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I write legal marketing materials. Does the term 'America' signify Canada + USA + Mexico, etc. to readers abroad or will they know that I'm talking specifically about the USA?

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Related: Why are the United States often referred to as America? See @Kosmonaut's answer there for a good answer to this question. –  Callithumpian Jun 7 '11 at 11:43
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If you are writing anything legal, just say "The United States of America" instead of using a potentially ambiguous term. –  Matt Sep 25 '13 at 7:21
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7 Answers

It depends where you are writing for. In Europe, Asia and Oceania generally speaking yes, America denotes the USA unless otherwise qualified. However, in North and South America that is not the case, and in fact it would be rude to consider it so. Under those circumstances a more qualified term would be appropriate.

In Britain and Australia, the Wall Street Journal is an American newspaper, but in Canada it is a US newspaper.

EDIT: I should say it is always correct to say US. So the Wall Street Journal is also a US newspaper in Britain and Australia. So it is a safe default.

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This is simply not true. A Canadian would call the Wall Street Journal an American newspaper. It would not be confusing or rude to use America to refer to the US in North and South America. It is very common usage. However, I agree that using US is probably the safest route. –  KitFox Jun 7 '11 at 11:45
    
It is generally the folks who live south of the USA who have a big problem with "American". I won't venture a guess as to why, but that's what I've seen. –  T.E.D. Jun 7 '11 at 13:33
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In the UK, America is frequently used to refer to the USA. There is no ambiguity about it. –  Tristan r Feb 6 at 16:22
    
In Spain (part of Europe), "America" is ambiguous. –  Albertus Feb 6 at 16:36
    
Albertus, that's strange. –  Tristan r Feb 6 at 23:05
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"America" can be easily understood as to refer to the entire of North America, which includes the Canadians.

If you are referring to the U.S. specifically, just state "the U.S." to be on the safe side.

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As a resident in the middle of the USA (and extensive poster in international forums), I have never understood it that way. Perhaps this is how Canadians think of it? It seems the main folks I find who object to the use of "America" for USA are from the southern continent. So if it is meant to be more expansive than just the USA, it would logically include both continents. –  T.E.D. Jun 7 '11 at 13:38
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No, Canadians do not say "America" to refer to all of North America. –  broiyan Jun 7 '11 at 13:50
    
Just to note: North America also includes Mexico, Greenland, all of the Caribbean countries, and all of the "Latin" or "Central" American countries as well. It's not just the US and Canada. –  KitFox Jun 7 '11 at 19:59
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The safest mode to take would be to refer to the US as the US rather than just "America".

It's been my experience that most Canadians and Mexicans do not appreciate being referred to as "Americans" - even though they are North Americans, while some folks in South and Central America will call themselves "American" because the US isn't the only country on the continent and shouldn't be the only ones referred to as "American".

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I am a US citizen who lived in Brazil for 3 years. Some listeners would be confused (and my friends would poke fun) if I used "America" to refer to the U.S. without further qualification. That is, when referring to the U.S. in a conversation in South America, people there expect you to say "North America". In a familiar conversation there, "America" would be understood as South America. In a formal conversation, you qualify the context by calling it "South America". I've also lived in Europe for a few years. In both Europe and S.America, people use the term "United States" without hesitancy. –  mdisibio Feb 6 at 18:13
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I am in Spain and at work we have joint projects with teams in countries such as Uruguay, Argentina, USA, Chile and Venezuela. We refer to all of them as part of America. The use of "America" to refer to USA only is frowned upon by many, and often confusing. Use "USA" and you'll be safe.

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From the point of view of a Canadian: that should be "the Americas" to refer to all those countries. "America" is understood to mean only the U.S. and it is not frowned upon but nobody in Canada calls it that because it's better to say "U.S." (never U.S.A.). –  broiyan Jun 7 '11 at 13:49
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@broiyan: I am giving the perspective of Spain and, in my experience and very probably, a large segment of Europe. Over here, "The Americas" is a politically-correct euphemism often used in order to avoid making waves. It is not my intention to make a statement about how this is perceived in Canada, since I have no idea. –  CesarGon Jun 7 '11 at 14:01
    
Regardless of P.C., it seems a little precarious to refer to all of those countries as part of America (whether your referring to a country OR a continent), since four of the five are located on a different continent. –  TylerH Feb 6 at 16:35
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As the variety of answers here shows, "America" is a somewhat ambiguous term. If you are dealing with legal matters, being ambiguous is probably bad. I would be specific: if you mean the US, say "the US."

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Just to clarify 1 or 2 cooments: 1-North America and South America are not 2 contients and you are skipping the Caribean and Central America. These areas are known as America( the continent), why? simply due to the fact that Americo Vespucio( from Spain ) did a research about where Colon went using the moon and the Stars, he got to a conclusion that Colon was in a new world and the German Martín Waldseemüller honoring him( Vespucio ) called America to this continent.

2-Using the point number 1, I can say U.S.A it is not America, but hystorically speaking they have used that term for themselves because of lag of cultural identity( U.S.A it is the country with more immigrants in the world since the 1800´s), actually if we reffer America to the people from the U.S., the real "Americans" would be the tribes and indians who were living already ther before the !Immigrants¡ arrived from Europe and Asia.

By saying this, and answering to the original question: Yes!, it signify to North America, Central America and South America as America.

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In Canada the word America means specifically the USA. In Germany (if not all of Europe), when one says America, they are referring to North (or sometimes North and South) America.

Which to me as a Canadian living in Germany, is extremely exasperating.

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In German, Amerika can mean both the US and North America, and more often than not it actually is the US that is meant and not the entire continent. South America is pretty much never included at all. But at any rate, the question is about English. –  RegDwigнt Feb 6 at 16:11
    
Actually, living here in Germany, I can confirm - at least in southern Germany - that in using Amerika/America the people are referring to N. America. And user9650 was talking about readers 'abroad'. As there are an awful lot of Germans (and other Europeans) who read English in Europe (whether or not their mother tongue) I felt the answer wasn't misplaced. –  Yokel Feb 6 at 16:51
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protected by RegDwigнt Feb 6 at 16:12

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