The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







The Antilles now generally refers to the islands of the Caribbean or West Indies, except the Bahamas. A distinction is made between the "Greater Antilles", including Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola (Haiti and Dominican Republic), and Puerto Rico; and the "Lesser Antilles" (the remainder of the islands). Because of their linguistic similarities with Spanish-speaking nations, Cuba, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico are also considered part of Latin America. Geographically speaking the Antilles are part of North America.



Like the name "Brazil", the word "Antilles" dates from a period anterior to the discovery of the New World, "Antilia" being one of those mysterious lands which figured on the medieval charts sometimes as an archipelago, sometimes as continuous land of greater or lesser extent, constantly fluctuating in mid-ocean between the Canaries and East India. But it came at last to be identified with the lands discovered by Columbus.

Later, when Columbus's Indian territories emerged as a vast archipelago enclosing the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, "Antilia" assumed its present plural form, Antilles, which collectively applied to the whole of this archipelago.

Two or more ships of New France traded with the Antilles annually.

The concept survives in the name of the Netherlands Antilles.

Greater Antilles

Main article: Greater Antilles.

Lesser Antilles

Main article: Lesser Antilles.


  1. 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica. 1911.

Last updated: 05-07-2005 18:09:53