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Indigenous Names of the Caribbean Islands: Reclaiming the Past

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Before the arrival of Christopher Columbus and other European colonizers to the Americas starting in 1492, there were somewhere between 750,000 and six million Indigenous people (Arawak: Taíno & Kalinago and Carib) living in the Caribbean region who had established rich cultures and ways of life. The population estimates vary as the indigenous communities did not have a written records system, and the Europeans did not make a proper tally.

Unfortunately, the indigenous populations of the Caribbean were drastically reduced during the colonial era, and much of their cultural history has been destroyed or marginalized. However, archaeological evidence (e.g., pottery, tools, bones, structures, etc.) and the original indigenous names of Caribbean islands are enduring testaments to the past and can teach us about their culture and customs. So, what are the original indigenous names of the Caribbean islands? We share insight below.

Want to learn more about the first people in the Americas? Purchase “Tainos and Caribs: The Aboriginal Cultures of The Antilles by Sebastian Robiou Lamarche.”

Table of Contents

Timeline of the Arrival of People in the Caribbean and South America

Before detailing the indigenous names of Caribbean islands, it’s important to understand how people first arrived in the Americas. Below is a rough timeline:

Pre-Columbian Era:

  • 15,000 to 20,000 years ago: Humans from Asia reached the Americas after crossing the Bering Land Bridge between Siberia and North America, migrating further south over thousands of years.
  • 6,000 years ago: Ceramic-using agricultural communities emerged in the Orinoco River region of modern-day Venezuela. These Ortoiroid communities engage in trading networks and begin to spread throughout the Caribbean.
  • 2,500 years ago: The Saladoid culture developed in the Orinoco region of South America and spread to the Caribbean islands, bringing advanced pottery, agriculture, and seafaring skills. They establish settlements and engage in trade networks across the islands.
  • 1,500 years ago: The Taino culture, an Arawakan-speaking group, emerged in the northeastern regions of South America and expanded into the Greater Antilles, including present-day Cuba, Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic), Jamaica, and Puerto Rico.
  • 1,200 years ago: The Island Caribs, a separate ethnic group also known as the Kalinago or simply Caribs, migrated from South America and established settlements in the Lesser Antilles. They engage in warfare with the Taino and other neighboring groups.
indigenous names of Caribbean islands.
Indigenous Names of the Caribbean Islands based on Jalil Sued-Badillo (ed.), ‘General History of the Caribbean, vol. 1: Autochthonous Societies’ (Paris: UNESCO Publishing/London: Macmillan 2003) Plate 8. via The Decolonial Atlas.  

European Colonization Era:

  • 1492: Italian Christopher Columbus, sailing under the Spanish crown, arrives in the Caribbean. He first landed in The Bahamas and claimed the land for Spain despite encounters with the indigenous Taíno people.
  • 1532: Spanish conquistadors and explorers, including Juan Ponce de León, Juan de Esquivel, and Juan Ponce de León, establish colonies and settlements in the Caribbean, including present-day Puerto Rico, Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica. They exploit the indigenous population in search of gold and other wealth.
  • 1600s: Other European powers, including the English, French, and Dutch, establish their presence in the Caribbean. The English established colonies in Barbados, Jamaica, Saint Kitts & Nevis, and other islands. The French settled in Haiti (then known as Saint-Domingue), Guadeloupe, and Martinique, while the Dutch established colonies in Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao.

Slavery Era:

  • 1600s & 1700s: Millions of enslaved Africans were forcibly brought to the Caribbean via the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade to work without compensation or freedom on sugar, tobacco, and cotton plantations owned by European colonizers.
  • 1800s: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade was abolished in the British Empire (1807), the United States (1808), Denmark (1803), Sweden (1813), Spanish (1817), and France (1818).
  • 1833: The Slavery Abolition Act was passed by the United Kingdom Parliament. The Act took effect on August 1, 1834, and freed all enslaved people in the British Caribbean.
  • 1838: The apprenticeship system is abolished, and all enslaved people in the British Caribbean are finally free.
  • 1838: Indentured servants from Asia (primarily from India) began arriving in the Caribbean to work on the plantations as the demand for labor increased after the abolition of slavery.

