Hello everyone! It’s Tuesday and there’s a new Fun Etymology waiting for you fresh from the HLC Etymology Factory.
This week we’ll explore our next-to-last country name (for now), homeland of our own Rebekah: “America”!
America is one of the most recent places to have been named, so its etymology is known for certain. It is not named after a tribe or some geographical feature, but after a person.
That person is the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci, who lived in the 15th century and was the first to recognise America as a new continent, and not just a collection of islands, which is what Christopher Columbus thought it was (too bad, Chris. But at least you get a country in South America named after you). The word “America” comes from a Latinisation of his name, “Americus”.
The name “Amerigo” itself is Germanic in origin, probably from Gothic “Amalrich”, or “work-ruler”. It survives in English today in the surname “Emmerich”.
Fun fact: if America were named after Amerigo Vespucci’s surname instead, we would have to talk about the United States of Vesputia!