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- a chain of islands that extends from the Florida peninsula to the coast of Venezuela and lies between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. They consist of three main island groups: the Greater and Lesser Antilles and the Bahamas, with Bermuda lying further to the north. Originally inhabited by Arawak and Carib Indians, the islands were visited by Columbus in 1492 and named by him in the belief that he had reached the coast of India. The islands now consist of a number of independent states and British, French, Dutch, and US dependencies.