Table of Contents Show
- Early Names for America
- Indigenous Names for America
- European Exploration and Naming of America
- Naming of America by Different European Countries
- Conclusion: The Evolution of America’s Name.
- Frequently Asked Questions
Early Names for America
Before the name ‘America’, land was known as Vinland, Terra Nova, and New France. These names reflected the European explorers’ cultural influences and the fragmented nature of early exploration and colonization.
Indigenous peoples had their own languages, cultures, and ways of naming their lands. Many tribes had strong connections to specific regions which went beyond mere geography.
Learning about early American names is essential to understanding the continent’s complex history. It allows us to acknowledge multiple perspectives and recognize the injustices committed against Indigenous people. This encourages reconciliation by providing better understandings of existing societal issues and inequalities experienced today. Before Columbus, the Native Americans simply called it ‘Home’, since they weren’t interested in claiming land they didn’t own.
Indigenous Names for America
Indigenous Appellations for America
Various indigenous communities had different names for America before the Europeans arrived. These names were intrinsically linked with the culture, geography, and beliefs of each community.
For example, the Aztecs called it “Aztlan,” meaning “the place of whiteness.” The Inca people referred to America as “Tawantinsuyu,” which translates to “The Four Regions.” The Cherokee had a particular designation for America, “Aniyvwiya,” which means “the land where the people dwell.”
Interestingly, some indigenous communities did not have a name for America, as their worldview did not include the concept of nation-states. Instead, they viewed the land as a sacred place that has always existed.
The cultural significance of these names goes beyond linguistic differences. Each name embeds within itself the community’s unique perspective of the world and their place in it, thus helping to preserve the cultural heritage that Europeans attempted to erase.
Before America was a thing, the indigenous people had some pretty cool names for this land, like Turtle Island and Great Spirit’s Belly Button.
Examples of Indigenous Names for America
Indigenous people name places to express identity and authority. It also links their culture to their heritage. There are many examples. In Nahuatl, Tlaxcallan means “Land of Cornfields,” Tenochtitlan translates to “Place of the Cactus Fruit”. Kichwasuyu is the Inca’s name for Peru. It means “Land of the Four Quarters” in Quechua.
476 million Indigenous people speak over 7000 languages, despite colonial assimilation and language loss. A National Geographic study found that before Europeans arrived, there were at least 4,000 nations across the Americas. In Central West Mexico alone, there were 120 viable agricultural systems!
It looks like Europeans took the ‘finders keepers’ game too far when they named a continent after an Italian explorer who was lost.
European Exploration and Naming of America
The History Behind America’s Naming
European explorers first arrived on the shores of the continent we now know as America in the 15th century. The land was initially referred to as the New World or the Western Hemisphere. However, over time, it was named after Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci. This was despite the fact that he never set foot on the mainland and believed he had discovered a new continent. The name America was first used on a map created by German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller in 1507.
The Arrival of Spanish and English Colonizers
The Spanish were the first to settle in America, claiming territory in Florida and the Southwest. However, it was the English who ultimately came to dominate the eastern seaboard. In 1607, they established the first permanent English settlement at Jamestown, Virginia. By the 1800s, America had become a vast and thriving nation of states, shaped by its history of European exploration and colonization.
Differences in Names Across the Continent
As America expanded westward, different regions took on their own names. Some areas were named after physical features, such as the Rocky Mountains or the Great Lakes. Others were named after local tribes or historical events, such as the Louisiana Purchase. This diversity can be seen in the present-day United States, with each state having its own unique name and history.
The Legend of John Smith and Pocahontas
One of the most famous legends of early American settlement is that of John Smith and Pocahontas. According to the story, Pocahontas, the daughter of the Algonquin chief, saved the Englishman’s life from execution. She went on to marry another Englishman and become a symbol of peace between Native Americans and colonizers. Although the historical accuracy of the story is debated, it remains a beloved part of America’s early history.
Looks like Columbus found more than just a new route to India – he also stumbled upon a brand new identity crisis for the land he called ‘New World’.
Christopher Columbus and Naming of America
Christopher Columbus made a significant contribution to the exploration and naming of the Americas. He came across an island in the Caribbean Sea, which he named San Salvador. Later, he explored Cuba and Hispaniola, and found a Spanish presence in the region. After learning about the Taino people, Columbus assumed he had discovered a new land outside of Asia. This created interest from other European explorers who began mapping out this unknown territory.
Because of Columbus’ voyages, this area was named after Amerigo Vespucci. It was originally named the New World, but it was changed to honor Vespucci as he wrote extensively about his discoveries and confirmed these were not just unexplored parts of Asia. Despite his successes and contributions to geography and cartography, there has been discussion over why Vespucci merits having a continent named after him.
It is also necessary to mention the disastrous consequences of Columbus’ travels for Indigenous populations. Europeans brought violence, enslavement, and disease outbreaks that killed many people.
Pro Tip: History can show us how language and culture are impacted by power dynamics. The naming of America displays Eurocentric views on discovery and conquest, showing how politics are embedded in names.
Amerigo Vespucci and Naming of America
Amerigo Vespucci was an Italian explorer who sailed the Americas between 1497 and 1504. He observed that these lands weren’t linked to Asia, rather a new continent! This led him to suggest the name “America” in honor of explorer Christopher Columbus.
Gradually, this name gained acceptance over other names for the continent. However, his involvement in naming America became controversial, with some doubting his first-to-explore claims. Nevertheless, his contributions are undeniable and shaped our perception of the region today.
Naming of America by Different European Countries
In early times, before America was termed America, different European countries named the new land in their own way. Let’s explore the various names given to this continent in history.
