Barbados is an island country in the Lesser Antilles of the West Indies, in the Caribbean region of North America. It is 34 km in length and up to in width, covering an area of. It is situated in the western area of the North Atlantic and east of the Windward Islands and the Caribbean Sea; therein, Barbados is east of the Windwards, part of the Lesser Antilles, roughly at 13°N of the equator. It is about east of both the countries of Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and north-east of Trinidad and Tobago. Barbados is outside the principal Atlantic hurricane belt. Its capital and largest city is Bridgetown.
Inhabited by Kalinago people since the 13th century, and prior to that by other Amerindians, Barbados was visited by Spanish navigators in the late 15th century and claimed for the Spanish Crown. It first appeared in a Spanish map in 1511. The Portuguese claimed the island in 1536, but later abandoned it, with their only remnants being an introduction of wild hogs for a good supply of meat whenever the island was visited. An English ship, the Olive Blossom, arrived in Barbados in 1625; its men took possession of it in the name of King James I. In 1627, the first permanent settlers arrived from England, and it became an English and later British colony. As a wealthy sugar colony, it became an English centre of the African slave trade until that trade was outlawed in 1807, with final emancipation of slaves in Barbados occurring over a period of years from 1833.
On 30 November 1966, Barbados became an independent state and Commonwealth realm with Elizabeth II as its queen. It has a population of 287,010 people, predominantly of African descent. Despite being classified as an Atlantic island, Barbados is considered to be a part of the Caribbean, where it is ranked as a leading tourist destination. Forty percent of the tourists come from the UK, with the US and Canada making up the next large groups of visitors to the island.
The name "Barbados" is from either the Portuguese term Os Barbados or the Spanish equivalent, Los Barbados, both meaning "the bearded ones". It is unclear whether "bearded" refers to the long, hanging roots of the bearded fig-tree (Ficus citrifolia), indigenous to the island, or to the allegedly bearded Caribs who once inhabited the island, or, more fancifully, to a visual impression of a beard formed by the sea foam that sprays over the outlying reefs. In 1519, a map produced by the Genoese mapmaker Visconte Maggiolo showed and named Barbados in its correct position. Furthermore, the island of Barbuda in the Leewards is very similar in name and was once named "Las Barbudas" by the Spanish.
It is uncertain which European nation arrived first in Barbados. One lesser-known source points to earlier revealed works predating contemporary sources indicating it could have been the Spanish. Many if not most believe the Portuguese, en route to Brazil, were the first Europeans to come upon the island.
The original name for Barbados in the Pre-Columbian era was Ichirouganaim, according to accounts by descendants of the indigenous Arawakan-speaking tribes in other regional areas, with possible translations including "Red land with white teeth" or "Redstone island with teeth outside (reefs)" or simply "Teeth".
Colloquially, Barbadians refer to their home island as "Bim" or other nicknames associated with Barbados, including "Bimshire". The origin is uncertain, but several theories exist. The National Cultural Foundation of Barbados says that "Bim" was a word commonly used by slaves, and that it derives from the Igbo term bém from bé mụ́ meaning 'my home, kindred, kind', the Igbo phoneme in the Igbo orthography is very close to. The name could have arisen due to the relatively large percentage of enslaved Igbo people from modern-day southeastern Nigeria arriving in Barbados in the 18th century.
The words 'Bim' and 'Bimshire' are recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary and Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionaries. Another possible source for 'Bim' is reported to be in the Agricultural Reporter of 25 April 1868, where the Rev. N. Greenidge (father of one of the island's most famous scholars, Abel Hendy Jones Greenidge) suggested the listing of Bimshire as a county of England. Expressly named were "Wiltshire, Hampshire, Berkshire and Bimshire". Lastly, in the Daily Argosy (of Demerara, i.e. Guyana) of 1652, there is a reference to Bim as a possible corruption of 'Byam', the name of a Royalist leader against the Parliamentarians. That source suggested the followers of Byam became known as 'Bims' and that this became a word for all Barbadians.