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I am aware of the fundamental history of the etymology of the word "America" in regards to the land it represents: how Leif Eriksson first-named the Brave New World Vinland, and afterward Columbus and the rest of Spain mistakenly regarded it as part of India, and then finally how Waldseemüller coined it in favor of homaging the voyages of Italian explorer Americus (Latinized variant of Amerigo Vespucci), and that it is well-believed the first occurrence of the word "America" in reference to the country, in print (a woodcut printing) is found on Waldseemüller's map from 1507, which introduced to Europe the concept of the Brave New World as being considered a separate continent, with Waldseemüller's illustrious words imprinted onto the map:

America ab inventore nuncupata

Manuscript containing the above phrase Source for image: Wikipedia

But where my interest really sparks in is the first mention/use of the word "America" in regards to the country in the English language specifically. I certainly understand revealing the very first usage of the word, or any word for that matter, in an English-written/translated book/map, etc., is improbable, unless the word is so distinct as to be able to dissect the exact coinage, and even then there may be numerous sources where the word is used "earliest", and furthermore since the word "America" was not invented by an English-speaker, nor was imprinted into English until, surely, some notable time after its birth, but nevertheless I will try my luck here and see what happens.

I am also aware of the different, archaic variants of the word "America", but I am very distinctly looking for uses of the exact word "America" and nothing else, although if a book contains an early, strange-spelling of the word, but still evidently intends the use of the word "America" in describing any part of the country whatsoever, that would be entirely acceptable.

Any insight on the topic would be exceedingly appreciated.

P.S. Since I am already on the subject of the word "America" in early print, and if you clicked onto my question one could safely assume you have some at least interest in the subject, I thought this would be appreciated to many: Master William Shakespeare makes reference to America numerous times (it is believed The Tempest makes reference to Bermuda) but more distinguishly, in the Comedy of Errors the character Antipholus of Syracuse says:

Ant. Where America, the Indies?

Picture cut from a facsimile of the First Folio (1623)

  • I asked Google When was the word American first used in English? (I didn't type the question mark, obviously): The earliest recorded use of this term in English is in Thomas Hacket's 1568 translation of André Thévet's book France Antarctique; Thévet himself had referred to the natives as Ameriques. In the following century, the term was extended to European settlers and their descendants in the Americas. – FumbleFingers Sep 3 at 16:51
  • Also see Google Ngram Viewer – Decapitated Soul Sep 3 at 16:56
  • I though the idea that America was named after Amerigo Vespucci was discredited since first names are not used when naming objects, places or anything else. Much of the exploration of North America was by John Cobot who is said to have named it after his sponsor the Bristol merchant Richard Ameryck/Amerike. – Tony Dallimore Sep 4 at 16:16
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A new iuterlude [sic] (1520) has the following:

This sayde north parte is callyd Europa,
And this south parte callyd Affrica,
This eest parte is callyd Ynde,
But this newe landys founde lately
Ben callyd America by cause only
Americus dyd furst them fynde.

I used the BYU website to search the EEBO corpus, which only contains books, so it’s possible that there are earlier examples out there.

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  • Excellent stuff! – Tom O' Bedlam Sep 3 at 16:36
  • Your first link dates the play to (ca)1518, even two years earlier than 1520, and only 11 years after the mention of America on the famous map of 1507. Great find :) – oerkelens Sep 3 at 16:56
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    This is almost certainly the first printed source in English. Elizabeth Nugent published an article in 1942 that connected Rastell's mention of America to Waldseemuller (jstor.org/stable/458807), and this statement from J. K. Van Dover (1987; jstor.org/stable/44376983)) is definite: "John Rastell (1475?-1536) was a lawyer, a printer, a playwright, a polemicist, and a would-be colonizer. He was also Sir Thomas More's brother-in-law and the first person in England to refer to 'America' in print." Anyone with an earlier date should publish their findings widely! – TaliesinMerlin Sep 3 at 19:18
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    Who might be the "Americus" referenced here? – Karl Knechtel Sep 4 at 3:00
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    @KarlKnechtel, Probably to Amerigo Vespucci – Decapitated Soul Sep 4 at 3:48
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It was first printed in Waldseemüller map in 1507.

The Waldseemüller map or Universalis Cosmographia ("Universal Cosmography") is a printed wall map of the world by German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller, originally published in April 1507. It is known as the first map to use the name "America".
The name America is placed on what is now called South America on the main map. As explained in Cosmographiae Introductio, the name was bestowed in honor of the Italian Amerigo Vespucci.

Here's the map showing the word 'America':

Waldseemüller map

[Wikipedia]



Also from Library of Congress Blog:

While the colonies may have established it, “America” was given a name long before. America is named after Amerigo Vespucci, the Italian explorer who set forth the then revolutionary concept that the lands that Christopher Columbus sailed to in 1492 were part of a separate continent. A map created in 1507 by Martin Waldseemüller was the first to depict this new continent with the name “America,” a Latinized version of “Amerigo.”

Waldseemüller map

“America” is identified in the top portion of this segment of the 1507 Waldseemüller map. Geography and Map Division.



The earliest use of the word 'America' is present in Laurel's answer (circa 1520), but I'll add some additional quotations:


America, a countrey late founde in the weste parte of the worlde, by Americus Vesputi∣us the yere of our lorde a thousand foure hū∣dred .lxxvii.

[Bibliotheca Eliotæ Eliotis librarie.]
Elyot, Thomas, Sir, 1490?-1546.
Londini: In officina Thomae Bertheleti ..., M.D.XLII [1542]


Also from Sir Thomas Elyot as Lexicographer 1538:

America, a countrey late founde in the east by Amercum Vesputium (Gg.ij.v)



The prouince cauled Peru, was also named no∣ua Cathilia by them that fyrste founde it. This region is the west parte of America: and is situ∣ate in the longitude of .290. degrees, procea∣dynge from the West to the East. And south∣warde begynneth fiue degrees beyonde the E∣quinoctial

[The decades of the newe worlde or west India]..... (very long title)
Wrytten in the Latine tounge by Peter Martyr of Angleria, and translated into Englysshe by Rycharde Eden. Anghiera, Pietro Martire d', 1457-1526., Eden, Richard, 1521?-1576. Londini: In ædibus Guilhelmi Powell [for Edwarde Sutton], Anno. 1555.



in deede it is of it selfe with the rest of America, in lyke ma∣ner as Europe, Affryk, & Asia, be one continent or maigne lande vnited togeather. In the fyrst and seconde chapters of this De∣cade,

[The history of trauayle in the VVest and East Indies, and other countreys]....... done into Englyshe by Richarde Eden. Newly set in order, augmented, and finished by Richarde VVilles.
Anghiera, Pietro Martire d', 1457-1526., Eden, Richard, 1521?-1576., Willes, Richard, fl. 1558-1573.
Imprinted at London: By Richarde Iugge, 1577.


Ocean, is the cape or poynt cau¦led Cabouerde or Caput viride (that is) the greene cape,* to the wh•¦che the P•rtugales fyrst directe theyr course when they sayle to America or the lande of Brasile.

[The decades of the newe worlde or west India conteynyng the nauigations]......
Wrytten in the Latine tounge by Peter Martyr of Angleria, and translated into Englysshe by Rycharde Eden.
Anghiera, Pietro Martire d', 1457-1526., Eden, Richard, 1521?-1576.
Londini: In ædibus Guilhelmi Powell [for Edwarde Sutton], Anno. 1555.

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  • Thank you for the image, quite nice to finally see a close scan of the famous map!-- My question is not on the first appearance of the word "America" ever, but rather the first appearance of the word "America" in a printed source (Whether that source is a book or a map, or what have you) which is printed in English. Of course, the word makes its appearance in other languages many times before it first appears in an English-written or translated source, but the English source is what I am looking for. Thank you though – Tom O' Bedlam Sep 3 at 16:11
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    Is this an English language map though? The question specified “in the English language”. – Laurel Sep 3 at 16:11
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    @ATormentedWorm, Rather than deleting my answer, I added some additional quotations. – Decapitated Soul Sep 3 at 19:27
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Merriam-Webster has

Beginning in the 17th century, America was used metaphorically by English writers to refer to a place in which one longs to reach.

  • Licence my roaving hands, and let them go / Before, behind, between, above, below. / O my America! my new-found-land / My Kingdom, safeliest when with one man man'd. — John Donne, "To His Mistress Going to Bed," 1654

But there may be earlier claims.

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  • Wonderful stuff-- But I am distinctly interested in the earliest uses of the word "America" in English, not in early uses in which the English language made the word their own. 1654 would seem very late as an early use, as I do know of the word being used as early as the mid-16th Century in English, but I would like to see how early one could find. Thank you though! – Tom O' Bedlam Sep 3 at 15:50
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    Wouldn't that be in conversation rather than in print (and hence untraceable)? – Edwin Ashworth Sep 3 at 15:54
  • But doesn't 'when the word was first printed in an English written or translated PRINTED source' imply that now 'the English language [has] made the word [its] own'? – Edwin Ashworth Sep 3 at 16:02
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    @ATormentedWorm I am interested in when the word was first PRINTED (not verbally used) in an English written or translated PRINTED source. Not in conversation, as of course that would indeed be untraceable, Wiki: The Waldseemüller map was by April 1507, the map, globe and accompanying book, Introduction to Cosmography, were published. A thousand copies were printed and sold throughout Europe. You can be absolutely assured that the map reached England, and that the purchaser of the map would have said "America". – Greybeard Sep 3 at 16:56
  • @Greybeard HAH!-- What delightful wit! You have spoken the words of a true prophet! Bless your soul! – Tom O' Bedlam Sep 3 at 17:01

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