During the pre-Columbian Era, the Arawaks and Caribs explored and named nearly all of the islands in and around the Caribbean Sea. Their traditional names were descriptive and connected to the terrain, fauna, or natural resources found on each island. Then during the Colonization Era, Christopher Columbus and other colonists, who lacked respect for indigenous peoples, changed the names to honor Christian saints, noblemen, and places in Europe. Further insight is provided below. 

Caribbean political map with capitals, national borders, important cities rivers, and lakes.  Photo Credit: © Peter Hermes Furian via 123RF.com.

Indigenous Languages of the Caribbean

As a result of European colonization, most people in the  Caribbean today speak one of six official languages: Dutch, English, French, Haitian Creole, Papiamentu, and Spanish. However, there are indigenous languages in the Caribbean which are enduring testaments to the past. They serve as reminders of the resilience and vibrant history of the people who called these islands home for centuries. By exploring and highlighting these indigenous names and associated languages, we honor the contributions of the indigenous peoples and their enduring legacy.

Some of the leading indigenous languages of the  Caribbean include:

Arawakan languages:

  • Arawak: still spoken in Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana
  • Caquetío: extinct language spoken by Indigenous people from Aruba, Curaçao, and Bonaire
  • Kalinago: still spoken in Dominica
  • Lucayan: extinct language that was spoken by Indigenous people from The Bahamas

Taíno languages:

  • Taíno: extinct Arawakan language spoken by indigenous inhabitants of the Greater Antilles, but there are efforts to revive it

Carib languages:

  • Carib: still spoken in Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago

Indigenous Names of the Caribbean Islands

Below is a list of the indigenous names for each Caribbean country or island. Most of the names have origins from one of these Amerindian languages. Where known, the early European (primarily Spanish) names for Caribbean islands are included for historical context.  

Disclaimer: Countless hours were spent gathering information for this blog post from a variety of sources, including books, articles, and interviews. Some of these sources presented confusing and contradictory information. Thus, in some cases, I simply wrote that the indigenous name is unknown. This does not mean that the name does not exist, but rather that I could not find at least two reliable sources that referenced it. As new information is uncovered, I will update this blog post.

Indigenous Name for Anguilla

  • The indigenous name for Anguilla is Malliouhana which means “arrow-shaped sea serpent” in the Arawak language.
  • Malliouhana, being renamed to Anguilla, was done by René Goulaine de Laudonnière in 1564. He was a French explorer who was born in Italy. The name Anguilla comes from the Italian word for eel, which is also the island’s shape.

Indigenous Name for Antigua & Barbuda

  • The indigenous name for Antigua is Waladli or Wadadli, which means “fish oil island” in the Kalinago language.
  • The indigenous name for Barbuda is Wa’omoni, which means “land of the herons” in the Kalinago language. There is also a broader interpretation, “land of the large birds.”
  • The first European name for Antigua was Santa Maria la Antigua, after a church in Seville, Spain. Barbuda was allegedly named for the long-flowing beards of the indigenous people. Christopher Columbus named both on his second voyage to the Americas in 1493. Antigua means “ancient” in Spanish, and Barbuda means “bearded” in Spanish. 

Indigenous Names for Aruba

  • The indigenous name for Aruba is Oruba which means “well-situated island” in the Caiquetio language.
  • Two Kalinago names for Aruba include Ora Oubao, which means “shell island,” and Oirubae, which means “companion of Curaçao.” The Taino name for Aruba is Arubeira.
  • The first European name for Aruba was Isla de Oro, which means “island of gold” in Spanish. It was given to the island by Alonso de Ojeda, a Spanish explorer, on his first voyage to the Americas in 1499. Ojeda believed the island was rich in gold, but he was mistaken. During the colonial era, the name was anglicized to Aruba.

