American, when used as an adjective, can mean of the United States of America or of or relating to the Americas; when used as a noun, United States citizen, residing in the Americas, or less frequently American English.
English language speakers, especially outside of Latin America, generally use "American" to refer to the United States only; the same is true of cognates of the word in many other languages, such as the German Amerikaner and the Greek Αμερικανός (Amerikanos). The CIA World Factbook lists "American" as both the noun and adjective forms of nationality for a citizen of the United States, although it is perhaps germane to point out that the Factbook is itself a U.S. government publication and thus hardly unbiased towards the controversy.
As many people from the various nations throughout the New World consider themselves to be "Americans", some think the common usage of "American" to refer to only people from the United States should be avoided in international contexts where it might cause confusion. Some find the use of "American" to refer to the United States offensive, as tending to disregard the existence of other New World nations. The opposite tends to be true in Canada, where referring to a Canadian citizen as "American" is usually considered to be an insult as the word is only used there to refer to citizens of the United States. In that context, one would specify "North American, "Central American," or "South American" when the reference is to a continent or region. Many alternative neologisms to "American" have been proposed to refer to the United States, but they have failed to garner widespread acceptance. See Alternative words for American for more information.
While the use of "American" to refer to people and places in other nations of the Americas was long fairly common in the United States, this use has declined in recent generations, to the point that some people are uncomfortable with this usage.
In Spanish, the normal term is estadounidense (literally United-Statesian). In the Iberoamerican countries, the use of "americano" to describe a US citizen could be considered politically incorrect and culturally aggressive, because the word in Spanish habitually includes the inhabitants of the entire New World. In Portuguese, both in Portugal and Brazil, the term estadunidense is growing and it is considered more appropriate than the common term Norte-Americano (literally North American), as from a geographic view North America includes Mexico and Canada in addition to the United States.
The American race is an obsolete 19th-century racial classification referring to the various peoples now called Native Americans, also historically called the "red" race, although that latter term is generally considered derogatory.
The term American is also used to identify a type of railroad steam locomotive. In the Whyte notation, an American locomotive is a type 4-4-0.
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