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Naming of America

The earliest known use of the name America for the continents of the Americas dates from 1507. It appears on a globe and a large map created by the german cartograph Martin Waldseemüller. An accompanying book Cosmographiae Introductio explains that the name was derived from the forename of the explorer Amerigo Vespucci, via the Latinisation Americus Vespucius and taking the feminine form America. Amerigo is a form of the German name Haimirich, meaning 'ruler of the Home', from 'haim' (home) and 'rich' (powerful).

A few alternative theories have been proposed, but none of them have any widespread acceptance.

One alternative is that America is derived from Richard Amerike, a merchant from Bristol, England who is believed to have financed John Cabot's voyage of discovery to Newfoundland in 1497. Waldseemüller's maps appear to incorporate information from the early British journeys to North America. The theory holds that a variant of Amerike's name appeared on an early British map (of which no copies survive) and this was the true inspiration for Waldseemüller. Authors who have written about this theory include Ian Wilson, Peter Macdonald and Rodney Broome.