Indigenous Name for The Bahamas

The early inhabitants in The Bahamas were the Lucayans, a branch of the Arawakan-speaking Taíno. The indigenous name for some of the main islands in The Bahamas include:

  • Nema, which means “little waters,” is the Tiano name for New Providence, the capital of The Bahamas and home to Nassau.
  • Bahama, which means “large upper middle land,” is the Tiano name for Grand Bahama, the second-largest island in the Bahamas and home to Freeport.
  • Habacoa, which means “large upper outlier land,” is the Tiano name for Andros, the largest island in The Bahamas and home to the world’s third-largest barrier reef.
  • Ciguateo, which means “distant rocky place,” is the Tiano name for Eleuthera, known for its pink sand beaches and historic buildings.
  • Guanima, which means “middle waters land,” is the Tiano name for Cat Island, known for its beautiful beaches and laid-back atmosphere.
  • Yuma, which means “higher middle,” is the Tiano name for Long Island, the longest island in The Bahamas (and home to the “Dean’s Blue Hole,” the world’s second-largest known blue hole).
  • Guanahaní, which means “small upper waters land,” is the Tiano name for San Salvador, the island where Christopher Columbus first landed in the Americas in 1492.

Two of the main islands in The Bahamas maintained their Indigenous Tiano names. This includes:

  • Bimini, meaning “the twins,” which is a popular fishing destination.
  • Mayaguana, which means “lesser midwestern land,” is the most remote island in The Bahamas and home to a large population of wild iguanas.
The Bahamas Political Map with capital Nassau, important cities and places. Photo Credit: © Peter Hermes Furian via 123RF.com.

Indigenous Name for Barbados

  • The indigenous name for Barbados is Ichirouganaim which means “red land/island with white teeth (reefs)” in the Arawak language.
  • The first European name for Barbados was Os Barbados, which means “The Bearded Ones” in Portuguese. Portuguese explorer Pedro A. Campos gave it to the island in 1536. The early Spanish name for Barbados was Isla de los Barbados meaning “bearded fig trees.” When the English claimed the island in 1625, it was renamed Barbados.

Indigenous Name for Belize

  • The indigenous name for Belize is Belix which means “muddy water” or “muddy river” (related to the Belize River) in the Maya language. Alternatively, the Mayian phrase Bel Itza means “the road to Itza.”

Indigenous Name for Bermuda

  • Bermuda has no indigenous name, as the island was uninhabited before the Europeans arrived.
  • The early Spanish name for Bermuda was Las Islas Bermudas, named after Juan de Bermúdez, the first European to stumble on the island in 1505. The British also called the island Somers Islands in 1615 when the Company of the City of London for the Plantation of The Somers Isles was given a royal charter until 1684, when it was dissolved.

Indigenous Name for Bonaire

  • The indigenous name for Bonaire is Bonay (or Bonjaj / Bojnaj) which means “low country” in the Caiquetio language.
  • The early Spanish name for Bonaire is Isla de Palo Brasil which means “isle of dyewood trees.” It was also named by the Spanish explorer Alonso de Ojeda in 1499. When the Dutch took control in 1634, they named the island Bonaire, thought to be a corruption of the indigenous name for the island.

Indigenous Names for the British Virgin Islands

Indigenous names for the main islands in the British Virgin Islands include:

  • The indigenous name for Tortola is Dulcina which means “sweetheart” or “darling” in the Arawak language.
  • The indigenous name for Virgin Gorda is unknown. The first European name is Watling’s Island, after John Watling, an English sailor who was the first European to sight the island in 1493.
  • The indigenous name for Anegada is Anguilla Cay which means “eel island” in the Arawak language.
  • The indigenous name for Jost Van Dyke is unknown. The island got its current name from Jost Van Dyk, a Dutch pirate who was shipwrecked on the island in 1648.
  • The early Spanish name for the Virgin Islands is Santa Úrsula y las Once Mil Vírgenes which means “St. Ursula and the Eleven Thousand Virgins.” Other European names for the Virgin Islands include Iles des Vierges (French), Jomfruperue (Danish), and Jungfern-Inselu (German).

 Indigenous Name for the Cayman Islands

  • Indigenous names for the three islands in the Cayman Islands (Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman) are unknown as they were uninhabited when the Europeans arrived in the new world.
  • The first European name for the Cayman Islands was Las Tortugas (The Turtles). Christopher Columbus named the island Las Tortugas in 1503 after spotting a large range of sea turtle species (green, loggerhead, hawksbill, and leatherback) on the islands. In 1523, it was changed by colonist Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo to Caymanes after the large number of caiman (a type of crocodile) also on the island. 

