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The Antilles islands (//; Antilles [ɑ̃.tij] in French; Antillas in Spanish; Antillen in Dutch and German and Antilhas in Portuguese) form the greater part of the West Indies in the Caribbean Sea. The Antilles are divided into two major groups: the "Greater Antilles" to the north and west, including the larger islands of Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic), and Puerto Rico; and the smaller "Lesser Antilles" on the southeast—comprising the northerly Leeward Islands, the southeasterly Windward Islands, and the Leeward Antilles just north of Venezuela. The Bahamas, though part of the West Indies, are generally not included among the Antillean islands.
Geographically, the Antilles are generally considered part of North America or Central America. Culturally speaking, the Antillean countries of Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico are included in Latin America.
The word Antilles originated in the period before the European conquest 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, its location fluctuating in mid-ocean between the Canary Islands and India.
After the 1492 arrival of Christopher Columbus's expedition in what was later called the West Indies, the European powers realized that the dispersed lands comprised an extensive archipelago enclosing the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. Thereafter, the term Antilles was commonly assigned to the formation, and "Sea of the Antilles" became a common alternate name for the Caribbean Sea in various European languages.