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Difference between Latin America and South America


The Americas is a term that refers to the North and South continents. This also includes all islands and territories that lie within their borders. There is great confusion and misuse of the terms Latin America and South America. For some people, they have become synonymous. However, there are many differences between the two, and a geographical entity (South America) should not be confused with an ideological or cultural one (Latin America).

Keywords: South America, Latin America, romantic languages, colonization, geography cultural entity, geographical entity.

Difference between Latin America and South America

South America


South America is the fourth largest and the fifth most populated continent in the world and naturally it dwells in the southern part of the Americas. It is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. The continent is made up of the following 16 countries and islands:

  • Argentina,
  • Bolivia,
  • Brazil,
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • Falkland Islands
  • French Guiana
  • Guyana
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • South Georgia
  • South Sandwich Islands
  • Suriname
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela.

These countries and islands are spread over 17.840,000 km² and are home to 422.5 million people.

Traditionally the most known landmarks of the continent are the Andes mountains the Amazon rainforest and the Amazon river.


The continent is also well known because of its turbulent past during its colonization which started in the late 1400s. While the colonization began with the Spanish and Portuguese conquests and exploration, other European nations followed suit.

The presence of such a wide variety of languages and cultures is thus explained by the European colonization of the continent.  South America gained independence during the late 18th and early 19th century.


The following languages are spoken in South America: Portuguese, Spanish, French, Dutch, English and various indigenous languages such as Quechua, Aymara and Wayuu. These often share the official status alongside Spanish or Portuguese.


The main economic activities of South America are mining, agriculture and forestry.  Chile is the richest country in South America with $23,969 USD GDP per capita while Brazil is the wealthiest country with a GDP (PPP) at $3,081billion USD.

Difference between Latin America and South America-1

Latin America


Latin America is a term attributed to the region that covers all countries in the Americas that speak a romantic language or a language derived from Latin such as French, Spanish or Portuguese.

The term became widely used due to Napoleon the 3rd, in the late 1800s, to justify his engrossment in Mexican politics. The term itself however can be traced back to the writing of French writer Michel Chevalier.

Latin America, is known for having been home to various groups of important ancient civilizations such as the Maya and the Inca, many of which were destroyed with the arrival of the Europeans explorations.


There is a lack of consensus and many different opinions as to what countries and lands should be included in Latin America. The most widespread estimation is that Latin America includes the following countries in Central America, South America, North America and the Caribbean:

  • Belize
  • Costa Rica
  • El Salvador
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • Mexico
  • Nicaragua
  • Panama
  • Argentina
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • French Guiana
  • Guyana
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Suriname
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela
  • Cuba
  • Dominican Republic
  • Haiti
  • Guadeloupe
  • Martinique
  • Puerto Rico
  • Saint-Barthelme and Saint-Martin

It consists of 19,197, 000 km² which is almost 13% of the entire surface of the earth and in 2015 its population was estimated to be 626 million.


As mentioned before only Latin-based languages are spoken in Latin America. These include Spanish, Portuguese and French.


Because of the varied make up of Latin America, its economy is just as complex. Overall the economy of Latin America in one based on export.

The differences between Latin America and South America 

Latin America is a cultural entity commonly defined as a group of countries in the Americas where one of the Latin-based languages are spoken. It is not well defined and there is always disagreement as to which countries are included under this term. There are no parameters or borders, it is more of a generic concept undergoing continuous change.

South America is the southern part of the American continent where countries such as Argentina, Brazil and Chile can be found. South America is not defined by language or culture but by its borders.

Latin America is characterized by a commonality between the elements of historical experience, language and culture.

Latin America includes most of the South American continent but it is much larger.

The above mentioned make the two more similar than different with many overlapping characteristics such as climate or religion. 

                       South America versus Latin America
South America is a geographical entity
South America is made up of 16 countries and islands
South America is defined by its geographical borders
South America is made up of 17.840,000 km²
South America houses a population of 422.5 million people
The following languages are spoken in South America: Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, French, English and a variety of indigenous languages

Summary Points

South America and Latin America are two different types of entities. The first mentioned is a geographical entity while the other is a cultural entity.

Latin America contains most off South America but it includes many other islands, countries and territories.

There are linguistic differences between the two. Latin America includes only countries where a romantic language/ Latin-rooted language is spoken while South America is home to many European and Indigenous languages.

As population, Latin America is much larger than South America.

Geographically Latin America covers much more territory than South America.

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1 Comment

  1. We went to three websites to get an answer to this, youre the only one we understood thank you my lad. We were gonna hit wikipedia next which promised to be ddddense, you’re a champ

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References :

[0]Holloway, Thomas H. A companion to Latin American history. Malden, Wiley-Blackwell, 2011

[1]Bakewell, Peter, A History of Latin America. Blackwell History of the World. Blackwell, 1997

[2]Moya, Jose C., ed. The Oxford Handbook of Latin American History. Oxford University Press, 2011.

[3]Bushnell, David, et al. “History of Latin America.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., 9 Sept. 2016, www.britannica.com/place/Latin-America. Accessed 20 Sept. 2017

[4]Nag, Oishimaya Sen. “The Richest Countries In South America.” WorldAtlas, 15 Aug. 2017, www.worldatlas.com/articles/the-richest-countries-in-south-america.html. Accessed 20 Sept. 2017.



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