The Caribbean is a region consisting of the Caribbean Sea, its islands (most of which enclose the sea), and the surrounding coasts. The region is located southeast of North America, east of Central America, and to the north of South America.
Situated largely on the Caribbean Plate, the region comprises more than 7,000 islands, islets, reefs, and cays. Also called the West Indies, since Christopher Columbus landed here in 1492 believing he was in the Indies (in Asia), the region consists of the Antilles, divided into the larger Greater Antilles which bound the sea on the north and the Lesser Antilles on the south and east (including the Leeward Antilles), and the Bahamas. Geopolitically, the West Indies are usually reckoned as a subregion of North America and are organised into 27 territories including sovereign states, overseas departments, and dependencies. At one time, there was a short-lived country called the Federation of the West Indies composed of ten English-speaking Caribbean territories, all of which were then UK dependencies.
The Caribbean islands are an island chain 4,020 kilometres (2,500 mi) long and no more than 257 kilometres (160 mi) wide at any given point. They enclose the Caribbean Sea.
The region takes its name from that of the Carib, an ethnic group present in the Lesser Antilles and parts of adjacent South America at the time of European contact. In the English-speaking Caribbean, someone from the Caribbean is usually referred to as a "West Indian," although the phrase "Caribbean person" is sometimes used.