Indigenous Name for Cuba

  • The indigenous name for Cuba is Cobao which means “large island or place” in the Taino language. Related words include Cubao meaning “where fertile land is abundant,” and Coabana meaning “great place.”
  • Two early Spanish names for Cuba are La Isla Juana and Santiago de Cuba. Christopher Columbus initially named the island La Isla Juana in 1492. It was changed in 1514 by Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar to Santiago de Cuba after the patron saint of Spain, Saint James the Greater. In 1519, “Cuba” was adopted as the island’s official name.
Cuba Political Map with capital Havana, national borders, most important cities and rivers. Photo Credit: © Peter Hermes Furian via 123RF.com.

Indigenous Name for Curacao

  • The indigenous name for Curacao is Caiquetios, the autonym by which the Caquetio people identified themselves.
  • The first European name for Curacao is Isla de los Gigantes, thought to be a reference to the large physiques of its original inhabitants, the Arawak Indians. There is conflicting information about who gave the island this name, with some sources attributing it to Christopher Columbus and others to Alonso de Ojeda. In the 17th century, when the Dutch colonized the island, it was given the name Isla de Curaçao (Island of Curaçao), a referral back to the indigenous people who lived there.

Indigenous Name for Dominica

  • The indigenous name for Dominica is Wai’tukubuli which means “tall is her body” or “Her body is tall” in the Kalinago language.
  • Another indigenous name for Dominica is Kairi which means “island or land” in the Arawak language.
  • The first European name for Dominica is Sancta Dominica, which relates to the Latin term dies Dominica for Sunday (Lord’s Day), on which Christopher Columbus first spotted the island in November 1493.
  • Indigenous Name for Dominican Republic
  • The Dominican Republic and Haiti share the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, and the indigenous name is Quisqueya which means “mother of all lands” in the Tiano language.
  • The first European name for Hispaniola was La Isla Espanola (The Spanish Isle). Christopher Columbus gave the island this name in 1492, and it was Latinized as Hispaniola.
  • In 1493 when Christopher Columbus established the first permanent European settlement in the Americas on Hispaniola, he name the settlement Santo Domingo after Santo Domingo de Guzmán (Saint Dominic), the patron saint of astronomers and founder of the Dominican Order.

Note: The 1697 Peace of Ryswick Treaty that ended the Nine Years’ War between France and the Grand Alliance ( Dutch Republic, England, and the Holy Roman Empire), split the island of Hispaniola between France and Spain, with France taking the western third and Spain taking the eastern two-thirds. This split would eventually lead to the founding of the two independent countries of Haiti and the Dominican Republic in the 19th century.

Indigenous Name for Grenada

  • The indigenous name for Grenada is Camajuya or Kamahuya, which means “thunderbolt” in the Arawak language.
  • Another indigenous name for Grenada is Camerhogne which means “conception island” in the Kalinago language.
  • The first European name for Grenada was La Concepción (Conception). Christopher Columbus named the island after spotting it in 1498 during his third voyage to the Americas. During the 1520s, the Spanish changed the name to La Granada after the city of Granada in Spain. In 1650, the French took control of the island and renamed it Grenadine. In 1763, the British took control of the island and renamed it Grenada.

For Grenada’s sister island – Carriacou:

  • The indigenous name for Carriacou is Kayryouacou which means “island of reefs” in the Kalinago language.
  • The first European name for Carriacou was Santa Maria de la Concepción. Christopher Columbus named it during his third visit to the Americas in 1498. When the French took control of the island in 1650, they renamed it Cariaco. The British took control of the island in 1763 and renamed it Carriacou.

For Grenada’s sister island – Petite Martinique:

  • The indigenous name for Petite Martinique is unknown.
  • The first European name for Petite Martinique was Santa Maria la Redonda. Christopher Columbus gave it this name in 1498 during his third voyage to the Americas. During the 17th century, the French renamed the island to Petite Martinique.

Indigenous Name for Guadeloupe

  • The indigenous name for Guadeloupe is Karukera which means “island of gumtrees” in the Kalinago language. An alternative definition is “the island of beautiful waters.”
  • The first European name for Guadeloupe was Santa María de Guadalupe, after Our Lady of Guadalupe, a shrine to the Virgin Mary venerated in the Spanish town of Guadalupe, Extremadura. Christopher Columbus named it during his second voyage to the Americas on November 4, 1493.

