Kiribati, officially the Republic of Kiribati (Gilbertese: Ribaberiki Kiribati), is a sovereign state in Micronesia in the central Pacific Ocean. The permanent population is just over 110,000 (2015), more than half of whom live on Tarawa Atoll. The state comprises 32 atolls and reef islands and one raised coral island, Banaba. They have a total land area of 800 km2 and are dispersed over 3.5 million square kilometres (1.3 million square miles). Their spread straddles both the equator and the 180th meridian, although the International Date Line goes round Kiribati and swings far to the east, almost reaching the 150°W meridian. This brings the Line Islands into the same day as the Kiribati Islands. Kiribati's easternmost islands, the southern Line Islands, south of Hawaii, have the most advanced time on Earth: UTC+14 hours.
Kiribati became independent from the United Kingdom in 1979. The capital, South Tarawa, which is now the most populated area, consists of a number of islets, connected by a series of causeways. These comprise about half the area of Tarawa Atoll.
Kiribati is a member of the Pacific Community (SPC), Commonwealth of Nations, the IMF, and the World Bank, and became a full member of the United Nations in 1999.
The name Kiribati was adopted at independence. It is the local enunciation of Gilberts. This name derives from the main archipelago that forms the nation. It was named the Gilbert Islands after the British explorer Thomas Gilbert. He sighted many of the islands in 1788 while mapping out the Outer Passage route from Port Jackson to Canton.
The Kiribati archipelago was named Îles Gilbert (Gilbert Islands in English), in about 1820, by Russian admiral Adam von Krusenstern and French captain Louis Duperrey. Both their maps, published in 1820, were written in French. In English, the archipelago was often referred to as the Kingsmills in the 19th century, although the name Gilbert Islands was used increasingly, including in the Western Pacific Order in Council of 1877.
The name Gilbert was incorporated into the name of the entire Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony from 1916, and was retained after the Ellice Islands became the separate nation of Tuvalu in 1976. The spelling of Gilberts in the Gilbertese language as Kiribati may be found in books in Gilbertese prepared by missionaries and others (see e.g. Hawaiian Board of Missionaries, 1895).
It is often suggested that the indigenous name for the Gilbert Islands proper is Tungaru (see e.g. Arthur Grimble, 1989 ). However, the name Kiribati was chosen as the name of the new independent nation by local consensus, on such grounds that it was modern, and to acknowledge the inclusion of islands (e.g. the Phoenix Group and Line Islands), which were never considered part of the Tungaru (or Gilberts) chain.
The pronunciation differs: Kiribas is the official pronunciation as ti in the Gilbertese language makes an s sound.