the frozen Arctic Ocean is a source of polar air. With the major
mountain ranges stretching north-south, North America is the only continent providing
for direct contact of these polar and tropical air masses, leading to frequent climatically
induced natural hazards such as violent spring tornadoes, extreme droughts,
subcontinental floods, and winter blizzards, which are seldom found on other continents.
See also Air mass; Arctic Ocean; Atlantic Ocean; Gulf of Mexico; Pacific Ocean.
Geologic structure
The North American continent includes (1) a continuous, broad, north-south-trending
western cordilleran belt stretching along the entire Pacific coast; (2) a northeast-
southwest-trending belt of low Appalachian Mountains paralleling the Atlantic coast; (3)
an extensive rolling region of old eroded crystalline rocks in the north-central and
northeastern part of the continent called the Canadian Shield; (4) a large, level interior
lowland covered by thick sedimentary rocks and extending from the Arctic Ocean to the
Gulf of Mexico; and (5) a narrow coastal plain along the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of
Mexico. These broad structural geologic regions provide the framework for the natural
regions of this continent and affect the location and nature of landform, climatic,
vegetation, and soil regions.
Canadian Shield
Properly referred to as the geological core of the continent, the exposed Canadian Shield
extends about 2500 mi (4000 km) from north to south and almost as much from east to
west. The rest of it dips under sedimentary rocks that overlap it on the south and west.
The Canadian Shield consists of ancient Precambrian rocks, over 500 million years old,
predominantly granite and gneiss, with very complex structures indicating several
mountain-building episodes. It has been eroded into a rolling surface of low to moderate
relief with elevations generally below 2000 ft (600 m). Its surface has been warped into
low domes and basins, such as the Hudson Basin, in which lower Paleozoic rocks,
including Ordovician limestones, have been preserved. Since the end of the Paleozoic
Era, the Shield has been dominated by erosion. Parts of the higher surface remain at
about 1500–2000 ft (450–600 m) above sea level, particularly in the Labrador area. The
Shield remained as land throughout the Mesozoic Era, but its western margins were
covered by a Cretaceous sea and by Tertiary terrestrial sediments derived from the
Western Cordillera. See also Cretaceous; Ordovician; Mesozoic; Paleozoic; Precambrian.
The entire exposed Shield was glaciated during the Pleistocene Epoch, and its surface
was intensely eroded by ice and its meltwaters, erasing major surface irregularities and
eastward-trending rivers that were there before. The surface is now covered by glacial till,
outwash, moraines, eskers, and lake sediments, as well as drumlins formed by advancing
ice. A deranged drainage pattern is evolving on this surface with thousands of lakes of
various sizes. See also Drumlin; Esker; Glacial epoch; Moraine; Pleistocene.
The Canadian Shield extends into the United States as Adirondack Mountains in New
York State, and Superior Upland west of Lake Superior.
Southeastern Coastal Plain
The Southeastern Coastal Plain is geologically the youngest part of the continent, and it is
covered by the youngest marine sedimentary rocks. This flat plain, which parallels the
Atlantic and Gulf coastline, extends for over 3000 mi (4800 km) from Cape Cod,
Massachusetts, to the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. It is very narrow in the north but
increases in width southward along the Atlantic coast and includes the entire peninsula of
Florida. As it continues westward along the Gulf, it widens significantly and includes the
lower Mississippi River valley. It is very wide in Texas, narrows again southward in
coastal Mexico, and then widens in the Yucatán Peninsula and continues as a wide
submerged plain, or a continental shelf, into the sea. See also Coastal plain.
Extending from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to Mexico and Central America, the Coastal
Plain is affected by a variety of climates and associated vegetation. While a humid, cool
climate with four seasons affects its northernmost part, subtropical air masses affect the
southeastern part, including Florida, and hot and arid climate dominates Texas and
northern Mexico; Central America has hot, tropical climates.
Varied soils characterize the Coastal Plain, including the fertile alluvial soils of the
Mississippi Valley. Broadleaf forests are present in the northeast, citrus fruits grow in
Florida, grasslands dominate the dry southwest, and tropical vegetation is present on
Central American coastal plains.
Eastern Seaboard Highlands
Between the Southeastern Coastal Plain and the extensive interior provinces lies a belt of
mountains that, by their height and pattern, create a significant barrier between the
eastern seaboard and the interior of North America. These mountains consist of the
Adirondack Mountains and the New England Highlands.
The Adirondack Mountains are a domal extension of the Canadian Shield, about 100 mi
(160 km) in diameter, composed of complex Precambrian rocks. The New England
Highlands consist of a north-south belt of mountains east of the Hudson Valley, including
the Taconic mountains in the south and the Green mountains in the north, and continuing
as the Notre Dame Mountains along the St. Lawrence Valley and the Chic-Choc
Mountains of the Gaspé Peninsula. The large area of New England east of these
mountains is an eroded surface of old crystalline rocks culminating in the center as the
White Mountains, with their highest peak of the Presidential Range, Mount Washington,
reaching over 6200 ft (1880 m). This area has been intensely glaciated, and it meets the
sea in a rugged shoreline. Nova Scotia and Newfoundland have a similar terrain.
New England is a hilly to mountainous region carved out of ancient rocks, eroded by
glaciers, and covered by glacial moraines, eskers, kames, erratics, and drumlins, with
hundreds of lakes scattered everywhere. It has a cool and moist climate with four seasons,
thin and acid soils, and mixed coniferous and broadleaf forests.
Appalachian Highlands
The Appalachian Highlands are traditionally considered to consist of four parts: the
Piedmont, the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Ridge and Valley Section, and the Appalachian
Plateau. These subregions are all characterized by different geologic structures and rock
types, as well as different geomorphologies.
The northern boundary of the entire Appalachian System is an escarpment of Paleozoic
rocks trending eastward along Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, and the Mohawk Valley. The
boundary then swings south along Hudson River Valley and continues southwestward
along the Fall Line to Montgomery, Alabama. The western boundary trends
northeastward through Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee, and up to Cleveland, Ohio,
where it joins the northern boundary. Together with New England, this region forms the
largest mountainous province in eastern United States.
Interior Domes and Basins Province
The southwestern part of the Appalachian Plateau, overlain mainly by the Mississippian
and Pennsylvanian sedimentary rocks, has been warped into two low structural domes
called the Blue Grass and Nashville Basins, and a structural basin, drained by the Green
River; its southern fringe is called the Pennyroyal Region. The Interior Dome and Basin
Province is contained roughly between the Tennessee River in the south and west and the
Ohio River in the north.
There is no boundary on the east, because the domes are part of the same surface as the
Appalachian Plateau. However, erosional escarpments, forming a belt of hills called
knobs, clearly mark the topographic domes and basins. The northern dome, called the
Blue Grass Basin or Lexington Plain, has been eroded to form a basin surrounded by a
series of inward-facing cuesta escarpments. The westernmost cuesta reaches about 600 ft
(180 m) elevation while the central part of the basin lies about 1000 ft (300 m) above sea
level, which is higher than the surrounding hills. This gently rolling surface with deep
and fertile soils exhibits some solutional karst topography. See also Fluvial erosion
Ozark and Ouachita Highlands
The Paleozoic rocks of the Pennyroyal Region continue Westward across southern
Illinois to form another dome of predominantly Ordovician rocks, called the Ozark
Plateau. This dome, located mainly in Missouri and Arkansas, has an abrupt east side, and
a gently sloping west side, called the Springfield Plateau. Its surface is stream eroded into
hilly and often rugged topography that is developed mainly on limestones, although
shales, sandstone, and chert are present. Much residual chert, eroded out of limestone, is
present on the surface. There are some karst features, such as caverns and springs. In the
northeast, Precambrian igneous rocks protrude to form the St. Francois Mountains, which
reach an elevation of 1700 ft (515 m).
Central Lowlands
One of the largest subdivisions of North America is the Central Lowlands province which
is located between the Appalachian Plateau on the east, the Interior Domes and Basins
