Indigenous peoples of the United States are commonly known as Native Americans or American Indians, and Alaska Natives. Application of the term "Indian" originated with Christopher Columbus, who, in his search for India, thought that he had arrived in the East Indies. Eventually, those islands came to be known as the "West Indies", a name still used. This led to the blanket term "Indies" and "Indians" (Spanish indios, Portuguese índios) for the indigenous inhabitants, which implied some kind of racial or cultural unity among the indigenous peoples of the Americas. This unifying concept, codified in law, religion, and politics, was not originally accepted by the myriad groups of indigenous peoples themselves, but has since been embraced, or tolerated, by many over the last two centuries. Even though the term "Indian" generally does not include the culturally and linguistically distinct indigenous peoples of the Arctic regions of the Americas—such as the Aleuts, Inuit, or Yupik peoples, who entered the continent as a second more recent wave of migration several thousand years before, and have much more recent genetic and cultural commonalities with the aboriginal peoples of the Asiatic Arctic Russian Far East—these groups are nonetheless considered "indigenous peoples of the Americas".
Indigenous peoples are commonly known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, which includes not only First Nations and Arctic Inuit, but also the minority population of First Nations-European mixed-race Métis people who identify culturally and ethnically with indigenous peoplehood. This is contrasted, for instance, to the American Indian-European mixed-race mestizos of Hispanic America (caboclos in Brazil) who, with their larger population (in most Latin American countries constituting either outright majorities, pluralities, or at the least large minorities), identify largely as a new ethnic group distinct from both Europeans and Indigenous Americans, but still considering themselves a subset of the European-derived Hispanic or Brazilian peoplehood in culture and ethnicity (cf. ladinos).
The term Amerindian (a blend of "American and Indian") and its cognates find preferred use in scientific contexts, and in Quebec, the Guianas, and the English-speaking Caribbean.
Indígenas or pueblos indígenas ("indigenous peoples") is a common term in Spanish-speaking countries, and pueblos nativos or nativos (lit. "native peoples") may also be heard, while aborigen (aborigine) is used in Argentina, and pueblos originarios (original peoples) is common in Chile. In Brazil, indígenas or povos indígenas are common if formal-sounding designations, while índio is still the more often-heard term (the noun for the South Asian nationality being indiano), and aborígene and nativo being rarely used in Amerindian-specific contexts (e.g. aborígene is usually understood as the ethnonym for Indigenous Australians). The Portuguese and Spanish equivalents to Indian, nevertheless, could be used to mean any hunter-gatherer or full-blooded Indigenous person, particularly to continents other than Europe or Africa—for example, indios filipinos.