Lesser Antilles

Last updated
Map of the Caribbean - Lesser Antilles.png
Location within the Caribbean
Coordinates: 14°14′N61°21′W / 14.233°N 61.350°W / 14.233; -61.350 Coordinates: 14°14′N61°21′W / 14.233°N 61.350°W / 14.233; -61.350
Region Caribbean
Island States
  Total14,364 km2 (5,546 sq mi)
  Density274.9/km2 (712/sq mi)
Demonym(s) Lesser Antillean
Time zone UTC−4 (AST)
  Summer (DST) UTC−3 (ADT)

The Lesser Antilles (Spanish : Pequeñas Antillas; French : Petites Antilles; Papiamento : Antias Menor; Dutch : Kleine Antillen) is a group of islands in the Caribbean Sea. Most form a long, partly volcanic island arc between the Greater Antilles to the north-west and the continent of South America. [1] The islands form the eastern boundary of the Caribbean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean. Together, the Lesser Antilles and the Greater Antilles compose the Antilles (or the Caribbean in its narrowest definition). When combined with the Lucayan Archipelago, all three are known as the West Indies.



The islands of the Lesser Antilles are divided into three groups: the Windward Islands in the south, the Leeward Islands in the north, and the Leeward Antilles in the west.

The Windward Islands are so called because they were more windward to sailing ships arriving in the New World than the Leeward Islands, given that the prevailing trade winds blow east to west. The trans-Atlantic currents and winds that provided the fastest route across the ocean brought these ships to the rough dividing line between the Windward and Leeward Islands.

The Leeward Antilles consist of the Dutch ABC islands just off the coast of Venezuela, plus a group of Venezuelan islands.

Geological formation

The Lesser Antilles more or less coincide with the outer cliff of the Caribbean Plate. Many of the islands were formed as a result of the subduction of oceanic crust of the Atlantic Plate under the Caribbean Plate in the Lesser Antilles subduction zone. This process is ongoing and is responsible not only for many of the islands, but also for volcanic and earthquake activity in the region. The islands along the South American coast are largely the result of the interaction of the South American Plate and the Caribbean Plate which is mainly strike-slip, but includes a component of compression.

Geologically, the Lesser Antilles island arc stretches from Grenada in the south to Anguilla in the north. The Virgin Islands and Sombrero Island are geologically part of the Greater Antilles, while Trinidad is part of South America and Tobago is the remainder of a separate island arc. The Leeward Antilles are also a separate island arc, which is accreting to South America.

Political divisions

The Lesser Antilles are divided into eight independent nations and numerous dependent and non-sovereign states (which are politically associated with the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, and the United States). Over one third of the total area and population of the Lesser Antilles lies within Trinidad and Tobago, a sovereign nation comprising the two southernmost islands of the Windward Island chain.

Sovereign states

Name Subdivisions Area
(1 July 2005 est.)
Population density
(per km²)
Antigua and Barbuda Parishes 44085,632195 St. John's
Barbuda 1611,3709.65 Codrington
Redonda 200 n/a
Barbados Parishes 431284,589660 Bridgetown
Dominica Parishes 75472,66096.3 Roseau
Grenada Parishes 344110,000319.8 St. George's
Saint Kitts and Nevis Parishes 26142,696163.5 Basseterre
Nevis 9312,106130.1 Charlestown
Saint Lucia Quarters 616173,765282 Castries
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Parishes 389110,000283 Kingstown
Trinidad and Tobago Regional corporations 5,1311,299,953253.3 Port of Spain
Tobago 30054,000180 Scarborough

Non-sovereign states and territories

Name Sovereign State Subdivisions Area
(1 July 2005 est.)
Population density
(per km²)
Aruba Netherlands Districts193103,065534.0 Oranjestad
Anguilla UK Districts9113,600149.4 The Valley
Bonaire Netherlands28814,00648.6 Kralendijk
British Virgin Islands UK Districts 15327,000176.5 Road Town
Curaçao NetherlandsDistricts444180,592406.7 Willemstad
Guadeloupe France Arrondissements 1,780440,000247.2 Basse-Terre
Martinique France Arrondissements 1,128400,000354.6 Fort-de-France
Montserrat UKParishes1204,65538.8 Brades
Saba Netherlands131,424109.5 The Bottom
Saint Barthélemy FranceParoisses (parishes)217,448354.6 Gustavia
Saint-Martin France5335,000660.4 Marigot
Sint Eustatius Netherlands343,10091.2 Oranjestad
Sint Maarten Netherlands3440,9171,203.4 Philipsburg
United States Virgin Islands United States Districts 346108,448313.4 Charlotte Amalie
Nueva Esparta Venezuela Municipalities1,150491,610427.5 La Asunción
Federal Dependencies of Venezuela VenezuelaFederal dependencies3422,1556.3 Gran Roque

Several islands along the north coast of Venezuela and politically part of that country are also occasionally considered part of the Lesser Antilles. These are listed in the section below.


The main Lesser Antilles are (from north to south to west):

Leeward Islands

Windward Islands

Leeward Antilles

Map of the Leeward Antilles SouthernCaribbeanIslands.PNG
Map of the Leeward Antilles

Islands north of the Venezuelan coast (from west to east):

See also


  1. 1 2 "West Indies." Merriam-Webster's Geographical Dictionary, 3rd ed. 2001. ( ISBN   0-87779-546-0) Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster Inc., p. 1298.
  2. "Windward Islands | islands, West Indies". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2019-01-18.
  3. Centre, UNESCO World Heritage. "The Scotland District of Barbados". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Retrieved 2019-01-18.
  4. "The Windward Islands and Barbados". countrystudies.us. Retrieved 2019-01-18.
  5. Cohen, Saul B., ed. "West Indies" Archived 2006-08-16 at the Wayback Machine The Columbia Gazetteer of North America. Archived 2006-08-20 at the Wayback Machine New York: Columbia University Press – Bartleby. Accessed: 19 September 2006

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Wiktionary-logo-en-v2.svg The dictionary definition of Lesser Antilles at Wiktionary