Province and the Ozark Plateau on the south, and the Great Plains on the west. It includes
the Great Lakes section and the Manitoba Lowland in Canada. This huge lowland in the
heart of the continent (whose elevations vary from about 900 ft or 270 m above sea level
in the east and nearly 2000 ft or 600 m in the west) is underlain by Paleozoic rocks that
continue from the Appalachian Plateau and dip south under the recent coastal plain
sediments; meet the Cretaceous rocks on the west; and overlap the crystalline rocks of the
Canadian Shield on the northeast.
The present surface of nearly the entire Central Lowlands, roughly north of the Ohio
River and east of the Missouri River, is the creation of the Pleistocene ice sheets. When
the ice formed and spread over Canada, and southward to the Ohio and Missouri rivers, it
eroded much of the preexisting surface. During deglaciation, it left its deposits over the
Canadian Shield and the Central Lowlands.
The Central Lowlands are drained by the third longest river system in the world, the
Missouri-Mississippi, which is 3740 mi (6000 km) long. This mighty river system,
together with the Ohio and the Tennessee, drains not only the Central Lowlands but also
parts of the Appalachian Plateau and the Great Plains, before it crosses the Coastal Plain
and ends in the huge delta of the Mississippi. The river carries an enormous amount of
water and alluvium and continues to extend its delta into the Gulf. In 1993 it reached a
catastrophic level of a hundred-year flood, claimed an enormous extent of land and many
lives, and created an unprecedented destruction of property. This flood again alerted the
population to the extreme risk of occupying a river floodplain. See also Floodplain;
Great Plains
The Great Plains, which lie west of the Central Lowlands, extend from the Rio Grande
and the Balcones Escarpment in Texas to central Alberta in Canada. On the east, they are
bounded by a series of escarpments, such as the Côteau du Missouri in the Dakotas. The
dry climate with less than 20 in. (50 cm) of precipitation, and steppe grass vegetation
growing on calcareous soils, help to determine the eastern boundary of the Great Plains.
On the west, the Great Plains meet the abrupt front of the Rocky Mountains, except
where the Colorado Piedmont and the lower Pecos River Valley separate them from the
The Great Plains region shows distinct differences between its subsections from south to
north. The southernmost part, called the High Plains or Llano Estacado, and Edwards
Plateaus are the flattest. While Edwards Plateau, underlain by limestones of the
Cretaceous age, reveals solutional karst features, the High Plains have the typical Tertiary
bare cap rock surface, devoid of relief and streams.
The central part of the Great Plains has a recent depositional surface of loess and sand.
The Sand Hills of Nebraska form the most extensive sand dunes area in North America,
covering about 24,000 mi2 (62,400 km2). They are overgrown by grass and have
numerous small lakes. The loess region to the south provides spectacular small canyon
topography. See also Dune.
The northern Great Plains, stretching north of Pine Ridge and called the Missouri Plateau,
have been intensly eroded by the western tributaries of the Missouri River into river
breaks and interfluves. In extreme cases, badlands were formed, such as those of the
White River and the Little Missouri.
The terrain of the Canadian Great Plains consists of three surfaces rising from east to
west: the Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta Prairies developed on level Creteceous
and Tertiary rocks. Climatic differences between the arid and warm southern part and the
cold and moist northern part have resulted in regional differences. The eastern boundary
of the Saskatchewan Plain is the segmented Manitoba Escarpment, which extends for 500
mi (800 km) northwestward, and in places rises 1500 ft (455 m) above the Manitoba
Lowland. Côteau du Missouri marks the eastern edge of the higher Alberta Plain.
Western Cordillera
The mighty and rugged Western Cordilleras stretch along the Pacific coast from Alaska to
Mexico. There are three north-south-trending belts: (1) Brooks Range, Mackenzie
Mountains, and the Rocky Mountains to the north and Sierra Madre Oriental in Mexico;
(2) Interior Plateaus, including the Yukon Plains, Canadian Central Plateaus and Ranges,
Columbia Plateau, Colorado Plateau, and Basin and Range Province stretching into
central Mexico; and (3) Coastal Mountains from Alaska Range to California, Baja
California, and Sierra Madre Occidental in Mexico.
This subcontinental-size mountain belt has the highest mountains, greatest relief,
roughest terrain, and most beautiful scenery of the entire continent. It has been formed by
earth movements resulting from the westward shift of the North American lithospheric
plate. The present movements, and the resulting devastating earthquakes along the San
Andreas fault system paralleling the Pacific Ocean, are part of this process. See also
Cordilleran belt; Plate tectonics.
This very high, deeply eroded and rugged Rocky Mountains region comprises several
distinct parts: Southern, Middle, and Northern Rockies, plus the Wyoming Basin in the
United States, and the Canadian Rockies. The Southern Rockies, extending from
Wyoming to New Mexico, include the Laramie Range, the Front Range, and Spanish
Peaks with radiating dikes on the east; Medicine Bow, Park, and Sangre de Cristo ranges
in the center; and complex granite Sawatch Mountains and volcanic San Juan Mountains
of Tertiary age on the west. Most of the ranges are elongated anticlines with exposed
Precambrian granite core, and overlapping Paleozoic and younger sedimentary rocks
which form spectacular hogbacks along the eastern front. There are about 50 peaks over
14,000 ft (4200 m) high, while the Front Range alone has about 300 peaks over 13,000 ft
(3940 m) high. The southern Rocky Mountains, heavily glaciated into a beautiful and
rugged scenery with permanent snow and small glaciers, form a major part of the
Continental Divide.
The interior Plateaus and Ranges Province of the Western Cordillera lies between the
Rocky Mountains and the Coastal Mountains. It is an extensive and complex region. It
begins in the north with the wide Yukon Plains and Uplands; narrows into the Canadian
Central Plateaus and Ranges; widens again into the Columbia Plateau, Basin and Range
Province, and Colorado Plateau; and finally narrows into the Mexican Plateau and the
Central American isthmus.
The coastal Lowlands and Ranges extend along the entire length of North America and
include Alaskan Coast Ranges, Aleutian Islands, Alaska Range, Canadian Coast Ranges,
and a double chain of the Cascade Mountains and Sierra Nevada on the east, and Coast
Ranges on the west, separated by Puget Sound, Willamette Valley, and Great Valley of
California. These ranges continue southward as Lower California Peninsula, Baja
California, and Sierra Madre Occidental in Mexico.
The basin-and-range type of terrain of the southwest United States continues into
northern Mexico and forms its largest physiographic region, the Mexican Plateau. This
huge tilted block stands more than a mile above sea level—from about 4000 ft (1200 m)
in the north, it rises to about 8000 ft (2400 m) in the south. The Mexican Plateau is
separated from the Southern Mexican Highlands (Sierra Madre del Sur) by a low, hot and
dry Balsas Lowland drained by the Balsas River. To the east of the Southern Highlands
lies a lowland, the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, which is considered the divide between North
and Central America. Here the Pacific and Gulf coasts are only 125 mi (200 km) apart.
The lowlands of Mexico are the coastal plains. The Gulf Coastal Plain trends southward
for 850 mi from the Rio Grande to the Yucat'an Peninsula. It is about 100 mi (160 km)
wide in the north, just a few miles wide in the center, and very wide in the Yucatan
Peninsula. Barrier beaches, lagoons, and swamps occur along this coast. The Pacific
Coastal Plains are much narrower and more hilly. North-south-trending ridges of granite
characterize the northern part, and islands are present offshore. Toward the south,
sandbars, lagoons, and deltaic deposits are common.
East of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec begins Central America with its complex
physiographic and tectonic regions. This narrow, mountainous isthmus is geologically
connected with the large, mountainous islands of the Greater Antilles in the Carribean.
They are all characterized by east-west-trending rugged mountain ranges, with deep
depressions between them. One such mountain system begins in Mexico and continues in
southern Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. North of this system, called the Old
Antillia, lies the Antillian Foreland, consisting of the Yucatán Peninsula and the Bahama
Islands. Central American mountains are bordered on both sides by active volcanic belts.
Along the Pacific, a belt of young volcanoes extends for 800 mi (1280 km) from Mexico
to Costa Rica. Costa Rica and Panama are mainly a volcanic chain of mountains
extending to South America. Nicaragua is dominated by a major crustal fracture trending

