Happy 4th of July! Today, we are going to talk about where the word, “America,” came from.
America is named after the Italian explorer, Amerigo Vespucci, who went to Brazil about a decade after Christopher Columbus and discovered that it wasn’t Asia.
His Italian name was Amerigo, but if you’ll look at his portrait above, you can see his name in Latin, Americus Vesputius. It’s common for names to change from language to language. By the way, Lena’s name is Hellen in English, Olena in Ukrainian, and Elena in Russian (for those of you that are still struggling with pronouncing ‘Lena’), but that’s a topic for another day. Anyhow, that’s where the word, America, comes from: Americus Vesputius.
Amerigo has similar names in English, such as Amery, Emery, Emory, and Emily.
These names are often traced back to the High German word, amal, which means “work.” But, the crazy thing is that the Hebrew word, amal (עָמָל), also means “work.” It makes you wonder if/how Semitic words managed to work their way into early Germanic speech.
The High German language emerged around 500 a.d., and eventually had a branch develop into early Yiddish around 300 years later. Perhaps the Ashkenazi Jews of the Holy Roman Empire introduced a Semitic element to German speech? Perhaps the connection is earlier? Stranger things have happened.
In conclusion, America is not Asia, and it comes from a root meaning “work.” Now, go eat some hot dogs and play with fireworks!