Name origin of the Turks and Caicos

Terrestrial globe made by Vincenzo Coronelli for Louis XIV, currently displayed in the Bibliothèque nationale François Mitterrand in Paris.

How the Turks and Caicos came to be named as such is still partially shrouded in mystery. Voyages in search of salt set sail in 1585 for “Island Caycos,” a derivative of “caya hico,” the Lucayan term for “string of islands”. The “Turks” is where it gets more interesting. The rare color map “Archipelague du Mexique” pictured in the last posting is the first time the term was recorded, in 1688 by the leading cartographer of his time, Vincenzo Coronelli. Vincenzo had produced his first work at 16 and his industrious career of 140 separate works ended with his death in Venice at the age of 68. The partnership of Coronelli and Jean-Baptiste Nolin Sr. is said to have resulted in many of the best regional maps of the Americas of the period. On the said map, next to Grand Turk is written “I. de Viejo, Conciua ou Turks”. Some historians have deciphered this as a comment, erroneously written, which should have read “Concina ou Turks,” or “where the Turks gather”. In these days, Turks was a reference to pirates. Ottoman ships, manned by Turkish sailors, had the reputation of dealing in piracy, as did some Bermudians, who were beginning to settle in the TCI. Another popular theory, as told on the National Trust tour of the Cheshire Hall Plantation on Providenciales, relays that Europeans first sighting the islands witnessed hundreds of red Persian turbans on the horizon. What they misinterpreted as Turkish inhabitants was actually the plentiful native red capped cactus, thus named the “Turk’s Head Cactus”.

Information in this post was gathered from various sources including Nigel Sadler’s article “The Bermudians and the Start of the Salt Industry, ” Chapter 10 in A History of the Turks and Caicos Islands Ed. Dr. Carlton Mills. Image from

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