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North America

Continent, Western Hemisphere. The third-largest continent on earth, it lies mostly

between the Arctic Circle and the Tropic of Cancer. It is almost completely surrounded
by bodies of water, including the Pacific Ocean, the Bering Strait, the Arctic Ocean, the
Atlantic Ocean, and the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico. Area: 9,361,791 sq mi
(24,247,039 sq km). Population (2001 est.): 454,225,000. Shaped like an inverted
triangle, North America was apparently the first continent to achieve its current
approximate size and shape. Its geologic structure is built around a stable platform of
Precambrian rock called the Canadian Shield. To the southeast are the Appalachian
Mountains and to the west are the younger and much taller Cordilleras. These mountains
extend the length of the continent and occupy about one-third of the total land area. The
Rocky Mountains constitute the eastern Cordillera. The highest point is Mount McKinley.
The Mississippi River basin, including its major tributaries, the Missouri and Ohio,
occupies more than one-eighth of the continent's total area. Generally temperate climatic
conditions prevail. Arable land accounts for about one-eighth of the land area and forests
for about one-third. English, the primary language of the U.S., predominates, followed by
Spanish; French is spoken in parts of Canada. Most of the continent's population of
European descent is found in the U.S. and Canada. Intermarriage between whites and
Indians was common in Mexico, and mestizos constitute about three-fifths of the
Mexican population. North America has a mixture of developed, partly developed, and
developing economies, adequate reserves of most metallic resources, and the world's
largest reserves of cadmium, copper, lead, molybdenum, silver, and zinc. It is the world's
leading food producer, largely because of mechanized and scientific farming in the U.S.
and Canada. Among the continent's democratically governed states are Canada, Mexico,
Costa Rica, and the U.S. The nations of North America have sought hemispheric unity as
members of the Organization of American States, which also includes South American
countries. They also sought stronger economic ties, and in 1992 Canada, the U.S., and
Mexico signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which called for the
elimination of most tariffs and other trade barriers between the three countries. The first
inhabitants were American Indians, who migrated from Asia about 20,000 years ago. The
greatest pre-Columbian civilizations were in Mesoamerica (see Mesoamerican
civilization) and included the Olmec, Maya, Toltec, and Aztec, who were conquered by
the Spanish. The continent long remained sparsely settled and undeveloped. Beginning in
the 17th century it underwent a profound transformation with the coming of Europeans
and the Africans they introduced as slaves. The style of life became Latin American south
of the Rio Grande and Anglo-American to the north, with enclaves of French culture in
Canada and Louisiana. Slavery, practiced in the 16th – 19th centuries, added a significant
minority culture of African origin, especially in the U.S. and the Caribbean (see West
Indies). The huge industrial economy of the U.S., its abundant resources, and its military
strength give the continent considerable global influence.
For more information on North America, visit Britannica.com.
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North America, third largest continent (1990 est. pop. 365,000,000), c.9,400,000 sq mi
(24,346,000 sq km), the northern of the two continents of the Western Hemisphere. North
America includes all of the mainland and related offshore islands lying N of the Isthmus
of Panama (which connects it with South America). The term “Anglo-America” is
frequently used in reference to Canada and the United States combined, while the term
“Middle America” is used to describe the region including Mexico, the republics of
Central America, and the Caribbean.
Geology and Geography
The continent is bounded on the north by the Arctic Ocean, on the west by the Pacific
Ocean and the Bering Sea, and on the east by the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.
Its coastline is long and irregular. With the exception of the Gulf of Mexico, Hudson Bay
is by far the largest body of water indenting the continent; others include the Gulf of St.
Lawrence and the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortès). There are numerous islands off the
continent's coasts; Greenland and the Arctic Archipelago, the Greater and Lesser Antilles,
the Alexander Archipelago, and the Aleutian Islands are the principal groups. Mt.
McKinley (Denali; 20,320 ft/6,194 m), Alaska, is the highest point on the continent; the
lowest point (282 ft/86 m below sea level) is in Death Valley, Calif.
The Missouri-Mississippi river system (c.3,740 mi/6,020 km long) is the longest of North
America. Together with the Ohio River and numerous other tributaries, it drains most of
S central North America and forms the world's greatest inland waterway system. Other
major rivers include the Colorado, Columbia, Delaware, Mackenzie, Nelson, Rio Grande,
St. Lawrence, Susquehanna, and Yukon. Lake Superior (31,820 sq mi/82,414 sq km), the
westernmost of the Great Lakes, is the continent's largest lake. The Saint Lawrence
Seaway, which utilizes the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes, enables oceangoing
vessels to penetrate into the heart of North America.
Physiographically, the Anglo-American section of the continent may be divided into five
major regions: the Canadian Shield, a geologically stable area of ancient rock that
occupies most of the northeastern quadrant, including Greenland; the Appalachian
Mountains, a geologically old and eroded system that extends from the Gaspé Peninsula
to Alabama; the Atlantic-Gulf Coastal Plain, a belt of lowlands widening to the south that
extends from S New England to Mexico; the Interior Lowlands, which extend down the
middle of the continent from the Mackenzie valley to the Gulf Coastal Plain and includes
the Great Plains on the west and the agriculturally productive Interior Plains on the east;
and the North American Cordillera, a complex belt of geologically young mountains and
associated plateaus and basins, which extend from Alaska into Mexico and include two
orogenic belts—the Pacific Margin on the west and the Rocky Mountains on the east—
separated by a system of intermontane plateaus and basins. The Coastal Plain and the
main belts of the North American Cordillera continue south into Mexico (where the
Mexican Plateau, bordered by the Sierra Madre Oriental and the Sierra Madre Occidental,
is considered a continuation of the intermontane system) to join the Transverse Volcanic
Range, a zone of high and active volcanic peaks S of Mexico City.
During the Ice Age of the late Cenozoic era, a continental ice sheet, centered west of
Hudson Bay (the floor of which is slowly rebounding after being depressed by the great
weight of the ice), covered most of N North America; glaciers descended the slopes of the
Rocky Mts. and those of the Pacific Margin. Extensive glacial lakes, such as Bonneville
(see under Bonneville Salt Flats), Lahontan, Agassiz, and Algonquin, were formed by
glacial meltwater; their remnants are still visible in the Great Basin and along the edge of
the Canadian Shield in the form of the Great Salt Lake, the Great Lakes, and the large
lakes of W central Canada.
North America, extending to within 10° of latitude of both the equator and the North
Pole, embraces every climatic zone, from tropical rain forest and savanna on the lowlands
of Central America to areas of permanent ice cap in central Greenland. Subarctic and
tundra climates prevail in N Canada and N Alaska, and desert and semiarid conditions are
found in interior regions cut off by high mountains from rain-bearing westerly winds.
However, a high proportion of the continent has temperate climates very favorable to
settlement and agriculture.
The first human inhabitants of North America are believed to be of Asian origin; they
crossed over to Alaska from NE Asia roughly 20,000 years ago, and then moved
southward through the Mackenzie River valley. European discovery and settlement of
North America dates from the 10th cent., when Norsemen settled (986) in Greenland.
Although evidence is fragmentary, they probably reached E Canada c.1000 at the latest.
Of greater impact on the subsequent history of the continent were Christopher
Columbus's exploration of the Bahamas in 1492 and later landings in the West Indies and
Central America, and John Cabot's explorations of E Canada (1497), which established
English claims to the continent. Spanish and French expeditions also explored much of
North America.
Although the population of Canada and the United States is still largely of European
origin, it is growing increasingly diverse with substantial immigration from Asia, Latin
America, and Africa; it is also highly urbanized (about 74% live in urban areas); much of
the population is centered in large conurbations and coalescing urban belts along the
southern margin of Canada and in the northeastern quadrant of the United States around
the Great Lakes and along the Atlantic coast. Mexico's population, about 60% mestizo (of
European and Native American descent), is increasingly urbanized (about 72%). People
of European descent are a minority in most Central American and Caribbean countries,
and the population outside the major cities is largely rural. The largest urban
agglomerations on the continent are Mexico City, New York City, Los Angeles, and
Resources and Economy
North America's extensive agricultural lands (especially in Canada and the United States)
are a result of the interrelationship of favorable climatic conditions, fertile soils, and
technology. Irrigation has turned certain arid and semiarid regions into productive oases.
North America produces most of the world's corn, meat, cotton, soybeans, tobacco, and
wheat, along with a variety of other food and industrial raw material crops. Mineral
resources are also abundant; the large variety includes coal, iron ore, bauxite, copper,
natural gas, petroleum, mercury, nickel, potash, and silver. The manufacturing that
provided a high standard of living for the people of Canada and the United States has
significantly declined, and formerly abundant factory jobs are increasingly replaced by
those in the service sector. Much of this manufacturing has moved to Mexico (especially
in the border zone adjoining the United States), which offers a large and inexpensive
labor force.
See T. H. Clark and C. W. Stearn, The Geological Evolution of North America (1968); W.
P. Cumming et al., The Discovery of North America (1972); R. C. West et al., Middle
America: Its Lands and Peoples (3d ed. 1989); T. L. McKnight, Regional Geography of
the United States and Canada (1992); S. Birdsall, Regional Landscapes of the United
States and Canada (4th rev. ed. 1992); T. Flannery, The Eternal Frontier: An Ecological
History of North America and Its Peoples (2001); A. Taylor, American Colonies (2001).