For instance, the Spanish referred to it as ‘Las Indias’ or ‘The Indies,’ while the French named it ‘Nouvelle-France’ or ‘New France.’ The English termed it as ‘The New World,’ and the Portuguese named it ‘Terra Nova’ or ‘New Land.’
Here’s a table depicting the various names given by different European nations to the new continent:
|Country||Name Given to America|
|England||The New World|
Interestingly, the continent was named after an Italian explorer, Amerigo Vespucci. However, he was not the first to discover it. The continent was also referred to as ‘Vinland’ by the Vikings who landed on it earlier.
If you’re planning to name anything, remember that the name should be unique, easily pronounced, and memorable. Name it after a famous explorer to make it more exotic and appealing.
Looks like the Spanish didn’t get the memo about naming #AmericaFirst.
Spanish Naming of America
The Spanish named many places in the Western Hemisphere. They named coastal regions ‘bayou country’ and Louisiana after King Louis XIV. This was in 1521 and they called the area ‘New Spain’. It included present-day Mexico, the Southwestern US, and most of Central America. The Spaniards gave Catholic names like ‘California’ and ‘Florida’.
Fun Fact: The name ‘America‘ comes from explorer Amerigo Vespucci, who explored the Americas in the late 15th century. The French weren’t so lucky though – they got stuck with the name ‘New France‘!
French Naming of America
France’s perspective of America’s names is interesting and full of detail. Explorers such as Giovanni da Verrazzano named present-day Carolinas and New York after French kings. Jacques Cartier’s claim of North America in 1534 was significant.
Colonialism, Exploration and Influence
French colonialism affected America’s nomenclature. In the 17th century, Jesuit priests and missionaries called Michigan ‘la mer douce’ or Sweetwater Sea due to its abundance of fresh water. Jacques Marquette also named rivers, like the Wisconsin River.
Sailors were ‘wild’; problems occurred
Jean Ribault sailed French people to Florida in the 1560s but then clashed with Spanish forces. He got lost at sea while sailing back home and many died from dehydration.
French Name Associations in America
Being an early explorer of North America, the French have lasting name connections in America today. Louisiana got its title from the sponsorship of King Louis XIV for exploration of the area. Perhaps future expeditions will uncover more relations between nations’ historical voyages and the names they gave to land masses! Discovering the creative Dutch name of ‘New Amsterdam’ is only the beginning!
Dutch Naming of America
The Dutch had a big part in the naming of America. They explored and settled New Netherland, which is now parts of New York, New Jersey, and Delaware. The Dutch named places like “New Amsterdam” (now Manhattan) and “Breukelen” (Brooklyn). But, “America” was not from the Dutch.
The Dutch still left their mark on America. For instance, Sinterklaas, a Dutch holiday figure, became Santa Claus in America. And, they brought food such as cookies (“koekjes”), waffles (“wafels”), and donuts (“oliebollen”) to America.
The Dutch did more than just name America. They made an impact on its culture and history. Maybe, by looking into their influence, we can see other paths that American history could have taken.
To honor the Dutch, we could make public statues or establish days to celebrate their role in our society. This would help understand and appreciate the contributions from different communities to make America the diverse nation it is today.
Portuguese Naming of America
The Portuguese shaped the discovery and colonization of the Americas. They used Portuguese Naming Conventions to name regions, cities, and landmarks. This naming was based on their culture, language, and context. For example, Brazil was named after a type of wood.
Additionally, Portugal named places after their saints. Such as Sao Paulo (Saint Paul), Santa Maria (Saint Mary), and Salvador (Savior). These names had religious significance for the Portuguese, who were staunch Catholics.
Other European countries also named America. Spain mostly used Catholic Saints, while England named its colonies after royalty or geographical features – like New Plymouth or Virginia.
From Christopher Columbus to the Kardashians, America’s name has really come a long way!
Conclusion: The Evolution of America’s Name.
America’s name evolved over time. The original inhabitants called it ‘Turtle Island‘ and ‘Cemanahuac‘. Christopher Columbus named it the ‘New World‘. In 1507, a man called Waldseemüller coined the term ‘America‘.
Foreign lands were often renamed upon discovery. Present-day America was referred to as ‘Terra Nova‘, ‘Mundus Novus‘, and ‘Vinlandia‘.
Colonialism from Europe led to a mix of cultures and languages in North and South America. This is why we now call it America.
To be culturally sensitive, we should use respectful language when discussing ‘What Was America Called Before America?‘. We should appreciate the country’s heritage and legacy.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What was America called before it was named America?
Before it was named America, the landmass was known by various names such as Turtle Island, Vinland, and Terra Incognita.
2. Who named America?
America was named after Amerigo Vespucci, an Italian explorer who mapped out the coastline of South America. The name was first used on a map published in 1507.
3. Did Columbus name America?
No, Columbus did not name America. He believed that he had reached Asia when he arrived in the Caribbean in 1492, and he referred to the natives he encountered as “Indians.”
4. What did Native Americans call America?
The names Native Americans used to refer to the land varied depending on their tribe and language. For example, the Sioux people called the land Mni Sota Makoce, meaning “land of the cloudy water,” which is now the modern state of Minnesota.
5. Were there any other explorers who explored the Americas before Columbus?
Yes, there were other explorers who explored the Americas before Columbus. For example, the Vikings led by Leif Erikson established a settlement in modern-day Newfoundland, Canada, around the year 1000 A.D.
6. When did America become the official name of the land?
The name “America” wasn’t officially adopted as the name of the land until the 18th century, when it became widely accepted as the name for the United States and the wider continent.