American (word)

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The meaning of the word American in the English language varies, according to the historical, geographical, and political context in which it is used. It is derived from America, a term originally denoting all of the New World (also called "the Americas"). In some expressions it retains this Pan-American sense, but its usage has evolved over time and, for various historical reasons, the word came to denote people or things specifically from the United States of America. In modern English, "American" generally refers to the United States, and in the U.S. itself this usage is almost universal, with any other use of the term requiring specification of the subject under discussion.[1] However, this ambiguity has been the source of controversy, particularly among Latin Americans and Canadians, who feel that using the term solely for the United States misappropriates it.[2][3]

The word can be used as both a noun and an adjective. In adjectival use, it is generally understood to mean "of or relating to the United States"; for example, "Elvis Presley was an American singer" or "the American President gave a speech today." In noun form, it generally means U.S. citizen or national (see Names for U.S. citizens). The noun is rarely used in American English to refer to people not connected to the United States.[1] When used with a grammatical qualifier, the adjective American can mean "of or relating to the Americas," as in Latin American or Indigenous American. Less frequently, the adjective can take this meaning without a qualifier, as in "American Spanish dialects and pronunciation differ by country", or the name of the Organization of American States. A third use of the term pertains specifically to the indigenous peoples of the Americas, for instance, "In the 16th century, many Americans died from imported diseases during the European conquest".


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