A merigo Vespucci, an Italian, moved to Spain in 1492 and opened a business to finance ship voyages. Vespucci was most likely in Spain when Columbus returned from his first triumphant voyage.
As more voyages were planned, Vespucci assembled gear, ships, crews, and funds. Eventually, Vespucci wearied of hearing others describe the wonders of the “New World.”
He resolved to see these lands for himself. When and how often Vespucci sailed is still debated by historians. He made at least two voyages between 1499 and 1504.
The first, for Spain, sailed along the northern part of South America and into the Caribbean. The second expedition, this time in the service of Portugal, sailed south along the eastern coast of South America. During these voyages, Vespucci realized that the giant land mass was not Asia, but an extensive new region previously unknown to Europeans. Vespucci wrote an account of his voyages in a pamphlet.
In 1507, a German mapmaker named Martin Waldseemiiller reprinted the pamphlet with an introduction suggesting that the new lands be named “America,” after Vespucci. The name, first applied only to South America, was soon extended to North America.