In the most incredible of coincidences, or perhaps as evidence of mankind’s incredible ability to find patterns everywhere and anywhere (or perhaps as indication of something else I shall not name here), there are at least six different explanations for the origin of the word “America” (with various degrees of credibility):
- The classical explanation: from the first name of Amerigo Vespucci, the Italian explorer who first figured out that America is a separate continent, not the easternmost part of Asia. Amerigo by the way appears to derive from a Gothic word for “Master Workman”
- Alternatively, America could be a modification of the Scandinavian Amteric “Land of Eric”, from the times when the Vikings were crossing the Atlantic
- A related possibility is Ommerike, Norse for “Farthest outland”or derived from Gothic Amalric, “Kingdom of Heaven”
- There was also a Richard Amerike or Ameryk or Ap Meryke “Son of Meryk”, a Welshman and the King’s official involved with John Cabot’s voyage
- Remarkably, Amerrique is the name of an Amerindian tribe that lived in present-day Nicaragua, perhaps to be interpreted as “People of the Land of the wind”
- And why not, there is a Saint Emeric (Latin: “Sanctus Americus“), the Son of the first king of Hungary
For those in search of more details, there is a very interesting essay called “The Naming of America” by Jonathan Cohen, with intriguing reflections on what it means to prefer one explanation over all the others.
FYI: my choice goes to Amerrique. with Vespucci’s name chosen for posterity in the early XVI century by people that could not figure out the actual etymology.
Still, it’s a giant set of coincidences indeed…