America is neither a country nor a continent.
When America is used with an ‘s’, ‘Americas’ refers to all countries that form part of North and South American continent.
People of this region are referred to as ‘Americans’. There is a popular misconception that ‘America’ or ‘American’ refers only to the United States and its citizens, respectively. That is incorrect.
Early references to ‘America’ can be traced back to ‘Cosmographiae Introducio’ written by Matthias Ringmann in 1507, who used the term along with ‘Amerigen’ to refer to South America. Later in 1538, it was used by Gerard Mercator to refer to both North and South America.
However, in the absence of any official attribution, people outside the United States, but part of either continent, often refer to themselves as American.
Here, it must also be said that frequent usage of the term ‘America’ or ‘American’, especially within the United States, has de facto come to refer to the United States and its citizens, respectively. The term ‘Americas’ commonly refers to the continent.
Another common belief is that North America comprises United States, Canada and Mexico only. As per United Nations, the number of recognized countries, not including territories and/or dependencies, in the North American continent is 23. The countries are:
1. United States of America
4. Antigua and Barbuda
9. Costa Rica
10. Dominican Republic
12. El Salvador
20. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
21. Saint Kitts and Nevis
22. Saint Lucia
23. Trinidad and Tobago
The 12 countries that form part of the South American continent are: