America





North America, 3rd largest of the seven continents, including Canada (the 2nd largest country in area in the world), the United States (4th largest), and Mexico (13th largest). The continent also includes Greenland, the largest island, as well as the small French overseas department of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon and the British dependency of Bermuda (both made up of small islands in the Atlantic Ocean). With more than 360 million inhabitants (1989 estimate), North America is the 4th most populous continent; the United States ranks 4th and Mexico 11th in population among the world's countries. Canada and the United States have technologically developed early modern economies, and Mexico, although less technologically developed than its neighbors, contains some of the world's greatest deposits of petroleum and natural gas. Together with Central America, the West Indies, and South America, North America makes up the western hemisphere of the earth. North America is sometimes defined to include Central America and the West Indies, which are treated separately in this encyclopedia. The name America is derived from that of the Italian navigator Amerigo Vespucci, who may have visited the mainland of North America in 1497 and 1498.

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