History 1450-1789

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British Colonies: North America
This entry is a subtopic of British Colonies.
English interest in North America began soon after Christopher Columbus's first
discoveries when John Cabot (c. 1450–c. 1499), a Venetian sailor, was commissioned by
Henry VII in 1497 to find a northwest route to the East. The voyage proved ineffectual
and for the next seventy years England remained on the sidelines of westward
exploration, largely because of political and religious divisions at home. Interest did not
really revive until the fourth quarter of the sixteenth century, when the success of the
Spanish and Portuguese empires demonstrated the economic and strategic value of
having colonies. Since the North American continent remained largely free of European
settlement, the new advocates of colonization, notably English geographer Richard
Hakluyt (c. 1552–1616), argued that the settling of these territories would allow the
production of valuable tropical products like sugar, silk, olives, spices, hardwoods, and
vines. These items had to be purchased from foreign rivals, resulting in a trade deficit and
loss of bullion. In addition, Hakluyt argued, the possession of colonies would increase the
maritime power of England, making her a force to be reckoned with among the nation-
states of Europe.
First Settlements
Since the crown lacked the resources for such ventures, it was initially left to individuals
like Sir Walter Raleigh (1554–1618) to fulfill these dreams. Unfortunately, Raleigh's
attempt to settle Roanoke Island along the North Carolina coast between 1585 and 1587
proved unsuccessful, mainly because he lacked the necessary resources. However, the
development of joint stock companies promised to solve this problem by allowing funds
to be pooled on a large scale. Not that these new entities found colonization easy, as the
attempts of the Plymouth and Virginia companies proved. The former failed to establish
its colony of Sagadahoc in 1607 on the coast of present-day Maine, while the latter had to
struggle for twenty years to ensure the success of Jamestown, England's first permanent
settlement on the mainland of North America. In reality, too little was known about the
Chesapeake region when the first settlers arrived in 1607, and the project came close to
collapse several times.
Despite these difficulties, other schemes duly followed, though the impulse was
increasingly religious rather than commercial. England, like much of Europe, was
experiencing religious turmoil, and America seemingly offered a refuge to those suffering
persecution at home. Accordingly, in 1620 a group of Pilgrims led by the Separatist
church leader William Brewster (1567–1644) set sail in the May-flower to establish the
Plymouth colony, while from 1629 to 1640 twenty thousand Puritans left England to
establish the colonies of Massachusetts Bay in 1630, Rhode Island and Connecticut in
1636, and New Haven in 1637. Nor were Protestants alone in this exodus. In 1632
George Calvert, the first baron Baltimore (c. 1580–1632), obtained a charter from Charles
I for a colony allowing religious toleration for Roman Catholics, which he called
Maryland in honor of the queen.
Baltimore's charter differed from those granted to the Virginia and Massachusetts Bay
Companies in that authority was vested in a single proprietor. Otherwise, both types of
charter gave the grantees extensive powers, including authority to make local ordinances
for the better government of their territories, providing such ordinances were consistent
with the laws of England. The crown also retained the right to a fifth of all precious
minerals found in their settlements. However, in 1618 the Virginia Company decided to
establish a local assembly as a more effective way of involving the inhabitants in the
success of the venture. This pattern was soon adopted in other colonies, notably
Massachusetts, not least because that colony's charter, based on the joint stock model,
required its officers to be elected annually by the shareholders. Even the autocratic
second baron Baltimore (Cecilius Calvert, 1605–1675) found it politic to give his settlers
an assembly as a means of attracting support. The qualifications for voting varied. In
Maryland and Virginia it was generally restricted to freeholders (meaning males with
property), but in Massachusetts the Puritan leadership quickly substituted church
membership as the criterion for participation in the affairs of the colony.
Second Wave
Although English settlement of North America was interrupted at the outbreak of the
English Civil War in 1641, the restoration of Charles II in 1660 allowed a second wave of
colonization, beginning in 1664 with the conquest of the Dutch colony of New
Netherland in present-day New York. It was seized partly for economic reasons, to secure
entry to the northern fur trade; partly to create a patrimony for the duke of York, the
king's younger brother; and partly as a strategy: to close a dangerous gap between the
New England and Chesapeake Bay settlements. But even before the seizure of the Dutch
colony, another scheme was afoot to settle the area south of Virginia. Here, too, the
founding of the Carolinas was partly commercial, to tap the possibilities of exotic cash
crops in a subtropical climate; partly strategic, to provide a buffer between Virginia and
the Spanish in Florida; and partly an attempt to endow the eight proprietors sponsoring
the scheme with the privileges of semifeudal palatine princes. Not that religious
considerations were entirely forgotten after 1660. In 1682 William Penn (1644–1718)
secured a proprietary charter to provide a haven for the Society of Friends, or Quakers, as
they were more commonly known. But as was the case with the Carolinas, the
colonization of Pennsylvania had a strong economic rationale: to exploit the rich potential
of the Delaware River area. It was also intended to enhance the dynastic aspirations of the
proprietary family.
For much of the seventeenth century, England's control of its burgeoning empire was
necessarily weak, given the distance of the colonies from England and the confused state
of the mother country. Compounding the problems was the fact that there was no
common system of government in the various settlements. Virginia, the oldest colony,
had a governor appointed by the crown, a council appointed by the governor, and an
elective assembly representing the propertied classes, and this was to be the model most
favored by the crown after 1689 as its best means of maintaining control. However, the
New England colonies at this time were largely self-governing commonwealths, while
the Carolinas, Pennsylvania, and New York were all under proprietary control.
Even so, the period was not without some tightening of the imperial reins. In 1651 the
first Navigation Act was passed to protect England's growing trade with its empire in the
West Indies and mainland North America, and this was followed by several similar such
laws in the next twenty-five years. Then in 1680 New Hampshire was separated from
Massachusetts and made into a royal colony on the Virginia model. More grandiosely, in
the mid-1680s James II attempted to merge the northern colonies into one entity, the
