/kar"ib/, n., pl. Caribs, (esp. collectively) Carib. for 1.
1. a member of a group of Indian peoples formerly dominant through the Lesser Antilles, now found in small numbers in a few areas of the West Indies and in parts of Central America and northeastern South America.
2. the family of languages spoken by the Caribs.
[1545-55; < Sp caribe < Arawak]

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American Indian people who inhabited the Lesser Antilles and parts of the South American coast at the time of the Spanish conquest.

The Island Carib (now extinct) were a warlike, individualistic people who reportedly practiced cannibalism (the term derives from their name). Carib groups on the mainland, some of whom still survive, lived in the Guianas and as far south as the Amazon River; they subsisted by hunting and growing crops and were less aggressive than their island relatives.

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      American Indian people who inhabited the Lesser Antilles and parts of the neighbouring South American coast at the time of the Spanish conquest. Their name was given to the Caribbean Sea, and its Arawakan equivalent is the origin of the English word cannibal. Today the term Cariban (Cariban languages) is used to designate a linguistic group that includes not only the language of the Antillean Carib but also many related Indian languages spoken in South America.

      The Island Carib, who were warlike (and allegedly cannibalistic), were immigrants from the mainland who, after driving the Arawak (q.v.) from the Lesser Antilles, were expanding when the Spanish arrived. Peculiarly, the Carib language was spoken only by the men; women spoke Arawak. Raids upon other peoples provided women who were kept as slave-wives; the male captives were tortured and killed.

      The Island Carib were a maritime people, expert navigators who made distant raids in large dugout canoes. Warfare was their major interest. Internal conflicts were common; there was no important chief, military organization, or hierarchical structure. The men strove to be individualistic warriors and boasted of their heroic exploits.

      Carib groups of the South American mainland lived in the Guianas, and south to the Amazon River. Some were warlike and were alleged to have practiced cannibalism, but most were less aggressive than their Antillean relatives. They lived in small autonomous settlements, growing cassava and other crops and hunting with blowgun or bow and arrow. Their culture was typical of the peoples of the tropical forest. Other Carib-speaking tribes, apparently much like the Guianan Carib, were found to the west on the wooded slopes of the Andes along the Venezuelan-Colombian border. To the southeast the Guicuru, Bakairi, and other Carib speakers lived at the headwaters of the Xingu River in central Brazil.

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Universalium. 2010.

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