Why is it called America, not Columbusia?

Columbus, America

American place names can sound pretty confusing even to native English speakers. From Philadelphia (Greek for “loving brother”) to Chicago (Algonquian Fox for “place of the wild onion”), the map of America is an etymological hodge-podge. For a clear example, take three adjacent states in New England. Vermont is an inverted, rough translation of the French for “green mountain,” mont vert. Massachusetts is derived from the name of the Native American people who lived in the area, the Algonquian Massachusett. The word meant “at the large hill.” New Hampshire comes from a county in southern England. Why do we call a turkey turkey? Learn about the history of nation’s favorite bird, the turkey, here.

But what about America itself? Why aren’t the continents of North and South America called “Columbusia” after Christopher Columbus? The word America comes from a lesser-known navigator and explorer, Amerigo Vespucci. Who made the decision? A cartographer.

Like Columbus, Vespucci traveled to the New World (first in 1499 and again in 1502). Unlike Columbus, Vespucci wrote about it. Vespucci’s accounts of his travels were published in 1502 and 1504 and were widely read in Europe. Columbus was also hindered because he thought he had discovered another route to Asia; he didn’t realize America was a whole new continent. Vespucci, however, realized that America was not contiguous with Asia. He was also the first to call it the New World, or Novus Mundus in Latin, in his books.

With the discovery of this “New World,” maps were being redrawn all the time. No one really knew what land was where or how big it was. Because of this confusion, maps from the 1500s are incredibly inaccurate and contradictory. (They also often feature drawings of mythical sea creatures.) In 1507, a German cartographer named Martin Waldseemüller was drawing a map of the world–a very serious map. He called it the Universalis Cosmographia, or Universal Cosmography. Comprised of 12 wooden panels, it was eight feet wide and four-and-a-half feet tall. He based his drawings of the New World on Vespucci’s published travelogues. All countries were seen as feminine (like her lady Liberty today), so Waldseemüller used a feminine Latinized of Amerigo to name the new continents “America.” Cartographers tended to copy one another’s choices, so Columbus was left off the map. The rest is history.

Today, an original of Waldseemüller’s map is permanently on display at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

What do you think of America’s unlikely origin?

school briefs; ORONO; District wins School of Character award.(NEWS)

Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN) June 4, 2008 | Relerford, Patrice Byline: Patrice Relerford; Staff Writer ORONO District wins School of Character award The Orono School District earned the state’s first-ever Minnesota School of Character award during an awards ceremony at the State Capitol.

The Center for Academic Excellence and state Department of Education sponsored the event last month to recognize schools with exemplary character-education programs.

Orono received an $86,760 grant from the state Department of Education in 2006 for staff training and materials to develop a more comprehensive approach to its Character Counts program. It’s rooted in principles developed by the Los Angeles-based Joseph and Edna Josephson Institute of Ethics. chanhassenhighschool.org chanhassen high school

Students in the west-suburban district have been exposed to character-building principles at various grade levels for more than six years. Recent examples include a bullying prevention program at Orono Middle School and student leadership initiatives at Orono High School.

For more information about the award or the Character Counts program, visit www.orono.k12.mn.us.

CHASKA Chanhassen joins Lake Conference Chanhassen High School will join the Lake Conference when the school opens in Fall 2009, school officials said.

The Chaska School District’s second high school was accepted unanimously by the Lake Conference executive committee last month, district officials said. Chaska High School also will remain in the Lake Conference.

Secondary schools in the Bloomington, Burnsville, Eden Prairie, Lakeville and Rosemount-Eagan-Apple Valley school districts are also Lake Conference members. Chanhassen High’s acceptance makes it the league’s 12th member school. in our site chanhassen high school

For more information about activities at Chaska and Chanhassen high schools, visit www.district112.org.

WEST METRO AREA Solstice fundraiser for Teens Alone Teens Alone will host its “Surf’s Up” fundraiser to celebrate the longest day of the year from 7:30 to 10 p.m. Saturday, June 21, at the St. Louis Park Aquatics Park, 3700 Monterey Drive. Tickets cost $3 per person or $7 per family. Children age 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult. All proceeds benefit Teens Alone, a Hopkins nonprofit agency that provides free crisis counseling and referral services to west-metro youth and their families in partnership with the Eden Prairie, Hopkins, Orono, St. Louis Park and Wayzata school districts.

At least 150 west-metro youth were homeless last year and 250 more were in housing crises, according to Teens Alone.

