Italian influence on the naming of “America” – #Amerigo Vespucci

Waldseemuller map closeup of America from Wikimedia commons
Waldseemuller map closeup of America from Wikimedia commons

I had always heard that America had been named after the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci, but I didn’t know how it had happened that the continent was named after him. So, I decided to investigate a bit and see if I could find out more details on this subject. The story is actually pretty interesting.

Was the continent of America named after Amerigo Vespucci?

The answer is widely considered to be “Yes”. According to one of the articles I read on this subject, in 1507 when Martin Waldseemüller was making a map of the world, he used Vespucci’s accounts to help with the map of South America and named it America after Vespucci. As both North and South America were new continents to the Europeans they both quickly became the Americas and separated as North and South America

Who was Amerigo Vespucci?

Amerigo Vespucci was born March 9, 1451, in Florence, Italy. He was an Italian explorer, financier, navigator and cartographer who first demonstrated that Brazil and the West Indies did not represent Asia’s eastern outskirts as initially conjectured from Columbus’ voyages, but rather constituted an entirely separate landmass hitherto unknown to Afro-Eurasians.

How was he involved with the discovery of America?

On May 10, 1497, he embarked on his first voyage. On his third and most successful voyage, he discovered present-day Rio de Janeiro and Rio de la Plata.

Why is the name of the continent America and not Amerigo?

Vespucci Latinized his name as Americus Vespucius and the feminine form of Americus in Latin is America. The Latin names for all the continents used the feminine form, Europe being Europa (also the Latin name of a Phoenician Princess for whom Europe is named after) for example

What drove Amerigo Vespucci to become an explorer?

In the late 1490s, Vespucci became affiliated with merchants who supplied Christopher Columbus on his later voyages. In 1496, after Columbus returned from his voyage to America, Vespucci had the opportunity to meet him in Seville. The conversation piqued Vespucci’s interest in seeing the world with his own eyes. By the late 1490s, Vespucci’s business was struggling to make a profit anyway. Vespucci knew that King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain were willing to fund subsequent voyages by other explorers. Then in his 40s, Vespucci, enticed by the prospect of fame, decided to leave his business behind and become an explorer.

Ci sentiamo presto, Lina

I used these articles to frame the answers to the above questions. See these articles for more details on this topic:

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