Indigenous Name for Guyana

  • The indigenous name for Guyana is Guiana, which means “land of many waters” in the Arawak language.
  • The first European name for Guyana was Isla de Gracia (Island of Grace). There is conflicting information about the origin of the name.  Some attribute the name to Christopher Columbus, others to Alonso de Ojeda and Amerigo Vespucci. Either way, It was the Dutch (not Spanish) who established settlements, including Pomeroon (1581), Essequibo (1616), Berbice (1627), and Demerara (1752). In 1796, the British took control of the Dutch colonies, and in 1814, the Treaty of Paris gave the British control of Guyana. They initially named it British Guiana.

Indigenous Name for Haiti

As indicated above, Hispaniola is the name of the Caribbean island now divided politically between the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The Dominican Republic on the eastern side has 63% of the land, and Haiti on the western side has 36%.

  • The indigenous name for Hispaniola is Quisqueya, meaning “mother of all lands” in the Arawak language.
  • Another indigenous name for Hispaniola is Aitij (or Ayiti) which means “mountainous country” or “land of high mountains” in the Carib language.
  • The first Spanish name for Haiti was La Isla Espanola, latinized from Insula Hispana, which means “the Spanish island.” This was later anglicized to Hispaniola. 
  • Haiti was first used as the country’s official name on January 1, 1804, when it declared independence from France.
Hispaniola political map with Haiti and Dominican Republic. Photo Credit: © Peter Hermes Furian via 123RF.com.

Indigenous Name for Jamaica

  • The indigenous name for Jamaica is Xaymaca (earlier Yamaye) which means “land of wood and water” or “land of springs” in the Tiano language.
  • The early Spanish names for Jamaica were Sant’ Jago, Sant’ Iago, or Santiago, after Saint James. In 1655, after the British captured the island from the Spanish during the Anglo-Spanish War, they called Jamaica in English, coexisting with the Spanish name Santiago. During the late 17th century, with the dominance of the British, Jamaica became the dominant name.

Indigenous Name for Martinique

  • The indigenous name for Martinique is Iouanacaera (or Jouanacaeira), meaning “land of iguana” in the Kalinago language.
  • Another indigenous name for Martinique in the Arawak language is Madiana/Madinina, which means “island of flowers,” or Matinino, which means “island of women.”
  • The first European name for Martinique is Martinica. Christopher Columbus either named it after Saint Martin of Tours, a 4th-century Christian saint, or Martin Alonso Pinzón, one of his captains. He landed on the island in 1502 on his fourth voyage to the Americas.

Indigenous Name for Montserrat

  • The indigenous name for Montserrat is Alliouagana which means “land of the prickly bush” in the Kalinago language.
  • The first Spanish name for Montserrat was Santa Maria de Monserrate. Christopher Columbus named the island in 1493 after the Virgin of Montserrat sanctuary at the Monastery of Montserrat, on Montserrat, a mountain near Barcelona, Spain.  

Indigenous Name for Puerto Rico

  • The indigenous name for Puerto Rico is Borikén (or Borinquen) which means “land of the valiant and noble lord” in the Taino language.
  • The first Spanish name for Puerto Rico was San Juan Bautista, in honor of Saint John the Baptist. Christopher Columbus named the island in 1493. Around 1521, the name was changed to Ciudad de Puerto Rico (City of Puerto Rico), which means “rich port city.” Then, in 1898, it became Porto Rico after the United States took control under the Treaty of Paris. In 1931, the name was changed back to Puerto Rico by a joint resolution in Congress introduced by Félix Córdova Dávila.
Puerto Rico Political Map. Photo Credit: © Furian via DepositPhotos.

Indigenous Name for Redonda

  • The indigenous name for Redonda in the Kalinago language is Ocananmanrou, whose meaning is unknown. Redonda is an uninhabited island that is part of Antigua & Barbuda.
  • The early Spanish name for Redonda was Santa María la Redonda which means “Saint Mary the Round.” In 1493, Christopher Columbus selected this name for the island because of its roughly circular shape. Redonda means “round” in Spanish.

