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South America vs. Latin America — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Published on November 26, 2023
South America is a continent comprising countries in its southern hemisphere. Latin America includes South American countries plus Central America, Mexico, and nations in the Caribbean. Both terms differ geographically and culturally.
South America vs. Latin America — What's the Difference?

Difference Between South America and Latin America

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Key Differences

Geographical Extent: South America is a defined geographical entity, a continent in the Western Hemisphere that lies mostly in the southern portion. On the contrary, Latin America encompasses South America, Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean islands.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 26, 2023
Origins of the Terms: South America references its position in the Americas, indicating its southernmost placement. Latin America derives its name from the dominant Romance languages (Spanish, Portuguese, French) spoken, which originated from Latin.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 26, 2023
Cultural and Linguistic Differences: While most countries in South America speak Spanish or Portuguese, reflecting their colonial past, Latin America also includes regions where French is spoken, such as Haiti. Thus, Latin America is a broader term highlighting the shared Latin cultural heritage.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 26, 2023
Population and Countries: South America comprises 12 sovereign nations and one overseas department of France. Latin America, with its wider scope, includes over 20 countries and territories when accounting for Central America, the Caribbean, and Mexico.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 26, 2023
Economic and Political Contexts: Economically and politically, South America is a subset of the larger Latin America. While discussions of South America often revolve around its specific continental challenges, Latin America represents broader regional dynamics, including the Caribbean and Central American affairs.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 26, 2023
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Comparison Chart

Geographical Coverage

Continent in the Southern Hemisphere
South America + Central America + Mexico + Caribbean
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Nov 26, 2023

Languages

Primarily Spanish and Portuguese
Spanish, Portuguese, French, and more
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Number of Countries

12 countries + 1 overseas department
Over 20 countries and territories
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Term Origin

Geographical placement
Derived from Latin-based languages
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Representation

Strictly continental representation
Wider representation including other regions
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Nov 26, 2023

Compare with Definitions

South America

One of the two continents in the Americas.
The Andes mountains, stretching along the western edge of South America, are the longest mountain range in the world.
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Oct 06, 2023

Latin America

An area defined by shared linguistic roots in Romance languages.
Spanish is the most widely spoken language across Latin America.
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Oct 06, 2023

South America

A continent located primarily in the Southern Hemisphere.
Brazil is the largest country in South America by both land area and population.
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Oct 06, 2023

Latin America

A region comprising South America, Central America, the Caribbean, and Mexico.
Many countries in Latin America share a colonial past with Spain or Portugal.
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Oct 06, 2023

South America

The southern portion of the New World.
The Amazon Rainforest in South America is the largest tropical rainforest globally.
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Oct 06, 2023

Latin America

Represents broader regional dynamics than just South America.
Trade agreements often involve multiple countries across Latin America, including those outside of South America.
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Oct 06, 2023

South America

Home to diverse ecosystems, cultures, and languages.
South America boasts diverse landscapes, from beaches to high-altitude plains.
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Oct 06, 2023

Latin America

Denotes territories where languages derived from Latin are spoken.
Portuguese, spoken primarily in Brazil, is one of the dominant languages of Latin America.
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Oct 06, 2023

South America

A land of rich history and varied topographies.
The Inca Empire, one of the most powerful pre-Columbian empires, was based in South America.
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Oct 06, 2023

Latin America

A region marked by a blend of indigenous, European, African, and Asian influences.
Latin America has a rich tapestry of cultures, influenced by various migrations and conquests.
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Common Curiosities

How is South America geographically distinct from Latin America?

South America is a specific continent, while Latin America spans South America, Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 26, 2023

Are Mexico and the Caribbean part of South America?

No, they're part of Latin America but not South America.
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Nov 26, 2023

Are all countries in South America also part of Latin America?

Yes, every South American country is part of Latin America.
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Nov 26, 2023

Why is the term "Latin" used in "Latin America"?

It refers to the dominant Latin-derived languages (Spanish, Portuguese, French) spoken in these regions.
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Nov 26, 2023

Does South America only include Spanish-speaking countries?

No, it includes mostly Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries, with Brazil being the largest Portuguese-speaking country.
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Nov 26, 2023

Is Brazil considered part of both South America and Latin America?

Yes, Brazil is in both South America and Latin America.
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How many countries constitute South America?

South America comprises 12 independent countries and one overseas department.
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Which term is broader in scope, South America or Latin America?

Latin America, as it encompasses a larger number of countries and territories.
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Nov 26, 2023

Which is more diverse in terms of culture and ethnicity, South America or Latin America?

Latin America, due to its broader geographical coverage, has a more diverse blend of cultures and ethnicities.
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Nov 26, 2023

What's the cultural significance of differentiating South America from Latin America?

While South America has specific continental identities, Latin America includes a broader array of cultures, histories, and languages.
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Nov 26, 2023

Can "Hispanic America" be used interchangeably with "Latin America"?

Not exactly. Hispanic America refers specifically to Spanish-speaking countries, excluding Brazil, Haiti, and others.
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Nov 26, 2023

Is the term "Latin America" derived from Latin language roots?

Yes, it refers to the Latin origins of the dominant Romance languages spoken in the region.
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Nov 26, 2023

What are some common historical events shared across Latin America?

Events like colonization by European powers, the fight for independence, and regional trade dynamics are shared across Latin America.
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Nov 26, 2023

How do the Andes mountains influence South America?

They shape climate, ecosystems, and human settlements across the western part of South America.
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Nov 26, 2023

Are Spanish and Portuguese the only languages spoken in Latin America?

No, while they are dominant, other languages like French, indigenous languages, and others are spoken.
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Nov 26, 2023

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to askdifference.com. As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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