Is The United States A Country or a Continent?

United States Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.
United States Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

The United States of America is a country, not a continent. It is one of the 193 United Nations member countries recognized as a sovereign state with an existing and functioning political government. The US is a federal republic consisting of 50 states and five self-governing territories, and is the third largest country in the world with a total area of 3.8 million square miles. It is slightly smaller than the continent of Europe, which has an area of 3.9 million square miles. The country has a population of approximately 325 million people. The US is one of the founding members of the United Nations and other international bodies such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the Organization of the American States (OAS).


The first inhabitants of the US arrived to the region through the Bering Strait. In the following years, an indigenous population and culture was established. The arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas brought thousands of European settlers to the region due to its potential riches. The Europeans flourished in the area and conquered or displaced a significant portion of the indigenous population. Additionally, the decline of the indigenous population was significantly impacted by outbreaks of smallpox and measles. Hundreds of years later, Americans developed the "republicanism" ideology, which asserted that the government was dependent on the will of the people. The Americans successfully fought the European powers in the American Revolutionary War. On July 4, 1776, the country adopted the Declaration of Independence, which is commemorated in the US as Independence Day.


The United States land borders both Canada and Mexico, and shares a territorial water border with Russia. 48 of the 50 states are bound by the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, or Pacific Ocean. The island state of Hawaii is located in the Pacific Ocean, while Alaska borders the Arctic Ocean and the Bering Strait. The 48 states (excluding Alaska and Hawaii) are located between Canada and Mexico and are collectively referred to as "contiguous United States." The capital of the U.S. is Washington, D.C., or the District of Columbia, and is situated on land donated by the state of Maryland.

Government and Politics

The United States is the oldest surviving federation in the world. It is characterized by a representative democracy, and the government is regulated by systems of checks and balance as defined in the constitution. The United States Constitution is the supreme law that defines how the country is to governed. There are three levels of government: local, state, and federal. The U.S. President serves as commander-in-chief.


More in World Facts