Dominion of New England, to allow a more effective defense and use of scarce
resources. That scheme proved too unpopular and was discarded during England's 1689
Glorious Revolution, which limited sovereign power and ended the concept of the divine
right of kings. Nevertheless, some changes were effected. Massachusetts now had to
accept a charter on the Virginia model, albeit with the concession that the lower house
still helped nominate the governor's council, as had been required under the old charter of
1629. The crown also had a further success in East and West Jersey in the early 1700s,
when the proprietors decided to surrender their governmental rights over the territory.
Finally, in the 1720s the crown, with Parliament's help, engineered a similar outcome in
the Carolinas, after the proprietary government failed to defend those colonies
successfully from Spanish and Indian attacks. However, Pennsylvania and Maryland
remained proprietary colonies while Connecticut and Rhode Island anomalously retained
their corporate charters, which had originally been granted by Parliament during the
English Civil War.
Denominations and Diversity
During the seventeenth century the colonies' population was overwhelmingly English in
origin, with only a few pockets of non-English stock, most importantly in Pennsylvania,
where Penn settled a group of lower Rhineland Pietists at Germantown in 1686, and in
New York, where the Dutch remained a distinct group. But already there was a growing
number of African slaves, especially in the South, and this trend toward a more diverse
population continued during the eighteenth century, aided by the absence of any
restrictive immigration laws. In 1707 the Act of Union between England and Scotland
officially opened the way to Scottish emigration, while the cessation of the War of the
Spanish Succession in Europe in 1714 permitted further German emigration from the
Palatinate and Rhineland areas. In addition, large numbers of Scots Irish began to arrive
after 1717 following the termination of their leases in Ireland. All these European peoples
came seeking a better life where land was plentiful and religious discrimination was
minimal. Prior to 1715 the New England region had been uniformly Congregational, the
South largely Anglican, with the Dutch Reformed and Society of Friends preeminent in
the Hudson and Delaware Valleys. Now, outside New England, there were Presbyterians,
Baptists, Moravians, and German Reformed and Lutheran churches, all adding to the
multireligious and multicultural nature of the colonies and establishing a trend that has
continued ever since.
The economy of Britain's North American colonies was similarly varied, primarily as the
result of differences in the climate and soil. The relatively temperate climate of the New
England and Mid-Atlantic colonies allowed their inhabitants to practice European-style
farming in cereals, root crops, and animal husbandry. And as in Europe, most northern
farms relied on their families to meet their labor requirements. In the South, on the other
hand, the longer and warmer growing season permitted the cultivation of more exotic
cash crops like tobacco in the Chesapeake Bay area and Albemarle Sound region of
North Carolina and rice in the lower part of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia
(after 1733). Since these crops were labor-intensive, their production presented a
problem, not least because most Native Americans refused to acculturate to European-
style production methods and were in any case too few in number. Initially the labor
problem was solved in the Chesapeake region by the system of indentured servitude.
However, indentured servants served for only a few years, after which they were free to
compete with their former masters. As a result, southern planters began increasingly to
use African slave labor, especially when the cost of doing so dropped toward the end of
the seventeenth century. The early settlers in South Carolina, in any case, deployed
African slaves, being familiar with their use from their previous experience as sugar
planters in Barbados.
Another difference between the northern and southern economies was the North's greater
diversification. The northern colonies had no high-value commodities to export other
than those obtained through the extractive pursuits of fishing and lumbering.
Consequently, they had to be more self-sufficient, which led to the development of craft
industries and the beginnings of manufacturing in pottery and iron ware. Shipbuilding
was also widespread, and commerce generally flourished, which in turn stimulated urban
growth. By the mid-eighteenth century, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia all had
populations of more than ten thousand, with Philadelphia ranking as the second-largest
city in the British Empire. The South, by contrast, had only one town of any
consequence: Charleston in South Carolina.
By 1750 the thirteen British mainland colonies had a population around 1.5 million
(including 250,000 persons of African descent) who provided a third of all British trade.
The Causes of Revolt
Thus, although the British had been late to enter the race for overseas colonies (compared
to Spain and Portugal), their settlements now constituted perhaps the most valuable
possessions of any European nation. It was this realization that led Britain to attempt a
strengthening of the imperial ties after the Seven Years' War (1756–1763). Among the
more important initiatives were the Proclamation of 1763, which attempted to limit
westward expansion; the Sugar Act of 1764, to raise revenue and strengthen the laws of
trade; and the Stamp Act of 1765, to raise additional revenue for the running of the
empire. But far from strengthening imperial control, these measures antagonized the
colonial population and led to disputes over the sovereignty of Parliament and the rights
of the colonists, especially on matters of taxation. It was failure to resolve these issues,
among others, that led to the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and creation of the
United States, signaling an end to the first British Empire.
Andrews, Charles M. The Colonial Period of American History. 4 vols. New Haven,
1934–1938. Reprint, vols. 1–3, 2001.
Bailyn, Bernard. The Peopling of British North America: An Introduction. New York,
Bonwick, Colin. The American Revolution. Charlottesville, Va., 1991.
Butler, Jon. Becoming America: The Revolution before 1776. Cambridge, Mass., 2000.
Egnal, Marc. New World Economies: The Growth of the Thirteen Colonies and Early
Canada. New York, 1998.
Kammen, Michael. Deputyes & Libertyes: The Origins of Representative Government in
Colonial America. New York, 1969.
Meinig, Donald William. The Shaping of America: A Geographical Perspective on 500
Years of History. 3 vols. New Haven, 1986–1993. Volume one is Atlantic America, 1492–
Middleton, Richard. Colonial America: A History, 1565– 1776. 3rd ed. Oxford, 2002.
Nash, Gary B. Red, White, and Black: The Peoples of Early America. Englewood Cliffs,
N.J., 1974.
Vickers, Daniel. A Companion to Colonial America. Oxford, 2003.
Wood, Betty. The Origins of American Slavery: Freedom and Bondage in the English
Colonies. New York, 1997.