Indigenous Name for Saba

  • The indigenous name for Saba is Siba or Amonhana, which means “the rock or stone” in the Arawak language.
  • The early Spanish name for Saba is San Cristóbal (St. Christopher). Saba is the second Caribean island that Christopher Columbus named San Cristóbal, after the patron saint of travelers.

Indigenous Name for Saint Barthelemy (aka St. Barts or St. Barth)

  • The indigenous name for Saint Barthelemy is Ouanalao, which means “toad on top” in the Arawak language.
  • The early Spanish name for Saint Barthelemy was San Bartolomé. Christopher Columbus named the island in 1493 after his younger brother Bartholomew Columbus.

Indigenous Name for Saint Kitts & Nevis (Saint Christopher and Nevis)

  • The indigenous name for Saint Kitts is Liamuiga which means “fertile land” in the Kalinago language.
  • The indigenous name for Nevis is Oualie which means “land of beautiful water” in the Kalinago language.
  • The early Spanish name for Saint Kitts was San Cristóbal. This is the first Caribbean island that Christopher Columbus in 1493 named after Saint Christopher, the patron saint of travelers. Why he named two islands the same name is not known. Two other Spanish names were used for Saint Kitts briefly, including San Jorge, which translates to “Saint George,” and La Isla Gorda, which means “the fat island.”
  • The early Spanish name for Nevis was San Martin, but it was changed shortly after that to Nuestra Senora de las Nieves which means “our lady of the snows.”

Indigenous Name for Saint Lucia

  • The indigenous name for Saint Lucia is Iouanalao which means “land of the iguana or place of the iguanas” in the Arawak language.
    Another indigenous name for Saint Lucia is Hewanarau, later changed to Hewanorra, which means “there where the iguanas are found” in the Kalinago language.
  • The first European name for Saint Lucia was Sainte Alousie (or Sainte Alouzie). Legend has it that French sailors got shipwrecked on the island on December 13, 1502 and so named it after Lucia of Syracuse  (Sancta Lucia in Latin), a Christian martyr who was killed in the early 4th century in Italy. However, a 1502 Vatican globe shows the island name as Santa Lucia, while the Spanish Cedula of 1511 has it as Sancta Lucia. Then a 1529 Spanish map has Saint Luzia as a possession of the Spanish crown. So it is not definitive as to whether it was named by the French or Spanish.

Indigenous Name for Saint Martin (French) / Sint Maarten (Dutch)

  • The indigenous name for Saint Martin is Soualiga (or Sulauiga) which means “land of salt” in the Arawak language. 
  • Another indigenous name for Saint Martin is Oualichi, which means “land of beautiful women” in the Arawak language.
  • The early Spanish name for Saint Martin is Isla de San Martín. After sighting the island in 1493, Christopher Columbus named it after Saint Martin of Tours, a fourth-century Christian saint.

Indigenous Names for Saint Vincent & the Grenadines

  • The indigenous name for Saint Vincent is Iouloumain which means “land of the morning star” or “land of the moon” in the Arawak language. Another indigenous name for Saint Vincent is Hairouna which means “land of the blessed” in the Kalinago language.
  • The early Spanish name for Saint Vincent was San Vicente which Christopher Columbus named after Saint Vincent of Saragossa (San Vicente de Zaragoza), whose feast day was on the day Columbus first saw it (January 22, 1498).

For the main islands in the Grenadines:

  • The indigenous name Bequia is Becouya, meaning “island of the clouds” in the Kalinago language.
  • The indigenous name Canouan is Cannouan which means Island of Turtles
    In the Kalinago language.
  • The indigenous name Mayreau is unknown
  • The indigenous name Mustique is unknown
  • The indigenous name Palm Island is unknown
  • The indigenous name Petit St Vincent is unknown
  • The indigenous name Union Island is unknown
  • The indigenous name Young Island is unknown

Indigenous Name for Sint Eustatius (known locally as Statia)

  • The indigenous name for Sint Eustatius is Aloi (or Alwa), which means “cashew tree” in the Arawak language.
  • The early Spanish name for Sint Eustatius was Isla de Santa Anastasia.
  • The early Dutch name for Sint Eustatius was Nieuw Zeeland (New Zeeland). It was later changed to Saint Eustace (also spelled Eustachius or Eustathius), named for a Christian martyr known in Spanish as San Eustaquio and in Portuguese as Santo Eustáquio or Santo Eustácio.

