South America, earlier known simply as America (1507–1538), is a continent located in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. It is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas.
It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east by the Atlantic Ocean; North America and the Caribbean Sea lie to the northwest. It is formed by twelve sovereign states – Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela – the French Guiana, which is an overseas region of France, and the Falkland Islands, a British Overseas Territory. In addition to this, the ABC islands of the Netherlands may also be considered part of South America, as well as Trinidad and Tobago.
South America has an area of 17,840,000 square kilometers (6,890,000 sq mi). Its population as of 2005 has been estimated at more than 371,090,000. South America ranks fourth in area (after Asia, Africa, and North America) and fifth in population (after Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America).
Most of the population lives near the western or eastern coasts of the continents while the interior and the far south are sparsely populated. The geography of western South America is dominated by the Andes mountains, in contrast to the eastern large river basins in the Amazon, Paraná and Orinoco. Most of the continent lies in the tropics.
The continent is culturally, ethnically and racially diverse hosting cultures and peoples originating in South America as well as Europe, Africa and Asia. Given a history of colonialism most South Americans speaks Spanish or Portuguese and societies and states are commonly modeled after Western traditions.