For more information about the event or Teens Alone, call 952-988-TEEN (8336) or visit www.teensalone.org.

BLOOMINGTON School registration deadline approaches Bloomington School District residents can register students for kindergarten through fifth grade for the 2008-09 school year at their neighborhood schools through June 9.

After that date, registrations must be completed in the assistant principal’s office at the Bloomington Educational Services Center, 1350 W. 106th St., Bloomington.

Middle and high school registration is conducted at individual schools throughout the year.

For more information about Bloomington School District’s registration process, visit www.bloomington.k12.mn.us or call 952-681-6478.

Relerford, Patrice


  1. Ruby -  February 24, 2014 - 6:32 pm

    Disclosed I think ur the one bad at spelling

  2. Tours Info -  January 22, 2014 - 8:35 am

    Having read this I thought it was really enlightening. I appreciate
    you finding the time and energy to put this information together.
    I once again find myself personally spending a lot of time both reading and leaving comments.
    But so what, it was still worth it!

  3. solei -  November 18, 2013 - 4:27 pm

    the name came from amerigo vespucci i got it from my social studies book :p

  4. disclosed -  November 12, 2013 - 12:41 pm

    u al ar terable at speling

  5. KAMAL ELMAHDI -  October 16, 2013 - 8:08 pm

    America had been named after the Italian Geographer from Toscacany (Toscana).
    Amerigo Vespucci.

  6. Siobhan -  October 15, 2013 - 7:36 pm

    Get over it people – there is not an existing country that has not been invaded by others down through history. The so-called native Americans came from somewhere else, too, in their beginning here. Most were savages fighting one another before Europeans got here. They didn’t just kill, they tortured and killed men, women and children. Noble savages?

  7. Lily -  October 15, 2013 - 1:58 pm

    Columbus never actually killed any Indians, and infecting them with smallpox was not on purpose. The whole “smallpox blankets” idea is totally false.

  8. svenjamin -  October 15, 2013 - 9:03 am

    Please read “Pocahontas” by Neil Young

    Aurora borealis
    The icy sky at night
    Paddles cut the water
    In a long and hurried flight
    From the white man
    to the fields of green
    And the homeland
    we’ve never seen.

    They killed us in our tepee
    And they cut our women down
    They might have left some babies
    Cryin’ on the ground
    But the firesticks
    and the wagons come
    And the night falls
    on the setting sun.

    They massacred the buffalo
    Kitty corner from the bank
    The taxis run across my feet
    And my eyes have turned to blanks
    In my little box
    at the top of the stairs
    With my Indian rug
    and a pipe to share.

    I wish a was a trapper
    I would give thousand pelts
    To sleep with Pocahontas
    And find out how she felt
    In the mornin’
    on the fields of green
    In the homeland
    we’ve never seen.

    And maybe Marlon Brando
    Will be there by the fire
    We’ll sit and talk of Hollywood
    And the good things there for hire
    And the Astrodome
    and the first tepee
    Marlon Brando, Pocahontas and me
    Marlon Brando, Pocahontas and me

  9. Mary -  October 15, 2013 - 8:07 am

    I was once married to a man with the last name Colon. He told me he was related to Columbus and that Columbus’s real name was Cristobal Colon. And that is why money in
    Costa Rico is called colones. And what about the word colony?

  10. Mike -  October 15, 2013 - 7:42 am

    Wow! What a discussion!

  11. escocesrojo -  October 15, 2013 - 4:51 am

    Spanish can use “estadounidenses” or “United Statians” for USA citizens.

  12. lol man 57 -  October 14, 2013 - 7:46 pm

    how r u @lauren lol i just did a shout out
    /\ dat is u up dere doe so what u peeps wanto dp peeps lol bye yo

  13. Jonathan -  October 14, 2013 - 7:14 pm


  14. Jose Renato T Silva -  October 14, 2013 - 7:03 pm


    Colombo is his spanish name. And we have a spanish country called Colombia. In the past, it was called The Great Colombia and it was a reference to America..

  15. unknown guyXD -  October 14, 2013 - 5:54 pm

    Learned this in 6th grade. Amerigo Vespucci…

  16. cookbook21 -  October 14, 2013 - 5:22 pm

    is it weird that I already knew that?

  17. dude -  October 14, 2013 - 5:06 pm

    that is messed up. we cellebrete the day we killes hundreds of people as a HOLIDAY

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