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If you call a British citizen a Briton, a French citizen a Frenchman and a citizen of Canada a Canadian...

and considering that someone from Asia is and Asian and someone from Africa is a African.

What do you call someone from the United States of America?

It can't be an American, as most Americans live outside the United States in the rest of North and South America.

If there is an official term, will people understand you when you use it?

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    Yes, it can be "an American". And it actually is. As you well know.
    – RegDwigнt
    Feb 1, 2017 at 10:37
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    This is genuine question, from a 17 year old South African. The intention is not inflammatory. We use 'American' here for people in th U.S. too, but I wanted a more accurate term as it is acknowledged that the U.S. is not the only American Country. No offense was intended.
    – Mirte
    Feb 1, 2017 at 11:00
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    It's a touchy subject, and the question was closed to avoid discussions. You have five answers, and not one has said using American is wrong, or inappropriate. If you say the word Americans, the British will say people from the US, while the rest of Europe will also think the same but talk about S.American citizens.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 1, 2017 at 11:05
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    There is no short, unambiguous colloquial English term, nor is there an "official" one shorter than "citizen of the USA". I understand that some South Americans use something like "estadian" (don't know the precise spelling), as meaning "someone from los Estados Unidos", but that doesn't translate very well.
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 1, 2017 at 13:12

5 Answers 5

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Use U.S. citizen if you want to be more specific:

  • Citizenship identifies an individual's national origin. It defines his/her rights and responsibilities to that country (nationality). Most people have only one country of citizenship, but some can have dual nationality. U.S. citizens can be native-born, foreign-born, or naturalized. They owe their allegiance to the United States and are entitled to its protection.

From www.USA.gov

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  • Though I'm vaguely recalling that a few other countries have (perhaps briefly) called themselves "the United States of X" over the years.
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 1, 2017 at 13:14
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I have heard that people who live in South America also often refer to themselves as Americans. That's absolutely true. But when we're speaking, it's usually clear from the context which Americans we're talking about. However, if you do want to be specific, you can always say a citizen of the United States of America instead of an American.

Another possible way to differentiate the two groups of Americans would be to refer to them as either South Americans (Brazilians, Chileans, et cetera) and North Americans (U.S. Americans and Canadians).

But, to be perfectly honest, the term American has a well-established connotation that it means someone from the United States everywhere in the English-speaking world. So, in reality, you would simply say American to refer to someone from the U.S. and you would say Canadian, Brazilian or South American in all other cases.

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    Not at all what? What are you talking about? Did I ever say that Canadians were Americans? I said Canadians are North Americans. Feb 1, 2017 at 9:44
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    Can we please remember poor Mexico here! As far as I know Mexico and the rest of Central America are also part of North America...
    – Mirte
    Feb 1, 2017 at 9:56
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    @Chris Chris, telling Canadians that they are North Americans is not like telling Scots they are English, its like telling us we are Britons, which we are. Britain is the geographical entity, Scotland the political one, likewise North America and Canada.
    – Spagirl
    Feb 1, 2017 at 10:22
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    @Chris and where do you think the Kingdom of Great Britain got its name? From the island on which it is found: the Island of Great Britain. That is a geographical entity. You have shown how Great Britain is also a political entity, which is true, but how is Scotland a geographical entity?
    – phoog
    Feb 1, 2017 at 10:38
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    @Chris There is a perfectly acceptable definition of Britain as 'the island containing England, Wales, and Scotland', it's the 'kingdom' bit which makes it political and which is why I did not refer to the UK in this context..
    – Spagirl
    Feb 1, 2017 at 10:54
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Yes, American is still appropriate:

  1. a citizen of the U.S.

(source: Merriam-Webster)

From the context, it should be clear whether you mean just the U.S.A. or one or both continents.