Indigenous Name for Suriname 

  • The indigenous name for Suriname is Surinen, which comes from the word Suri meaning “river” or “land of many waters” in the Arawak language.
  • The first European name for Suriname was Shurinam.  This was used by British settlers who founded the first European colony at Marshall’s Creek along the Suriname River. Control then swapped between the English, French, and Dutch, and the name evolved to Surinam. In January 1978, the official English spelling was changed from “Surinam” to “Suriname.”

Indigenous Name for Trinidad & Tobago

 

Trinidad:

  • The indigenous name for Trinidad is Kairi or Iere, which means “land of the hummingbird” in the Kalinago language. Alternative spellings include Caili, Cairi, and Chaleibe.
  • The early Spanish name for Trinidad was La Isla de la Trinidad. The island was named by Christopher Columbus in 1498 on the feast of the Holy Trinity.
Tobago:
  • The indigenous name for Tobago is Urupaina, which means “big snail” in the Arawak language. Another indigenous name for Tobago is Aloubaéra which means “land of the spirits” in the Carib language.
  • The early European name for Tobago was Bellaforma (Beautiful Form).  This was the name given by Christopher Columbus in 1498 “because from a distance it seemed beautiful.” He also may have called it Isla Verde (Green Island) after the green hills he saw on it.  During the 16th century, the Spanish switched the name to Isla de Mayo after the month it was first sighted.  At some point during the 17th century, the name was changed to Tavaco (Tabaguo?) and Cobaco both of which are Spanish word meaning “tobacco.”

Indigenous Name for Turks & Caicos Islands

The indigenous name for some of the main islands in the Turks & Caicos Islands:

  • The indigenous name for Providenciales is Yucanacan meaning “the people’s small northern land” in the Taíno language. Another is Ianicana which means “far waters, smaller land” in the Taino language.
  • The indigenous name for Grand Turk is Amuana, meaning “first small land” in the Taino language.
  • The indigenous name for North Caicos is Caicos meaning “nearby northern outlier” in the Taino language.
  • The indigenous name for South Caicos is Caciba meaning “northern rocky” in the Taino language.
  • The indigenous name for Middle Caicos is Aniana meaning “small far waters” in the Taino language.
  • The indigenous name for Salt Cay is Cacumani which means “mid-waters northern outlier” in the Taino language.
  • The indigenous name for Pine Cay is Buiana which means “small western home” in the Taino language.
  • The indigenous name for Parrot Cay is unknown.
  • The indigenous name for Ambergris Cay is unknown.

Indigenous Name for US Virgin Islands

The indigenous name for the main islands in the US Virgin Islands:

  • The indigenous name for Saint Croix is Ay Ay which means “the river” in the Taino language. Another indigenous name for Saint Croix is Cibuquiera which means “the stony land” in the Carib language.
  • The indigenous name for Saint John is Utuana which means “fertile land” in the Tiano language.
  • The indigenous name for Saint Thomas is unknown.

Recommended Books

The Arawak: History and Legacy of the Indigenous Natives in South American and the Caribbean.

The Arawak: The History and Legacy of the Indigenous Natives in South America and the Caribbean by Charles River. (Buy Now

Tainos and Caribs" The Aboriginal Cultures of The Antilles by Sebastian Robiou Lamarche Tainos and Caribs: The Aboriginal Cultures of The Antilles by Sebastian Robiou Lamarche. (Buy Now

The History of the Caribby-Islands: viz. Barbados, St Christophers, St Vincents, Martinico, Dominico, Barbouthos, Monserrat, Mevis [sic], Antego, &c. in all XXVIII.

The History of the Caribby-Islands: viz. Barbados, St Christophers, St Vincents, Martinico, Dominico, Barbouthos, Monserrat, Mevis [sic], Antego, &c. in all XXVIII by John Davies, Charles De Rochefort, Louis de Poincy. (Buy Now)

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UPB at Antigua Carnival 2019.
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Welcome to Caribbean & Co. founded by Ursula Petula Barzey who enjoys traveling the Caribbean in search of the best cultural and food adventures, places to stay and live/work opportunities. Launched in 2014, Caribbean & Co. has won five travel media awards.

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