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Third-largest continent (after Asia and Africa), comprising Canada, the United States,
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Home > Library > Reference > Wikipedia

North America

World map showing North America

A satellite composite image of North America. Clickable map
North America is a continent [1] in the Earth's northern hemisphere and (chiefly) western
hemisphere. It is bordered on the north by the Arctic Ocean, on the east by the North
Atlantic Ocean, on the southeast by the Caribbean Sea, and on the south and west by the
North Pacific Ocean; South America lies to the southeast, connected to North America by
the Isthmus of Panama. It covers an area of about 24,490,000 square kilometres
(9,450,000 sq mi), about 4.8% of the planet's surface or about 16.4% of its land area. As
of October 2006, its population was estimated at over 514,600,000. It is the third-largest
continent in area, following Asia and Africa, and is fourth in population after Asia,
Africa, and Europe. North and South America are collectivelly known as the Americas.
North America and South America are popularly accepted as having been named after
Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci by the German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller.
Vespucci was the first European to suggest that the Americas were not the East Indies, but
a new world previously undiscovered by Europeans. Vespuci was the first to discover
South America and the Amerique mountains of Central America, which connected his
discoveries to those of Christopher Columbus. The etymology is further complicated by
the need of cartographers to come up with a name that paralleled the feminine names of
the other continents (e.g. Europa, Asia, Africa etc.). The convention is to use the surname
for naming discoveries except in the case of royalty[citation needed] and so a derivation
from "Amerigo Vespucci" may be problematic.
The second and less generally accepted theory is that the continents are named after an
English merchant named Richard Amerike from Bristol, who is believed to have financed
John Cabot's voyage of discovery from England to Newfoundland in 1497. A minutely
explored belief that has been advanced is that America was named for a Spanish sailor
bearing the ancient Visigothic name of 'Amairick'. Another is that the name is rooted in
an American Indian language. [2]
Geography and extent

