Islands by another name

Islands by another name
The names of the Caribbean island bear the legacy of both Spanish and British colonial powers – Columbus named the ‘Saint’ islands after the saint day for the date he encountered each island. For example, St. Marteen was spotted on November 11 and is thus named after St. Martin day, even though Columbus never set foot on the island. Other islands carry Spanish epithets – Anguilla (eel), Barbuda (beard), Antigua (old), Puerto Rico.
Nevertheless, each island carries its own indigenous name and its nickname, a throwback to the original colonists – Arawak and Carib Indians from South America and Taino tribes in the north. Here are some of the better known name combinations.

Known as Camerhogue in Kalinago language. Universally referred to as The Spice Island in homage to nutmeg production.

St. Maarten
The Arawaks named St. Maarten Soualiga, meaning Land of Salt, since this small, arid island was often a center for salt production from the salt ponds. Today, the island carries the tag of The Friendly Island, a nickname it more or less manages to live up to.

St. Eustatius
The Arawaks called Statia Aloi, meaning Cashew Tree. However, it was Statia’s prowess in the 18th century as a major trading port that earned it the nickname The Golden Rock.

In a fit of inspiration, the Arawaks named this pinnacle shaped rock Siba, meaning The Rock. It is. However, the island’s natural beauty also contributes to its tourist office nomenclature as The Unspoiled Queen.

The Arawaks named it Ichirouganaim, meaning the island of white teeth (referring to the reefs). Given its close associations with Britain, on the other hand, and its popularity among wealthy British vacationers, Barbados is often referred to as Little England.

This mountainous, untouched expanse of rainforest is rightly nicknamed The Nature Island. The Carib Indians, who still maintain a reserve on the island, call it Kali’Na.

This beautiful French island was called Madinina by the Kalinago, meaning Land of Flowers, the English nickname it still carries.

St. Lucia
Called The Helen of the West Indies because of its frequent switches between French and British rule, St. Lucia is also known as Hewanorra in Kalinago, meaning the land of the Iguana. Today, this is the name of one of the island’s airports.

Puerto Rico
The Spanish translation means Rich Port, but the other nickname for this economic and artistic is, quite justified, The Island of Enchantment.

The Spanish named this thin, long island after the eel. The Arawaks named it Malliouhana, or sea serpent, the name used by one of the island’s premier luxury resorts.

St. Barths
Called Ouanalao by the Arawaks, St. Barths is another island named by Columbus. Ouanalao is nowadays the name of a top design studio on the island.

Saint Kitts
The Kalinago called St. Kitts Liamuiga, meaning fertile land. It is also the name of the island’s highest mountain.

Across the water, Nevis was named Oualie by the Kalinago, meaning land of beautiful water. Nowadays, the Oualie resort is one of the top resorts on the island.

Today, half of Montserrat is a restricted area of volcanic devastation. The Kalinago named it Alliouagana, meaning Land of Prickly Bush. The Kalinago is the name of the island’s Literary festival.

Named Old by the Spanish, Antigua was previously called Wadadli by the Kalinago, meaning land of fish oil. Instead, today sees Antigua celebrate the island’s beer with the name.

The Kalinago called Guadeloupe Karukera, or the Island of Beautiful Waters. With its waterfalls and rivers, the name is understandable. Equally logical is the name’s use as title for the excellent Karukera rum.

Saint Vincent
Called Hairoun by the Kalinago, meaning Land of the Blessed, St. Vincent now shares its indigenous name with the local beer.

One of the few islands to carry its indigenous name, Jamaica was called Xaymaca by the Arawaks, meaning Land of Wood and Water.

Related Articles
Editor's Picks Articles
Top Ten Articles
Previous Features
Site Map

Content copyright © 2023 by Nick Marshall. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Nick Marshall. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Nick Marshall for details.