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The Antilles, a term of somewhat doubtful origin, now generally refers to the islands of the West Indies.

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. A distinction is made between the "Greater Antilles[?]", including Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, and Puerto Rico; and the "Lesser Antilles" (the remainder of the islands).

The concept survives in the name of the Netherlands Antilles.

Original text after the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica

All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

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