List of indigenous names of Eastern Caribbean islands

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This list of the indigenous names of the Eastern Caribbean islands is a compilation of the indigenous names that were given by Amerindian people to those islands before the Europeans started naming them. The islands of the Caribbean were settled for over 4,000 years (estimate) before European arrival in 1492. The Eastern Caribbean islands were dominated by two main cultural groups: the Arawaks and the Kalinago, or Caribs. Individual villages of other distinct cultural groups were also present on the more southerly, larger islands. The large island of Trinidad in particular was shared by both Kalinago and Arawak groups.

Archaeological evidence suggests that the Arawaks arrived first, settling the islands as they travelled North from the Orinoco River in Venezuela. The Kalinago people, who proved to be more dominant in warfare, had begun a campaign of conquering and displacement of the Arawaks at the point of European arrival. Also starting at the southern end of the archipelago, they had worked their way north, reaching as far as the island of Saint Kitts by the 16th century.

The islands north of the Saint Kitts 'borderline' had Arawak names, the islands South had Kalinago names. The island of Barbados was uninhabited at the point of European arrival, but evidence suggests that Barbados followed the same pattern of displacement as witnessed on neighbouring islands, but that it was abandoned for unknown reasons. The only indigenous name on record for Barbados is one documented as the name used by Arawak peoples on Trinidad in reference to that island.

Leeward Islands[edit]

Present Island Name Indigenous Name Origin Meaning
Anguilla Malliouhana Arawak Arrow-Shaped Sea Serpent
St. Martin Soualiga


Arawak Land of Salt
St. Barths Ouanalao Arawak Unknown
Saba Siba


Arawak The Rock
St. Eustatius Aloi Arawak Cashew Tree
Saint Croix Ay Ay Taino The River
Saint Kitts Liamuiga Kalinago Fertile Land
Nevis Oualie Kalinago Land of Beautiful Water
Montserrat Alliouagana Kalinago Land of Prickly Bush
Barbuda Wa'omoni Kalinago Land of the herons (broader interpretation:land of the large birds)
Antigua Wadadli Kalinago Land of Fish Oil
Redonda Ocananmanrou Kalinago Unknown
Guadeloupe Karukera Kalinago Island of Beautiful Waters
Marie Galante Aichi





Windward Islands[edit]

Present Island Name Indigenous Name Origin Meaning
Dominica Wai'tukubuli Kalinago Tall is Her Body
Martinique Madinina Kalinago Land of Flowers
St. Lucia Hewanorra Kalinago Land of the Iguana
Saint Vincent Hairoun Kalinago Land of the Blessed
Bequia Becouya Kalinago Island of the Clouds
Canouan Cannouan Kalinago Island of Turtles
Carriacou Kayryouacou Kalinago Island of Reefs
Grenada Camerhogne Kalinago / Galibi? Conception Island


Present Island Name Indigenous Name Origin Meaning
Barbados Ichirouganaim Arawak Red land/island with white teeth (reefs)
Tobago Tobago Kalinago / Galibi? Tobacco Pipe
Trinidad Kairi


Kalinago Land of the Hummingbird

Greater Antilles[edit]

Present Island Name Indigenous Name Origin Meaning
Hispaniola Ayiti and Kiskeya Taino Rough earth and Mother of all lands respectively
Cuba Cobao Taino Large island or place
Puerto Rico Borikén Taino Land of the Valiant and Noble Lord
Jamaica Xaymaca Taino Land of Wood and Water or the Land of Springs

See also[edit]