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    Isn't America just one continent? Is it divided into two?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 1, 2017 at 10:21
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    @Mari-LouA In any world where Europe and Asia are two continents, dividing America into two (as we are taught here in North America, at least) seems far more natural than treating it as one. It's not even possible to drive between North and South America.
    – phoog
    Feb 1, 2017 at 10:23
  • @phoog let me get this clear, geography has never been my forte, so N.America is one continent, and S.America is a second continent. As for the driving analogy, does it hold? The UK is an island that only recently built the chunnel (with the French), but it's always been in Europe. What about Iceland? Is that its own continent? No, it isn't.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 1, 2017 at 10:27
  • @Mari-LouA my point is that continents are usually separated or nearly separated by oceans or other bodies of water. North and South America are connected by a narrow isthmus that is so swampy it's not practical to build a road through it. Europe and Asia are separated by ... an inland sea and a mountain range. It's hard to know even where to draw the border. Yet Europe and Asia are generally considered two continents, except in some disciplines such as geology where they are one: Eurasia. Looking at Eurasia and the Americas, the latter looks far more like two continents than the former.
    – phoog
    Feb 1, 2017 at 10:35
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It seems you compare the term American to the terms Asian and African but most people will understand

  • American for a person with a U.S. passport inside or outside the U.S.
  • American/U.S. citizen if you want to be more specific
  • South-American (or Venezuelean, Colombian etc.) or Canadian for the other citizens of the American continent

Do note that the Asian term also can be split into Asian, East-Asian and South-east Asian

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  • The two are not comparable. "Asia" and "Africa" are not countries - despite the fact that some US politicians think otherwise.
    – alephzero
    Oct 1, 2017 at 16:55
  • OP compared - I just followed through - America is a continent as well
    – mplungjan
    Oct 1, 2017 at 16:56
  • What about Mexico, which is on the North American continent, and the Central American countries, which most in the Americas consider to be neither North American nor South American?
    – phoog
    Oct 1, 2017 at 17:12
  • What about it? I have not mentioned it.
    – mplungjan
    Oct 1, 2017 at 17:13
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To some people, national identity is very important and cannot be mixed. I am England born and bred and I know of others who are the same who are proud of that fact and would never consider themselves to be British but English. There are Welsh people who identify themselves as Welsh and some Scottish people are Scottish.

Canada is not part of America. The United States is formed of 50 states south of the US/Canadian border and South America is south of the US.

Generally speaking it would be correct, just like English, Welsh and Scottish people can be classed as British, but nationality speaking, Americans are from the US, people from Wales are Welsh and people from Scotland are Scottish. I have spoken to people from Puerto Rico who refer to themselves as Puerto Rican.

You need to be careful. Try not to mix nationals with other nationalities.

--Edit for additional info--

In the present climate in the UK there are people who want to break the union between UK and Europe on a political basis. We are European geographically and always will be but the UK does not form Europe. It is part of Europe.

The UK is "The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" and Great Britain (or Britain) is England, Wales and Scotland.

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    This does not answer the question, although it does a great job to explain why OP need to ask it.
    – Jylo
    Feb 1, 2017 at 10:28
  • “Canada is not part of America” — No. America (also the Americas) is a land mass with adjoining islands that stretches from Alaska and Nunavut in the north to the Tierra del Fuego in the south, and Canada is entirely within it. That makes Canada part of America. Canada is not part of the United States of America, but while American can usually (though not always) safely be used to refer to the US, the same is not true of America, barring context. Feb 1, 2017 at 17:35
  • @JanusBahsJacquet no, the Americas is two continents, North America and South America.
    – phoog
    Oct 1, 2017 at 17:13
  • @phoog Continent is not the same as land mass. Europe and Asia are also two continents despite being part of the same land mass. True, the Panama Canal has split America in two, so technically it’s no longer a single land mass; but it was up until quite recently in history. Oct 1, 2017 at 17:17
  • @JanusBahsJacquet all of my dictionaries define continent in terms like "large land mass," and those that list the continents include North America and South America separately, so I'm unconvinced by your comment. Furthermore, any system in which the Panama canal could be considered to have split the "single" continent of America in two must be a system in which Europe and Asia do not exist as separate continents.
    – phoog
    Oct 1, 2017 at 17:33

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