American? Not Your Nationality in Spanish.

American? Not Your Nationality in Spanish.

 

Typically, when you are talking about nationalities in Spanish, there is a feminine and masculine nationality for most countries. Also, the name of the country and the nationality don’t change much at all. It is an exception though when we talk about the nationality from people born in the United States of America.

 

Why Are You not American?

 

In English, the nationality will be American, but in Spanish, American has a different meaning: All the countries that are part of the continent of America are American countries, therefore, a Colombian, a Chilean, a Peruvian, or a Venezuelan are all Americans.

 

The Fundeú, (The Foundation of Emerging Spanish), has an explanation for this. According to it, the most appropriate demonym (a word you use to refer to people of a place) in Spanish for a person born in the United States is: estadounidense. Use it for both male and female nouns.

 

You can also find cases where the demonym is norteamericano (for a male noun) or norteamericana (for a female noun). Nevertheless, this could be also applicable to other people from this area, like Mexico or Canada. (Yes, Mexicans are also North Americans).

 

Why is This Explanation Necessary?

 

American? Not Your Nationality in Spanish.

 

Many Spanish speakers, specially in media, will use the word americano, (American) to talk about this nationality. Nevertheless, this use is incorrect Spanish and it is better to avoid it. We can see  this in sentences like “La orquesta preparaba el himno americano”. Here, the more appropriate way to write it or say it would be: “La orquesta preparaba el himno estadounidense / de los Estados Unidos”.

 

You can find the word “americano” referring to a person from United States in the DRAE (Royal Spanish Academy), due to its popular use. Still, they advice not to use the word America to mean United States or american to talk about its people.

 

Just to be safe, use the demonym estadounidense. It might be long and difficult to learn at first but it will avoid confusions when you talk about your origins. Also, remember there is no need to capitalize nationalities in Spanish.

Do you think in the future, because of popular use, it will become correct to use the word americano to talk about the nationality?. (Also read bout: Is the word: Gringo, Offensive?)

 

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