Further information: Geography of North America

North America occupies the northern portion of the landmass generally referred to as the
New World, the Western Hemisphere, the Americas, or simply America (which is
sometimes considered a single continent[2][3][4] and North America a subcontinent).[5]
North America's only land connection is to South America at the narrow Isthmus of
Panama. (Geopolitically, all of Panama—including the segment east of the Panama Canal
in the isthmus—is often considered a part of North America alone.) According to some
authorities, North America begins not at the Isthmus of Panama but at the Isthmus of
Tehuantepec, Mexico with the intervening region called Central America (or Middle
America if the Caribbean is included) and resting on the Caribbean Plate. Before the
Central American isthmus was raised, the region had been underwater. The islands of the
West Indies delineate a submerged former land bridge, which had connected North
America and South America via Florida and Venezuela.
The continental coastline is long and irregular. The Gulf of Mexico is the largest body of
water indenting the continent, followed by Hudson Bay. Others include the Gulf of Saint
Lawrence and the Gulf of California.
There are numerous islands off the continent’s coasts: principally, the Arctic Archipelago,
the Greater and Lesser Antilles, the Alexander Archipelago, and the Aleutian Islands.
Greenland, a Danish self-governing island and the world's largest, is on the same tectonic
plate (the North American Plate) and is part of North America geographically. Bermuda is
not part of the Americas, but is an oceanic island which was formed on the fissure of the
Mid-Atlantic Ridge over 100 million years ago. The nearest landmass to it is Cape
Hatteras, North Carolina, and it is often thought of as part of North America, especially
given its historical political and cultural ties to Virginia and other parts of the continent.
Physical geography

Sedimentary, volcanic, plutonic, metamorphic rock types of North America.

The vast majority of North America is on the North American Plate. Parts of California
and western Mexico form the partial edge of the Pacific Plate, with the two plates
meeting along the San Andreas fault. The southern portion of the continent and much of
the West Indies lie on the Caribbean Plate, while the Juan de Fuca and Cocos Plates
border the North American Plate on its western frontier.
The continent can be divided into four great regions (each of which contains many sub-
regions): the Great Plains stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian Arctic; the
geologically young, mountainous west, including the Rocky Mountains, the Great Basin,
California and Alaska; the raised but relatively flat plateau of the Canadian Shield in the
northeast; and the varied eastern region, which includes the Appalachian Mountains, the
coastal plain along the Atlantic seaboard, and the Florida peninsula. Mexico, with its long
plateaus and cordilleras, falls largely in the western region, although the eastern coastal
plain does extend south along the Gulf.
The western mountains are split in the middle, into the main range of the Rockies and the
coast ranges in California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia with the Great
Basin – a lower area containing smaller ranges and low-lying deserts – in between. The
highest peak is Denali in Alaska.
The United States Geographical Survey states that the geographic center of North
America is “6 miles west of Balta, Pierce County, North Dakota” at approximately 48°
10′North, 100° 10′West, approximately 15 miles (25 km) from Rugby, North Dakota. The
USGS further states that “No marked or monumented point has been established by any
government agency as the geographic center of either the 50 States, the conterminous
United States, or the North American continent.” Nonetheless, there is a 15 foot (4.5 m)
field stone obelisk in Rugby claiming to mark the center.

North America bedrock and North American cratons and North American
terrain. basement rocks. craton.

Human geography
The prevalent languages in North America are English, Spanish, and French. The term
Anglo-America is used to refer to the anglophone countries of the Americas: namely the
United States and Canada (where English and French are co-official), but also sometimes
Belize and parts of the Caribbean. Latin America refers to the other areas of the Americas
(generally south of the U.S.) where Romance languages derived from Latin predominate:
the other republics of Central America, Mexico, much of the Caribbean, and most of
South America.
The French language has historically played a significant role in North America and
remains a distinctive presence in some regions. Canada is officially bilingual; French is
the official language of the Canadian province of Quebec and is co-official with English
in the province of New Brunswick. Other French-speaking locales include the French
West Indies and Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, as well as the US state of Louisiana, where
French is also an official language. Haiti is included with this group based on past
historical association but Haitians speak Creole and French. Although the former
language is derived from French, it is not French.
Socially and culturally, North America presents a well-defined entity. Canada and the
United States have a shared culture and similar traditions as a result of both countries
being former British colonies. A common cultural and economic market has developed
between the two nations because of the strong economic and historical ties. Spanish-
speaking North America shares a common past as former Spanish colonies. In Central
American countries and Mexico where civilizations like the Maya developed, indigenous
people preserve traditions across modern boundaries. Central American and Spanish-
speaking Caribbean nations have historically had more in common due to geographical
proximity and the fact that, after winning independence from Spain, Mexico never took
part in an effort to build a Central American Union.
Economically, Canada and the United States are the wealthiest and most developed
nations in the continent; the countries of Central America and the Caribbean are much
less developed, while Mexico – a newly industrialized country – lies between these two
extremes. The most important trade blocs are the Caribbean Community and Common
Market (CARICOM), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the
recently signed Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) – the last of these
being an example of the economic integration sought by the nations of this subregion as a
way to improve their financial status.
Demographically, North America is a racially and ethnically diverse continent. Its three
main ethnic groups are Whites, Mestizos and Blacks (chiefly African-Americans and
Afro-Caribbeans).[citation needed] There is a significant minority of Amerindians and
Chinese among other less numerous groups.
Countries and territories

