North America is the third largest continent in area and in population after Eurasia and Africa. It is bounded on the north by the Arctic Ocean, on the east by the North Atlantic Ocean, on the south by the Caribbean Sea, and on the west by the North Pacific Ocean. It covers an area of 9,355,000 square miles (24,230,000 square kilometres). In 2001 its population was estimated at 454,225,000. It can be geographically defined by subtracting South America from the supercontinent of the Americas.
Although Canada, the United States, and Mexico are geographically in North America, in a European mindset, however, North America is often considered to include Canada and the United States, but not Mexico or any of the Central American countries, which in some contexts may cause confusion.
In Latin America, the Americas is considered as one continent and therefore North America is only a subcontinent composed by Canada, United States and Mexico.
North America occupies the northern portion of the landmass generally referred to as the New World, the Western Hemisphere, the Americas, or simply America. North America's only land connection is to South America at the narrow Isthmus of Panama and Panama Canal. According to some authorities, North America begins not at the Isthmus of Panama but at the narrows of Tehuantepec, with the intervening region called Central America. Most, however, tend to see Central America as a region of North America, considering it too small to be a continent of its own.
The western mountains are split in the middle, into the main range of the Rockies and the coast ranges in California, Oregon and Washington state, with the Great Basin -- a lower area containing smaller ranges and low-lying deserts -- in between. The highest peak is Denali in Alaska (which can be considered the tallest in the world if measured from the base to the summit, as distinct from sea level to summit).
Since 1931, Rugby, North Dakota has officially been recognised as being at the geographic center of North America. The location is marked by a 4.5 metre (15 foot) field stone obelisk.
Greenland, the largest island in the world and a self-governing dependency of Denmark, which is located in the far north of the continent to the east of Nunavut. Saint Pierre and Miquelon, found in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, is the last of France's once vast possessions in America north of the Caribbean.
1 These states and dependencies have territory both in North and South America. 2 These dependencies lie in South America, but are considered North American because of cultural and historical reasons.
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The United States, Canada, and the other English-speaking nations of the Americas (Belize, Guyana, and the anglophone Caribbean) are sometimes grouped under the term Anglo-America, while the remaining nations of North and South America are grouped under the term Latin America.
The term "North America", when employed in a context other than geography, may mean different things to different people. To many Americans and Canadians the term, in common usage, is often taken to mean "The United States of America and Canada, only", excluding Mexico and the countries of Central America, unless the context makes it clear that they are to be included (for instance, with specific reference to Mexico, when talking about NAFTA). This is due to the fact that culturally and economically, the USA and Canada are more alike to each other than they are to the rest of North America. Mexicans, however, are acutely aware that Mexico is a part of North America and object to this usage. Central Americans, however, are generally content to be called Central Americans.