Christophe Harbour Blog

Legendary Beginnings:  How St. Kitts got (or didn’t get) its name.

By Katherine Verano in Community, Nature and Environment, St. Kitts

While several theories on the origin of St. Kitts name are still debated 519 years after Christopher Columbus first spotted the island, one slightly fanciful premise lends the moniker the most color.

Legend has it that, in 1493, when Columbus sailed past the island for the first time, he found its distinct shape intriguing. Much as one might imagine a herd of elephants or a stately castle in a particular mass of clouds, the explorer conjured a recognizable figure in the island’s outline. To the active imagination of Columbus, it mimicked a silhouette of St. Christopher carrying the Christ child. So taken by the likeness, he christened the island St. Christopher. Nearly two centuries later, when Britain’s Sir Thomas Warner and 14 settlers arrived on its shores, the name had firmly taken root. Many decades followed before the nickname St. Kitts was introduced and embraced by the world.

Incidentally, prior to Columbus, Caribbean natives called their island Liamuiga, meaning “fertile land.” While the explorer’s name of choice eventually replaced the original name, the central peak on St. Kitts, a 3,792-foot extinct volcano, is called Liamuiga.