The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country primarily located in North America, consisting of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles (9.8 million square kilometers), it is the world's third- or fourth-largest country by total area. With a population of more than 328 million people, it is the third most populous country in the world. The national capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City.
Paleo-Indians migrated from Siberia to the North American mainland at least 12,000 years ago, and European colonization began in the 16th century. The United States emerged from the thirteen British colonies established along the East Coast. Disputes over taxation and political representation with Great Britain led to the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), which established independence. In the late 18th century, the U.S. began vigorously expanding across North America, gradually acquiring new territories, oftentimes killing and displacing Native Americans, and admitting new states; by 1848, the United States spanned the continent. Slavery was legal in the southern United States until the second half of the 19th century when the American Civil War led to its abolition. The Spanish–American War and World War I established the U.S. as a world power, a status confirmed by the outcome of World War II. During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in various proxy wars but avoided direct military conflict. They also competed in the Space Race, culminating in the 1969 spaceflight that first landed humans on the Moon. The revolutions of 1989 in Central and Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991 ended the Cold War. This left the United States as the world's sole superpower, with immense authority in global geopolitics.
The United States is a federal republic and a representative democracy with three separate branches of government, including a bicameral legislature. It is a founding member of the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Organization of American States (OAS), NATO, and other international organizations. It is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. The U.S. ranks high in international measures of economic freedom, quality of life, and quality of higher education. Despite considerable income and wealth disparities, especially across racial divisions compared to other rich countries, the United States continuously ranks high in measures of socioeconomic performance and receives relatively high ratings for human rights, despite criticism for its high incarceration rates, being the only Western country to regularly use capital punishment, and its lack of universal health care among other issues. It is also one of the most racially and ethnically diverse nations in the world, often called a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities. Its population has been profoundly shaped by centuries of immigration.
A highly developed country, the United States accounts for approximately a quarter of global gross domestic product (GDP) and is the world's largest economy by nominal GDP. By value, the United States is the world's largest importer and the second-largest exporter of goods. Although its population is only 4.2% of the world total, it holds 29.4% of the total wealth in the world, the largest share held by any country. Making up more than a third of global military spending, it is the foremost military power in the world and is a leading political, cultural, and scientific force internationally.