How did Cuba get its name?

Some interesting theories on how the island of Cuba came to be known by that name.

Via Periodico Cubano (my translation):

Why is it called Cuba? The meaning behind the name

One theory explains that the name “Cuba” came from a shortened version of the Taino word “Cubanacan”

The name of Cuba didn’t originate precisely from the moment of its discovery. When Christopher Columbus arrived on the island, he believed he had reached Cipango (Japan) and maintained that he was 10 days’ sailing away from Cathay (China).

Subsequently, the Europeans named the island Juana, in honor of the young prince Juan, the firstborn son of the Catholic Monarchs, Queen Isabel I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon, rulers of the Crown of Castile and the Crown of Aragon.

However, the name Cuba became popular over time. One theory explains that the term comes from a distortion of the Taíno word “cubanacán,” which was the name used by the natives of the island of Hispaniola —present-day Dominican Republic and Haiti— to refer to the largest island in the Antilles, based on what the Admiral wrote in his navigation diary.

This theory also has a variation, in which the indigenous term heard by Columbus is “kuba” or “kúba,” which would translate to “garden or cultivated land.” However, this version, along with the previous hypothesis, has been widely questioned, as the original diary of the visionary navigator is not preserved, only a summarized version is used for such claims.

There is also the assumption that it comes from the Arabic word “coba,” which designates a mosque with a dome; a concept that inspired the name due to the shape of the mountains as seen from the Bay of Bariay, the first site where it is assumed Columbus landed.

With lesser strength, the idea is supported that the name comes from the Portuguese town of Cuba, a theory presented by those who argue that Christopher Columbus had Portuguese origins. But this theory is practically not considered.

“Cuba” is an indigenous word meaning “garden or cultivated land.”

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