Political highlights of North America

North America is often divided into subregions but no universally accepted divisions
exist. Central America comprises the southern region of the continent, but its northern
terminus varies between sources. Geophysically, the region starts at the Isthmus of
Tehuantepec in Mexico (namely the Mexican states of Campeche, Chiapas, Tabasco,
Quintana Roo, and Yucatán [1]). The United Nations geoscheme includes Mexico in
Central America; conversely, the European Union excludes both Mexico and Belize from
the area. Geopolitically, Mexico is frequently not reckoned in Central America. [2]
Northern America is used to refer to the northern countries and territories of North
America: Canada, the United States, Greenland, Bermuda, and St. Pierre and Miquelon.
They are often considered distinct from the southern portion of the Americas, which
largely comprise Latin America. The term Middle America is sometimes used to
collectively refer to Mexico, the nations of Central America, and the Caribbean.
Population Population
Country or Area
(1 July 2005 density Capital
territory with flag (km²)
est.) (per km²)
Anguilla (UK) . . 129.9 The Valley
Antigua and Barbuda . . 155.1 St. John's
Aruba (Netherlands)[3] . . 370.8 Oranjestad
Bahamas . . 21.6 Nassau
Barbados . . 647.9 Bridgetown
Belize . . 12.2 Belmopan
Bermuda (UK) . . 1233.3 Hamilton
British Virgin Islands (UK) . . 148.0 Road Town
Canada . . 3.3 Ottawa
Cayman Islands (UK) . . 169.0 George Town
Costa Rica . . 78.6 San José
Cuba . . 102.4 Havana
Dominica . . 91.6 Roseau
Dominican Republic . . 183.7 Santo Domingo
El Salvador . . 318.7 San Salvador
Greenland (Denmark) . . 0.026 Nuuk
Grenada . . 260.2 St. George's
Guadeloupe (France) . . 252.1 Basse-Terre
Guatemala . . 134.6 Guatemala City
Haiti . . 292.7 Port-au-Prince
Honduras . . 62.2 Tegucigalpa
Jamaica . . 248.6 Kingston
Martinique (France) . . 393.5 Fort-de-France
Mexico . . 53.8 Mexico City
Montserrat (UK) . . 91.6
Navassa Island (USA) . . 0 —
Netherlands Antilles
. . 229.1 Willemstad
Nicaragua . . 42.2 Managua
Panama[5] . . 47.3 Panama City
Puerto Rico (USA) . . 430.2 San Juan
Saint Kitts and Nevis . . 149.3 Basseterre
Saint Lucia . . 270.0 Castries
Saint-Pierre and Miquelon
. . 29.0 Saint-Pierre
Saint Vincent and the
. . 302.1 Kingstown
Trinidad and Tobago[3] . . 212.3 Port of Spain
Turks and Caicos
. . 47.8 Cockburn Town
United States of Washington,
. . 30.7
America[6] D.C.
U.S. Virgin Islands (USA) . . 308.8 Charlotte Amalie
Total . . 21.0
^ Encyclopaedia Britannica, "Central America"
^ The American Heritage Dictionary, "Central America"
^ a b c Depending on definitions, Aruba, Netherlands Antilles, Panama, and Trinidad and
Tobago have territory in one or both of North and South America.
^ Due to ongoing activity of the Soufriere Hills volcano beginning 1995, much of
Plymouth, Montserrat's de jure capital, was destroyed and government offices relocated
to Brades.
^ Panama is generally considered a transcontinental country in Central America (UN
region) and South America; population and area figures are for North American portion
only, west of the Panama Canal.
^ Includes the US state of Hawaii, which is distant from the North American landmass in
the Pacific Ocean and is, thus, commonly included with the other territories of Oceania.
The term North America may mean different things to different people in the world
according to the context. Usage other than that of the entire continent includes:
In English, North America is often used to refer to the United States and Canada
exclusively.[7] Alternatively, usage may include Mexico[8] (as with North American Free
Trade Agreement) and other entities.[9]
In Latin America, Iberia, and some other parts of Europe, North America usually
designates a subcontinent of the Americas (e.g., subcontinente in Spanish) containing
Canada, the U.S., and Mexico, and often Greenland, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, and
See also
Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
North America
Americas (terminology)
United States
History of North America
Discoverer of the Americas
Economy of North America
European colonization of the Americas
^ Encyclopaedia Britannica, "Central America"
^ The American Heritage Dictionary, "Central America"
^ a b c Depending on definitions, Aruba, Netherlands Antilles, Panama, and Trinidad and
Tobago have territory in one or both of North and South America.
^ Due to ongoing activity of the Soufriere Hills volcano beginning 1995, much of
Plymouth, Montserrat's de jure capital, was destroyed and government offices relocated
to Brades.
^ Panama is generally considered a transcontinental country in Central America (UN
region) and South America; population and area figures are for North American portion
only, west of the Panama Canal.
^ Includes the US state of Hawaii, which is distant from the North American landmass in
the Pacific Ocean and is, thus, commonly included with the other territories of Oceania.
^ Burchfield, R. W., ed. 2004. "America." Fowler's Modern English Usage (ISBN 0-19-
861021-1) New York: Oxford University Press, p. 48 -- quotation reads: "the term 'North
America' is mostly used to mean the United States and Canada together. Countries to the
south of the United States are described as being in Central America (Mexico, Nicaragua,
etc.) or South America (Brazil, Argentina, etc.)"; see also: McArthur, Tom. 1992. "North
American." The Oxford Companion to the English Language (ISBN 0-19-214183-X)
New York: Oxford University Press, p. 707. See also [1]
^ the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: refers to "Three nations, on the
same continent"
^ Countries of North America: includes Bermuda, Canada, Mexico, St. Pierre and
Miquelon, and the United States
^ In Ibero-America, North America is considered a subcontinent containing Canada, the
U.S., Mexico, Greenland, Bermuda and Saint-Pierre and Miquelon."Norteamérica
(Mexican version)"/(Spaniard version). Encarta Online Encyclopedia.
"North America"/"Central America". The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. 2001-6. New
York: Columbia University Press.
"North America"/"Central America". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2006. Chicago:
Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
UN Statistics Division: Composition of macro geographical (continental) regions,
geographical sub-regions, and selected economic and other groupings
GeoHive: The population of continents, regions and countries
"North America"/ "Central America". MSN Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2006.
American Heritage Dictionaries, North America and Central America
Houghton Mifflin Company, "North America"
WordNet Princeton University: Central America
Crystal Reference Encyclopedia, "North America"
External links
http://www.earth-puzzle.com clickable map with links to related Wikipedia articles
This North America map site includes a political map and a relief map of North America.
Continents of the world

Africa- Eurasia
America Oceania

Africa Antarctica Asia Australia Europe N. America S. America

Geological supercontinents
Gondwana · Laurasia · Pangaea · Pannotia · Proto-Gondwana · Proto-Laurasia ·
Rodinia · Columbia · Kenorland · Ur · Vaalbara

Historical continents
Arctica · Asiamerica · Atlantica · Avalonia · Baltica · Cimmeria · Congo craton ·
Euramerica · Kalahari Desert · Kazakhstania · Laurentia · Siberia · South China · Ur

Mythical and
Submerged continents theorised continents Possible future continents
Kerguelen Plateau · Zealandia Atlantis · Lemuria · Pangaea Ultima · Amasia
Mu · Terra Australis

Regions of the world

Central · Austral
Eastern · asia ·
Northern Melane
Africa · Ocea sia ·
Southern nia Micron
· esia ·
Western Polynes
Amer North · ia
icas Central · Asia
South · Pacific ·
Northern Othe Far
· r East ·
Middle · Middle
Caribbea East

Anglo · Arctic ·
Latin Polar Antarcti
Central · c
Eastern · World ·
Northern Arctic ·
· Atlantic
Southern Ocea ·
Asia · ns Indian ·
Southeas Pacific ·
tern · Souther
Southwe n
st /
Central ·
Eastern ·
See also Continents of the world
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du Nord
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James Trefil. Copyright © 2002 by Houghton Mifflin
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About "North America":

why do people call the United states "America"? some people may say.. because we are
United states of AMERICA but mexico is also called United AMERICAN States...

Does anyone know how we in here the US are the one's that got the rights to be called
Americans? We are "part" of North America-What about Central America or...

America, also called the Western Continent or the New World, consists of three main
divisions: North America, Central America, and South America. The first of...

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